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The Affluent Society Revisited$
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Mike Berry

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199686506

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199686506.001.0001

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The Theory of Social Balance

The Theory of Social Balance

(p.127) 10 The Theory of Social Balance
The Affluent Society Revisited

Mike Berry

Oxford University Press

The final problem threatening societies like the US concerns the pervasive bias in favour of privately produced goods and services at the expense of those provided by government. Inadequate public provision, Galbraith argues, hampers the most effective use of society’s expanded productive capacity while unnecessarily impoverishing most citizens’ lives. This outcome is due to an amalgam of the factors and forces identified earlier in the book – namely, the debt-fuelled process of want creation, the malign impact of vested interests, the ideology of market fundamentalism and the associated attack on the proper economic role of the state. Galbraith’s analysis raises issues that have recently resurfaced in heated debates over privatization. It also strongly resonates with recent developments in environmental economics and policy. In short, Galbraith’s theory of social balance remains one of the enduring contributions of The Affluent Society, fifty years after its publication and counting.

Keywords:   Social balance, privatisation, public provision, environment, policy, market failure, government failure

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