Like two Harvard colleagues -- historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Sen. Pat Moynihan, another ambassador to India -- Galbraith was among liberalism's leading public intellectuals, yet he was a friend and skiing partner of William F. Buckley. After one slalom down a Swiss mountain, inelegantly executed by the 6-foot-8 Galbraith, Buckley asked how long Galbraith had been skiing. Thirty years, he said. Buckley mischievously replied: About as long as you have been an economist.
Although Galbraith coined the phrase "conventional wisdom," and thought of himself as the scourge of groupthink, "The Affluent Society" was the distilled essence of the conventional wisdom on campuses. In the 1960s, that liberalism became a stance of disdain, describing Americans not only as Galbraith had, as vulgar, but also as sick, racist, sexist, imperialist, etc. Again, and not amazingly, voters were not amused when told that their desires -- for big cars, neighborhood schools and other things -- did not deserve respect.
But for liberals that was precisely the beauty of Galbraith's theory. If advertising could manufacture demands for whatever corporations wanted to supply, there was no need to respect markets, which bring supply and demand into equilibrium.
Galbraith is frequently mentioned as one of JFK's economic advisors, but I've always wondered how influential he was with Kennedy, given that Kennedy cuts taxes while Galbraith apparently supported higher ones. (Although I could be wrong.)