Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.

Dr. Charles Clark, a professor in the Economics and Finance Department of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business and a senior fellow in the Vincentian Center for Church and Society, writes:

The book that changed my life the most is John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society.  In 1980 I was a student at Fordham University, majoring in economics because it was a good major for those who wanted to go to law school.  I disliked economics as a subject, but liked two of my professors, one of whom told me to go to a guest lecture by Galbraith.  I brought a friend and ten minutes into his lecture I told Carl “this is what I have to do,” giving up all thoughts of law school.  On the way home I stopped at Penn Books and looked for books by Galbraith and The Affluent Society was the one they had.  I read it cover to cover in one night, which was a first for me (besides Go Dog Go).  It was funny, humane, insightful, and it showed that economics can be about people and not just prices and equations.  Its main point is as valid today as it was in 1959:  our main economic problem is that we have a great surplus in private production, especially for goods and services that go to the rich, and a great shortage in public goods that benefit all (like clean environment, parks, etc.) and goods that help the poor.  As we embark on the economic suicide of fiscal austerity (cutting government spending so that we can lower taxes on the rich) we should heed Galbraith’s analysis.