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Affluent Society

  The concept of the affluent society, used to describe post-1945 democratic welfare capitalist societies, was pioneered by the Canadian economist, John Kenneth Galbraith. He argued that a long-term unintended consequence of economic growth in Western democracies was the simultaneous development of ‘private affluence’ and ‘public squalor’. While very efficient in encouraging the demand for private goods and services, including consumer-durables, liberal-democratic capitalist societies are prone to under-supply public goods, like education, public health, environmental protection and public transport.

Galbraith later embellished this argument: because modern liberal democracies contain satisfied majorities, which have the skills and resources to avoid poverty, a ‘culture of contentment’ has developed, hostile to active and progressively redistributive big government. Whereas in the earliest electoral democratic systems the poor comprised (potential) electoral majorities, affluent or contented societies are likely to be content with tax-cutting conservative administrations. BO\'L

Further reading John K. Galbraith, The Affluent Society; The Culture of Contentment.



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