Galbraith and Jacobs: Remembering Two Voices of the 20th Century


I'm Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Two influential thinkers of the twentieth century have died. John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist, died on April twenty-ninth at the age of ninety-seven. Jane Jacobs, a defender of cities, died April twenty-fifth at the age of eighty-nine.

Jane Jacobs believed cities should be densely populated and full of different people and activity. She believed in the value of natural growth. She opposed the kind of city planning that involves big development and renewal projects that tear down old communities.

She is best known for her book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," published in nineteen sixty-one. Another book was "The Nature of Economies." Yet she never finished college.

Jane Jacobs was an activist in New York City. Her work defeated a road plan to build a big highway through the Greenwich Village area.

She was also against the war in Vietnam. She had sons almost old enough to be called for duty. In nineteen sixty-eight the family moved to Canada. But she remained a community activist. Soon she was fighting a road plan in Toronto.

Jane Jacobs had critics, and some people think it is time for other theories. But urban planning experts say her ideas shaped modern thinking about cities. For example, she supported mixed-use buildings as a way to increase social interaction. People live on the upper floors. The ground level has stores and offices.

Mixed-used buildings are a lot more common in American cities than in the suburbs around them. But most population growth since World War Two has taken place in suburban areas. By two thousand, the Census Bureau says, half the population lived in suburbs.

Jane Jacobs was born in the United States but lived and died in Canada. John Kenneth Galbraith was born in Canada but lived and died in the United States.

Among his best-known books is "The Affluent Society," from nineteen fifty-eight. He wrote that American society had too many goods but not enough social services that show people care about each other. He warned about widening divisions between the very rich and the very poor.

John Kenneth Galbraith believed in the power of government to improve lives. He believed in a system of progressive taxes, and in public support for the arts and government involvement in education. He also supported the idea of public ownership of housing and medical services.

A Democrat two meters tall, he advised presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson. He also advised officials in other countries. He was ambassador to India and taught economics at Harvard University for many years.

Experts say John Kenneth Galbraith and Jane Jacobs led many to question not only how and where they want to live and work. It also led them to wonder what kind of society they wanted to leave for their children.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Steve Ember.