Thursday, May 04, 2006

Interesting stuff on Galbraith

In a wonderful article on Galbraith, Scott McLemee takes a long, appreciative look at the book The McLandress Dimension written by Galbraith under the pseudonym of Mark Epernay in 1963 while he was serving as the US Ambassador to India.

The exact means of calculating [the McLandress Coefficient] involved psychometric techniques rather too arcane for a reporter to discuss. But a rough estimate could be made based on how long any given person talked without using the first-person singular pronoun. This could be determined “by means of a recording stopwatch carried unobtrusively in the researcher’s jacket pocket.”

A low coefficient — anything under, say, one minute — “implies a close and diligent concern by the individual for matters pertaining to his own personality.” Not surprisingly, people in show business tended to fall into this range.

Writers had a somewhat higher score, though not by a lot. Epernay noted that Gore Vidal had a rating of 12.5 minutes. Writing in The New York Review of Books, Vidal responded, ““I find this ... one finds this odd.”

What drew the most attention were the coefficients for various political figures. Nikita Khrushchev had the same coefficient as Elizabeth Taylor – three minutes. Martin Luther King clocked in at four hours. Charles de Gaulle was found to have the very impressive rating of 7 hours, 30 minutes. (Further studies revealed this figure to be somewhat misleading, because the general did not make any distinction between France and himself.) At the other extreme was Richard Nixon, whose thoughts never directed beyond himself for more than three seconds.

McLemee doesn't stop here; he has other interesting stuff about a later event (in 1967) which was intellectual, goofy and bizarre at the same time. Do read the whole piece; it's great!