A Tenured Professor

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

This is a short novel long on exposition written in the passive voice common in economic textbooks; but it is short on scenes, character development, sensory perceptions and detail (except where Galbraith gives the reader long, guided tours across the campuses of Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley, “the most aesthetically favored concourse of learning anywhere in the world”). The novel’s major events are these: Montgomery Marvin, having done a seminal study on refrigerator pricing, is hired by Harvard, where he had studied as an undergraduate before going on to Berkeley and then the University of Cambridge to do his graduate work. After extensive research, rehearsed unsparingly here, Marvin develops a revolutionary forecasting model that identifies and measures unjustified optimism and pessimism, speculative euphoria and undue depressions in securities’ prices--allowing him and his wife Marjie to make big money in their spare time in the stock market. His Index of Irrational Expectations identifies so well errors of optimism and pessimism in the market that Marvin is investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as by the House Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs Committee. His enemies brand him “Un-American” because he has made a lot of money by betting on others’ speculative errors. Many congressmen resent Marvin, furthermore, for his and Marjie’s creation of Political Rectitude Committees which are intended to undercut the great power wielded by Political Action Committees. The liberal-minded, peace-loving Marvins become even more unpopular as corporate raider, since they take over corporations which manufacture weapons and convert these firms’ activities to “peacetime pursuits.”

This is George Bernard Shaw’s MAJOR BARBARA updated, with the same overriding dialectic, and with Barbara named Marjie, Cusins named Marvin, and Undershaft named America.