Wednesday, May 3, 2017

No Such Thing as Complacency: On Cowen




I come to praise Tyler Cowen, not to bury him.

I don’t want to bury anyone, really. But the praise will be faint.

I like Tyler. He’s good on the blogs. He’s good on the Twitter.

I just think he’s wrong a lot. And in his book, he over-reaches his thesis.

I’m not sure if this is a failure of me as a reader or of Tyler as a writer, but I’m not really sure who falls in the circle of his “Complacent Class”.

The whole thing reads as someone who decided on a thesis and then tried to marshal some evidence to support it. It didn’t sell me. But that is not to say that the things he looks at are not a problem of cultural and economic dynamism. What I worry about is the direction of power and the decisions that are made.

For example: Tyler looks at the fact that fewer people are moving over time. This might be a problem. But is it because people are complacent? Or is it because people have fuller information. The Joads went to California because they thought that there were jobs there. They were wrong.
There have been some regional booms in my lifetime. Land is cheap in the south and so are taxes so some people go there. But there’s no great migration because people are leaving sharecropping for manufacturing work. Not sure that that represents any kind of Complacency.

And this is in the face of Occupy and Ferguson and Baltimore and the Women’s marches in response to Trump. It’s too clean, and feels so wrong.