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The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream Hardcover – February 28, 2017
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“[The Complacent Class] provides an open invitation for the reader to think deeply.” ―Derek Thompson, The Atlantic
“‘The Complacent Class' is refreshingly nonideological, filled with observations that will resonate with conservatives, liberals and libertarians. ... a useful corrective to the conventional wisdom that American ingenuity, sooner or later, will revive a low-growth economy.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“One of the most important reads of the new year.” ―National Review
"Tyler Cowen's blog, Marginal Revolution, is the first thing I read every morning. And his brilliant new book, The Complacent Class, has been on my nightstand after I devoured it in one sitting. I am at round-the-clock Cowen saturation right now."--Malcolm Gladwell
"Tyler Cowen is an international treasure. Endlessly inventive and uniquely wide-ranging, he has produced a novel account of what ails us: undue complacency. No one but Cowen would ask, 'Why Americans stopped rioting and instead legalized marijuana.' He admires risk-taking, and he likes restlessness, and he thinks the United States needs lots more of both. Don't be complacent: Read this book!"--Cass R. Sunstein, Harvard University, and author of #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media
"A book that will undoubtedly stir discussion"--Kirkus
Praise for The Great Stagnation 9780525952718 6/9/11
"Cowen’s book… will have a profound impact on the way people think about the last thirty years."―Ryan Avent, Economist.com
"Tyler Cowen may very well turn out to be this decade's Thomas Friedman."--Kelly Evans, The Wall Street Journal
About the Author
TYLER COWEN (Ph.D.) holds the Holbert L. Harris chair in economics at George Mason University. He is the author of a number of explanatory and text books, including The Complacent Class, as well as writing the most read economics blog worldwide, marginalrevolution.com. He has written regularly for The New York Times and contributes to a wide number of newspapers and periodicals.
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Top Customer Reviews
The reader will find some interesting tidbits in the early chapters about how there are fewer start-ups today than a generation ago.
If we are complacent, as the title of this book suggests, why is this the case? Cowen tosses out a number of idea, and then around page 159 he narrows in on an answer to both the question of complacency and that of shrinking productivity: Government is consuming more and more of our resources in support of creating the complacent, risk-free life that an increasing number of Americans seem to want. Like many critics Cowen looks to de Tocqueville, who warned of the collapse of American democracy as the drive of immigrants and pioneers become diluted through generations. It's the immigrants, people who took risks to get here, who are driving innovation and growth now.
But all this is changing, Cowen says. A complacent society is not a stable society. What's coming is chaos and realignment, although why this is coming is a bit vague; "Or if you wish to put the point in the language of financial economics," says Cowen, " the possibility of cyclical patterns in history is right now the single biggest source of systemic, undiversifiable risk." In other words, change is coming because there are cycles that drive change. But cycles are effect, not cause. They're the sign of a pattern driven by some underlying dynamic, and Cowen is a bit vague on this.
Seriously, I'm not sure what to think about this book. Cowen throws around a lot of interesting facts and observations, but his narrative jumps around and lacks focus; I had to force myself to keep reading. There's not much that's terribly original or insightful. One newspaper reviewer states in their review that "Tyler Cowen may well turn out to be this decade's Thomas Friedman," which is certainly damning with faint praise, as Friedman is the master of breathlessly presenting the obvious.I came to this book with high expectations, based largely on his reputation, but I was disappointed by what I read.
Cowen's thesis here - that America has slowed, is in a phase of stasis, has lost its dynamism, however you want to put it - is both not as controversial as you might think, and supported by a lot of interesting evidence. It is not a politically partisan view per se, either, which only strengthens its appeal, in my opinion. Perhaps you will agree with his larger narrative, or perhaps not, but Cowen makes a compelling case that will force you to think about cyclical trends in American social history. His narrative is accessible, interesting and fun to read.
Some people give Cowen flack for being a "pop" economist, which I think is a pretty dumb critique. Cowen is a public intellectual of the sort America needs far more of - a deep, respected, research-based academic who strives to make his work relevant to a public audience and the the issues of the day. He does this very ably in The Complacent Class. If you're a Baby Boomer, or a millennial like me, read this book - it'll have implications for you either way.