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The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will( Eventually) Feel Better Hardcover – June 9, 2011
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"As Cowen makes clear, many of this era's technological breakthroughs produce enormous happiness gains, but surprisingly little economic activity." ---David Brooks, The New York Times --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
About the Author
Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He is the author of Discover Your Inner Economist and The Age of the Infovore, and he coblogs at www.marginalrevolution.com, one of the world's most influential economics blogs. He writes regularly for The New York Times and has been a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Wilson Quarterly, and Slate, among many other popular media outlets.
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Top Customer Reviews
For anyone who feels mystified by what's happened to America's economy, Taylor Cowen's "The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All The Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better" is a good place to start. It's a short book and, certainly, there are books that go into greater detail about the recession, but for the underlying causes, this is a good place to start. It's Cowen's contention that America has prospered without much effort through cheap labor, plentiful resources, and the positive impact of immigration, to name several. He sees an America where all the indicators point to a steady decline including the dumbing down of education so that our increasingly smart children are receiving educations that fail to prepare them for the responsibilities of democracy let alone a job market that heavily relies on technology. He also sees in both parties a political class unwilling to take on the challenges of turning things around. You'll have to decide whether his optimism that we will ultimately elect leaders who don't kick our many national challenges down the road is realistic, but as a basic primer in the social and economic reasons for our decline, this is a short, easy to read book which will help you understand why, without major changes in the way we resolve problems in America, the recession of 2008 will continue on indefinitely.
I would highly recommend reading this, either in kindle or hardcover form.
His answers are standard center-right economist answers even if he is much better at spotting the problems. He does not deny the centralization of wealth, nor is dishonest about tax breaks. It is sad that conservatism in the United States has come to those two talking points alone because otherwise it would be clear where Cowen's ideological presumptions lie. For example, he briefly says that the Reagan (or Volker) revolution set the US right, but he has already proved economic stagnation continued unabated since the 1960s forward. Both statements can't be truth. He is right about Keynesian retribution schemes being very limited in time frame (something that even Keynes's himself pointed out), and generally are only affective after massive destruction of capital (after World War 2), but doesn't seem to have an answer for why the austerity in Europe has not cleared out the "rot" and let to renewal in GDP in the EU outside of Germany and Nordic countries (who he makes a swipe at).
He is right that America is beyond the lowing hanging fruit, but does not seem to see that India and China's rapid industrialization is also in a similar pattern of development. It is easy to grow massively when you are establishing yourself and opening up new markets: declines in the rates of profits per unit don't kind in as quickly in those states and the need for extreme intellectual property to try to artificially force prices up through removal of competition isn't a problem at that stage either. This, however, is rooted in historical economics which is something the synchronic thinkers in the neo-classical school of economic do not admit. Cowen is not different here.
So while Cowen's diagnosis is in some ways dead-on: his prescription is more cliche from the Tom Friedman-style center-right school, and his optimism at the end may be a false note.