Publication day for *Average is Over*

by on September 12, 2013 at 8:00 am in Books, Economics, Science, Web/Tech | Permalink

There is an NPR segment with Steve Inskeep here, with text, the audio goes live at 9 a.m.  I also am part of this BBC segment, with Rohan Silva.

You can buy the book on Amazon here.  On Barnes and Noble here.  On here.  And from Penguin here.  The Diane Coyle review is here.

mw September 12, 2013 at 8:31 am

I like the underlying premise here that just gets taken for granted with zero discussion (at least in the interview) – that this dystopian future will be a politically sustainable, stable society. What was that thing that happened, like, right before most countries in Europe created their modern welfare states? It’s on the tip of my tongue…

prior_approval September 12, 2013 at 10:46 am

Hey, the future belongs to people who learn who to surrender their judgment, guided by those who understand that the glorious vanguard will thoroughly grasp the transformational power of marketing, in the words of a reviewer, ‘figuring out how to motivate people and to get them to feel better about themselves.’

But don’t mention any of that mid-20th century European stuff in the comments – you’ll lose whatever respect Prof. Cowen may have for you as a commenter.

Ryan September 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm

I read your exchange with TC over on the other thread and as Bill would say, “What are your controls?” for such an argument. Red Herring is a term that comes to my mind with your argument. To me, the most notable differing factor with respect to yours and TC’s argument is “censorship”. Whereas, in mid-20th century, opinions were suppressed and massaged at all levels; in this day and age, you have almost exact opposite.

You can voluntarily ignore that Yelp review if you’d like.


Andrew September 12, 2013 at 11:12 am

The Marshall Plan? I give up.

Axa September 12, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Nope, he’s talking about the retirement system invented under the premise that (stupid) workers don’t save enough to live when they can’t work anymore.

Eric H September 12, 2013 at 10:19 pm

German Unification under Bismarck?

Nagarjun September 12, 2013 at 8:38 am

Look forward to reading it!

Joe Lowry September 12, 2013 at 9:14 am

Fascinating interview and very interesting book. I look forward to reading it.

Allan September 12, 2013 at 9:26 am

I agree with MW and Joe.

The interview was very interesting.

The premise of your book is that 15% will be at the top and the remainder in a lower middle class or below, with a much smaller upper middle class. This sounds to me like the “guilded age” of the late 19th century.

IMHO, if the economics of the market are going the way that Tyler thinks, it will lead to a progressive movement akin to the one 120 years ago. As a result, public policy will tilt toward evening the playing field, either through regulation or taxes.

Economics is all well and good, but when it mixes with politics, who knows what will happen.

Ray Lopez September 12, 2013 at 10:34 am

TC is promoting his book hard–second mention in a week of this book–he needs the money, as blogging is time consuming! OK I will buy TC!

As for the Progressive movement being called for, yes, a shift where the top 1% capture 93% of the income gain, and go from 7% to over double that in income share (, is liable to bring Ida Tarbell back from the grave, with grave consequences (Big Government was spawned by the Progressive movement).

Should be also be concerned with equalizing the Gini coefficient worldwide? Consider this factoid: “The income ratio of the one-fifth of the world’s population in the wealthiest countries to the one-fifth in the poorest countries went from 30 to 1 in 1960 to 74 to 1 in 1995.” from the book “Confessions of an economic hit man” by Perkins. I say no.

Lula Chagas September 12, 2013 at 11:13 am

Just lectured about US industrialization. Boy, do I wish for social mobility opportunity of the 1880s! Yes, seriously!

Urstoff September 12, 2013 at 9:30 am

Yikes, don’t read NPR comments.

Ricardo September 12, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Of course, when I read your comment, I immediately went over and read the NPR comments.

I was struck by how instinctively so many of the commenters reached for force. “We should force [evil group] to do [thing they don't want to do]” was the template for many of the comments. The main difference between libertarians and non-libertarians is that the former reach for force only with reluctance. The NPR comments reminded me why I call myself libertarian.

Libertarianism is not, in my experience, a widely respected viewpoint in society. I wish I felt more comfortable forcing people to do things they don’t want to do… I’d be much more popular.

George September 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

I double second Urstoff’s comment. I stopped reading at “The moderate right wing network known as NPR…”. I believe I made the correct choice.

dirk September 12, 2013 at 11:02 am

tl;dr version of the comments: Kill the messenger!

lxm September 12, 2013 at 11:51 am

You all must of missed this one:

The Government is causing the lack of opportunity and exacerbating inequities.
More regulations means less competitive companies (so more outsourcing and more part-time only work).
Unlimited immigration and obamacare are a one-two punch on citizens.

NPR and PBS are, if not the best, among the best broadcasters in America today. And, as far as I am concerned, both PBS and NPR has gone way out of their way to broadcast opinions of the right. No, they may not be moderate right, but they have certainly been terrorized by the Right.

Who else, among national broadcasters, would do an interview about *Average is Over*

Anyway, if you don’t like NPR’s commenters, go read Red States. Maybe you’ll like their unbiased take better.

bf September 12, 2013 at 10:09 am

Robin Hanson’s not-blurb made the decision easy for me:
“Tyler has the pundit style of trying to make everything seem as if it turns on today’s fashionable worries.”

Greg Ransom September 12, 2013 at 10:28 am

“Tyler Cowen may very well turn out to be this decade’s Thomas Friedman.” —Kelly Evans, The Wall Street Journal

Z September 12, 2013 at 10:45 am

Does that mean Tyler will be marrying into one of the 100 richest families on earth and retreating to a 12,000 square foot mansion outside DC to write inane columns for the NYTimes?

prior_approval September 12, 2013 at 10:48 am

Friedman is very underrated, I’ve recently read.

Michael Foody September 12, 2013 at 12:19 pm

So Tyler, when are you dueling Kelly Evans? Pistols or sabers?

winstongator September 12, 2013 at 10:35 am

You neglected to mention the impact of return on capital being a bigger share of GDP (which favors owners of capital) and the importance of network-based jobs. When you have the current wealth holders extracting an ever increasing share of economic growth, you do get a hollowing of the middle class. Then you have an increasing number of jobs based on who you know, or who your parents are. It’s nice to point to computers and how ‘nobodies’ can enter the top 1%, but the bigger story is that those that control business, industry & politics are shifting the system to one where there is more and more rent extracted by those at the top.

Corporate Profits After Tax (without IVA and CCAdj) (CP)/Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Lula Chagas September 12, 2013 at 11:15 am

Just lectured about US industrialization. Boy, do I wish for social mobility opportunity of the 1880s! Yes, seriously! I would thrive in a “meritocracy.”

dirk September 12, 2013 at 11:21 am

Most of Tyler’s thesis seems intuitive, as it is a continuation of current trends, but where is evidence that AI technology with a high level of social intelligence is around the corner (The “Kiss her now!” tech)?

Axa September 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm

The “kiss her now” app seems to be a little bit prude when compared to existing “bang with friends” app already working.

Alex Pavlakis September 12, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Hey Tyler,

I read the free Kindle preview for your book, and am looking forward to reading the whole thing. The ideas are interesting and intriguing. Nonetheless, it strikes me as wild and rampant speculation. Predicting the future is hard–impossible by nature. You forecast a future that seems to me not terribly more likely to occur than many other possible scenarios. Nothing is inevitable. Why expound at such length on such a grim possibility?

You have no crystal ball.


n September 12, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Good news doesn’t sell books.

I agree with the first comment. How will this 1984 distopia be viable ? How will companies survive without consumers – if we keep pushing US income to the left? Mass markets need bodies more than billionaires. Mayor Bloomberg only needs one smart phone.

Another issue – the 300+ million guns in this country. That is what makes this story unpredictable.

Robert Guico September 12, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Which method of acquiring the book gets Tyler the most margin?

Charles Salmon September 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Mr Cowen,

Enjoyed hearing you on the radio this morning. I was bothered by Steve Inskeep’s implication that if you were in the bottom 85% you would just have to get used to it. This may be true for a for a group after the fact, if you will, but effort, skill, intelligence and the other qualities are always individual traits. People with varying levels of those qualities will move up and down over time. It’s not as though there is a perpetual and hereditary top 15% and lower 85%. There will always lots of smart people who chose not to work hard or not to work in high-paying professions, for example. Inskeep seemed to give a “class warfare” tint to your arguments which I don’t think is really there.

Looking forward to reading the book, regardless.

Gary S September 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Congratulations on the publication of your book. Keep thinking!

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