*The Complacent Class*, available for pre-order, with a special offer

by on July 25, 2016 at 1:06 am in Books, Current Affairs, Economics, History, Philosophy, Political Science | Permalink

That is my next book, now finished, due out February 2017 from St. Martin’s Press.  You can pre-order it from Amazon or Barnes&Noble.  Recommended!

Very little of the content of this book has appeared on Marginal Revolution.  It contains my thoughts on the death of American restlessness, what is happening with segregation by race and income, how we have become a nation of “matchers,” why crime rates will move up, the ultimate sociological roots of the economic great stagnation, why Steven Pinker is probably wrong about world peace, what we can learn from the riots and violence of the 1960s, why the bureaucratization of protest matters, marijuana vs. cocaine vs. heroin, in which significant way gdp statistics really do under-measure productivity, the importance of cyclical theories of history, and what Tocqueville got right and wrong about America.

And much more!  Most of all it is about why the future will be a scary place.

I also am making a special offer for those who pre-order the work.  Just send me an email to tcowen@gmu.edu (or my gmail), and tell me you have pre-ordered The Complacent Class, and I’ll send you a free copy of another work by me — about 45,000 words — on the foundations of a free society.

I have been revising this second one for over fifteen years, and it is called Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals.  It is finally ready.

You will receive links to an on-line version with images, a pdf with images, and a plain vanilla pdf for Kindle.

In that work, I outline a true and objectively valid case for a free and prosperous society, and consider the importance of economic growth for political philosophy, how and why the political spectrum should be reconfigured, how we should think about existential risk, what is right and wrong in Parfit and Nozick and Singer and effective altruism, how to get around the Arrow Impossibility Theorem, to what extent individual rights can be absolute, how much to discount the future, when redistribution is justified, whether we must be agnostic about the distant future, and most of all why we need to “think big.”

These are my final thoughts on those topics.  And to be fair, this is likely to come out someday as a more traditional book, but that will not happen soon as I have not shopped it around to any publisher.  So if you pre-order The Complacent Class, you’ll get what is an advance and also free copy of Stubborn Attachments.

Are you feeling down because of the political conventions?  Or maybe you’re feeling down because of me?  This is exactly the bracing and optimistic tonic you need.  These two works, taken as a whole, cover where we are at and also where we need to go.

Addendum: If you are a member of the media and would like to receive a review copy of THE COMPLACENT CLASS (St. Martin’s Press; On-sale: February 28, 2017), please contact Gabrielle Gantz: gabrielle.gantz@stmartins.com; or 646-307-5698.

1 Curt F. July 25, 2016 at 1:21 am

Pre-order a new book? And then email you? Done, and done. Congrats!

2 Paul Ralley July 26, 2016 at 2:25 pm
3 Daniel Frank July 25, 2016 at 1:46 am

Some (much?) of the content in Tyler’s new book is part of his talk at the Hudson Institute which can be streamed here: http://www.hudson.org/events/1356-are-plutocrats-drowning-our-republic-72016

The talk is Tyler at his finest. In fact, I wanted to tell him after watching it that he should write a book on the subject.

Just a note – there is no such thing as a vanilla PDF for kindle. PDFs look awful on kindles; it needs to be a properly formatted Mobi/Azw3 (or Epub for other e-readers)

4 Too Late July 25, 2016 at 11:07 am

I agree, the talk was interesting, and Tyler was head and shoulders above all the other panelist, including Fukuyama. The second panelist was particularly bad (IMO).

I was pleasantly surprised that someone (Tyler) had the guts to say that “inequality is overrated”, i.e. that concerns over inequality are overblown.

I have pre-ordered too.

5 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 1:58 pm

Right wingers speak openly about their disgust regarding inequality concerns all over the place. It doesn’t take any guts at all, most of the time it only takes indifference that someone else works twice as hard for half the money despite having higher qualifications and doing more complex work of higher overall value to society, possibly following quasi-brainwashed marketist influences (yes, markets are god for lots of thing) into believing that distributions from markets are as justly distributed as they would be were the matter left to the good God on high him/her/itself.

I imagine TC’s position is much more reasonable. There is a lot of work on such subjects. Which is unfortunate for those who like to pull strings behind closed doors to fatten their wallets, and then berate their lessers for the temerity to mention that they are receiving a basically 0% share of gains during generations-long periods of massive technological and economic explosion.

TC can say it because no one can take him for the kind of guy that would piss on a homeless guy, or get giddy at the thought of police beating up or killing drug dealers who practically work in warzones for a few dollars a transaction. It’s one of the benefits of being somewhere in the general region of the centre, on average. You get to say stuff that asshole extremist people say, without people assuming that you mean it in that same asshole extremist way.

6 Hundred year marathon July 25, 2016 at 11:23 am

I think Tyler is overrating Putin as a mischief maker and political mood-setter on a global stage. He should try reading less Anne Appelbaum, Edward Lucas and Garry Kasparov and more Mark Galeotti.

The following NSC memo from 1983 about Soviets is always a great read. Russsian will drive themselves into the ground sooner or later.


7 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 12:12 pm

He was raised in an era in which Russia was the evil geopolitical enemy, and hasn’t fully moved past that. Some sort of affiliation of mood is affecting his thinking, maybe.

8 anon July 25, 2016 at 12:30 pm

But you are sure KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin is free of cold war baggage. Interesting.

9 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 12:34 pm

Sorry your fear is standing in the way of a rational foreign policy.

10 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 12:37 pm
11 anon July 25, 2016 at 12:53 pm

I think I am saying very conventional things when I say that national culture is enduring, for good (US) or bad (any number of semi-failed states). One joke about old East Germany was that they prospered because there was never a political system invented that kept Germans from work. The flip side is that there has yet to be a political system that made Russia internally optimistic and productive. For that reason Putin plays the standard despot card, it is external enemies to blame.

Luckily, with our health and prosperity, we don’t need external enemies, like Mexico(?!?) or China(!?!) yo unite us.

12 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 1:03 pm

Not sure what any of that has to do with U.S. foreign policy. I don’t think it’s our job to turn Russians into freedom-loving optimists.

So how about we play nice and avoid sabre-rattling with Russia. Avoid stirring up trouble and toppling governments on their border. Have a Russian policy that favors the actual United States rather than its imagined global Empire and military-industrial complex. Leave the Cold War behind and stop making foreign policy based around containing Russia as if we were still worried that the Communist dominoes will fall if we don’t. If Europe (irrationally) thinks Russian tanks are about to roll through Paris, they can reveal their beliefs by spending more on defense.

Indeed, if you are actually worried about Russian expansionism, the best thing to do would be to encourage Europe to increase defense spending and maintain stronger military forces. I don’t see how you do that unless you, at the least, threaten them with the possibility of losing unconditional U.S. military protection if they don’t start to spend more.

13 anon July 25, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Simple answer: unilateral niceness has never worked, in the history of the world.

Bilateral, sure. The fact that China literally works with so many other countries is the single biggest insurance factor for Pacific peace (accidentally redundant phrase).

14 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 1:25 pm

Russia can quite rationally fall into the same trap. We regularly intervene in or try to ally with Russian border states in the interest of containing Russia. Are they behaving similarly in Canada and Mexico? How can they not feel threatened? Just as you can refer to KGB Putin, they can point to Cold Warriors who still have power and influence in the U.S., and still see Russia as a threat in need of containment (or destruction).

We don’t need to invite Putin to our birthday parties. He can have his friends at his, and we can have our friends at ours. But let’s stop trying to convince his guests to spit on the cake or steal us a present.

15 anon July 25, 2016 at 6:51 pm
16 Cooper July 25, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Why is there such a groundswell of sympathy for Putin on this comment board and elsewhere?

He imprisons and assassinates journalists. He’s turned the entire Russian media into a pro-Putin mouthpiece. He funds extremists groups in Europe and elsewhere. He’s actively trying to breakup NATO and the EU. He imprisons civil rights activists. He annexed Crimea by force. He actively supports a civil war in Ukraine. He has furthered the deep corruption of the Russian government. He’s personally stolen tens of billions of dollars. He continually threatens to cut off Europe’s gas supply.

Please point out how ANY of that is good for human freedom or world peace. I’ll wait.

17 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 1:58 pm

You seem to mistake a desire to pursue U.S. interests with sympathy for Putin.

If a Russian Patriot wants to off him, so be it.

The U.S. does not benefit from a Cold War era approach to Russia. It is not our job to spread freedom and democracy around the globe. The neocons already tried that and it failed miserably.

18 Jeff R. July 25, 2016 at 2:09 pm

“He imprisons and assassinates journalists.”

Living the dream, in other words.

(I kid, I kid)

19 anon July 25, 2016 at 2:10 pm

It is a very sad instance of a friend of my friend is my friend.

20 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 2:10 pm

And of course, I can ask why there has been a groundswell of hawkishness on Russia in the comments here and in the media generally over the past few months and, especially, over the past few days. Why have democratic partisans suddenly discovered that Russia is our greatest enemy, per Romney 2012?

21 Cooper July 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm

The Neocons failed in the Middle East because those people are too tribal for democracy. Majorities are unwilling to share power with minorities.

The Neocons succeeded in eastern Europe. Just look at Poland, Czech Republic, the Baltic States, Bulgaria and Romania. Look at the former Yugoslavian countries.

These were all repressive dictatorships in the 1980s and are now either totally free or mostly free.

We remember the failures in Iraq but we ignore the successes because once a country becomes a liberal democracy we stop thinking about it.

22 Anon39 July 25, 2016 at 2:35 pm

It’s not a groundswell of sympathy, Cooper. It is, instead, well deserved apathy. It relies on a foundation of belief in the idea that the American government should represent American interests. The Baltic countries: are you willing to send your sons to die for a foreign government, even if 30% of its population is actively against you? What percentage of American soldiers are willing to kill Russians, the people that tried to warn us about the Boston marathon terrorists? The new wars aren’t about bulllshit, it’s about civilization vs barbarism, to borrow a Kling phrase. Russia and China believe in order, not chaos. That’s enough

23 JR July 25, 2016 at 4:16 pm

TK says “Why have democratic partisans suddenly discovered that Russia is our greatest enemy, per Romney 2012?”

It is because they are trying to link Trump to Putin and such a connection has no impact unless Putin is a Great Enemy. Traditional liberals are foreign policy phonies, gladly supporting intervention in countries when a Democrat is in office e.g. Libya, Syria. And much can be said of the Right as well. The Alt Right and Sanders Left are among the only groups that are intellectually honest and consistent about foreign policy.

24 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 4:25 pm

It has become very important over the past few days, because only one narrative works to respond to the DNC leaks (and the possible future leaks of classified docs from Clinton’s private server):

– Putin is evil. Russia is enemy #1.
– Trump said nice things about Putin and may weaken NATO (by forcing members countries to increase defense spending in order to be protected – clearly, if NATO spends more in aggregate on defense, it will be WEAKER vis-a-vis Russia).
– Putin/Russia support Trump as a result.
– So they hacked the DNC and released emails to hurt Clinton and help Trump.

Of course, this conveniently misses an important bit of logic: hacking the DNC and releasing emails could only hurt Clinton and help Trump if something shady was going on.

25 anon July 25, 2016 at 6:54 pm

On the one hand Putin kills people, on the other Debbie Wasserman Schultz campaigns for the person she thinks will win for the party.

Gosh, I don’t know how to weight those two … killing … campaigning .. they are the same, right?

26 The Original D July 25, 2016 at 9:56 pm

“Why have democratic partisans suddenly discovered that Russia is our greatest enemy, per Romney 2012?”

Show me one prominent Democrat saying Russia is our greatest enemy. Compare and contrast to McCain’s saying “we are all Georgians now.”

And if Romney was saying it in 2012, why aren’t Republicans from that period concerned about Trump now?

27 Turkey Vulture July 26, 2016 at 12:09 am

anon, no clue what point you are trying to make there, other than that you will excuse anything related to Hillary because you hate and fear Trump so much. The idea of making a nation of over 300 million people’s foreign policy based on another nation’s treatment of journalists is insane. Will you die on the battlefield fighting for the safety of journalists in Russia? Also, remember, Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State when we tried to reset relations with this journalist killer.

Original D, I referred to partisans, not party leaders. #1 enemy may be hyperbole, but their marked increase in hawkishness is apparent. Would republicans who agreed with Romney in 2012 who agree with Trump now be hypocrites? Probably, unless they have a reasoned rationale for their change of heart. I’m not a republican and in fact I hope that thoroughly corrupt Party collapses along with its Democratic counterpart, so I have no need or desire to defend them. Republican partisan hypocrisy on the matter wouldn’t excuse Democratic hypocrisy on the matter. It is that line of thinking that leads to the foolish partisanship all around us.

28 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 2:05 pm

There’s also Putin’s comment, last year, to the effect of: “NATO outspends Russia 10:1. What do you take me for, a retard?”

But if NATO commitments in eastern Europe are not viewed as believable, perhaps following Trump’s logic that countries who will be the first to bleed in the many thousands km buffer between Russia and anything that is more directly important to the USA … maybe Putin would still think he could chip away more territory. I guess this is Trump and his “Art of the Deal”. Sorry man. There are no dumb billionaires to stiff with the bill when things fall apart. With a Trump at the helm practically suggesting it is a protection racket and pay up or leave, Eastern Europe might just take a closer look at what the Russian sphere of influence – and given the number of interesting observations about links between Trump, Putin et al. … well, all I can really say is SOMETHING’s FISHY!!

29 John Smith July 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

“Just a note – there is no such thing as a vanilla PDF for kindle. PDFs look awful on kindles; it needs to be a properly formatted Mobi/Azw3 (or Epub for other e-readers)”

The Kindle app which uploads texts will auto-format PDF’s into Mobi. This btw is one of the most useful things about the Kindle in my opinion. Nicely formatted articles from the web are instantly, wirelessly, uploaded to the Kindle and off you go to your favorite coffee shop or what have you.

30 Jingle berry July 25, 2016 at 2:00 am

Tyler, I thought you next book was on the Chinese economy?

31 prior_test2 July 25, 2016 at 2:00 am

‘Most of all it is about why the future will be a scary place.’

Go with the zeitgeist.

‘Just send me an email … tell me you have pre-ordered The Complacent Class, and I’ll send you a free copy of another work by me — about 45,000 words — on the foundations of a free society.’

Really, go with the zeitgeist – collect as much data as possible.

‘In that work, I outline a true and objectively valid case for a free and prosperous society’

As if ‘free and prosperous’ somehow needs a work 15 years in the marking to justify.

‘whether we must be agnostic about the distant future’

Apparently no – at least if the opening quote of this comment is to be trusted.

‘These are my final thoughts on those topics.’

Keynes is famous for saying ‘When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?’. Prof. Cowen has provided his answer to ‘What do you do, sir?’ above, apparently. (OK, Keynes is more well known for a paraphrase of what was actually expressed – https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Maynard_Keynes#Attributed .)

32 LOL July 25, 2016 at 2:32 am

You mad bro?

33 tjamesjones July 25, 2016 at 5:22 am

he’s just unhappy LOL. something to do with the German car industry.

34 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 10:36 am

Mein EU!

35 p ed July 25, 2016 at 12:17 pm


36 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 2:14 pm

I think you’re just not trying understand what he’s saying. Or are unfamiliar with such perspectives.

37 Ted Frank, no relation to Daniel Frank in comments July 25, 2016 at 2:11 am

Will happily preorder for Kindle or even hardcopy once I know where I’ll be living in February 2017, whichever comes first.

38 Al Most July 25, 2016 at 2:27 am


39 Jeff L July 25, 2016 at 2:38 am

Sounds like a great deal, but I would much rather pre-order the ebook…

40 stephan July 25, 2016 at 2:43 am

Great to see a new book, I get a lot of enjoyment ( and learning) from reading this blog so I pre-ordered it. The topics look interesting.

41 JC July 25, 2016 at 2:49 am

Take my money Mr. Cowen.

42 David Iach July 25, 2016 at 4:25 am

Hi Tyler, I’d love to pre-order it, currently I can only pre-order the hardcover version, can I expect the Kindle version to be available for pre-order anytime soon?

43 jessyH731 July 25, 2016 at 9:27 pm

Yeah, what he said. In the interest of eliminating STUFF, I’m only buying ebooks. Por favor and Merci.

44 Òscar July 25, 2016 at 5:00 am

Can I have the pre-order in Kindle format?

45 Tyler Cowen July 25, 2016 at 6:53 am

I do not know yet when that will be ready, will inquire…

46 jim jones July 25, 2016 at 6:00 am

TC and Nate Silver are just a part of History now

47 dearieme July 25, 2016 at 6:04 am

A tenured academic writes about The Complacent Class?

48 Axa July 25, 2016 at 7:58 am

Self-analysis? Taking this to the absurd extreme, there’s no point in studying humans since we’re all humans.

49 ttt July 25, 2016 at 12:24 pm

in the autobiography section

50 dearieme July 25, 2016 at 6:06 am

The future is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

51 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Which changes do you predict which might have anything to do with anything foreign, aside from a reduced share of monoglots?

52 rayward July 25, 2016 at 6:06 am

“This is exactly the bracing and optimistic tonic you need.” Let’s hope so. The world’s productive capacity has increased many times over in the globalization era, enough to eliminate poverty throughout the world. But not if the fruits of globalization are enjoyed mostly by a very few. In America, that means more investment in public goods. No, I don’t support a guaranteed minimum income, but I do support a public sphere that prepares America for global competition and for the transition to less industrialization and more visualization, that reflects pride in America, America’s values, and America’s can-do spirit. To prosper, socially as well as economically, in the globalization era takes more than fear-mongering and name-calling, it takes common effort to achieve a common purpose, no less so than to defeat the fascists in the 1930s and 1940s. Sure, there were profiteers in the 1930s and 1940s, skimming for themselves at the expense of those committed to a common purpose of freedom from fascism, just like there are profiteers today, skimming for themselves at the expense of those committed to a common purpose of shared prosperity. The common purpose prevailed then due in large part to leadership from men and women in the public sphere. The question today is whether we turn to the profiteers and their fear-mongering and name-calling, or to leadership from men and women in the public sphere committed to a common purpose of shared prosperity.

53 chuck martel July 25, 2016 at 6:29 am

” that reflects pride in America, America’s values,”

America’s values, in order: comfort, convenience, entertainment, security. Priority number one: a personal environment with a temperature of about 70 F. Average American’s number two daily priority: finding a parking spot as close as possible to work or supermarket. (Good employees are rewarded with a parking spot next to the boss, close to the entrance, for a month.) Numero tres, a good cable or dish contract hooked to a large plasma TV. Last, genuine, for sure no worries about going broke.

54 Steve July 25, 2016 at 6:08 am

“This is exactly the bracing and optimistic tonic you need.”

Well, the first book doesn’t sound optimistic.

55 Anon. July 25, 2016 at 7:21 am

That’s why you need the tonic.

56 Govco July 25, 2016 at 9:48 am

It is the Straussian reading.

57 anon July 25, 2016 at 10:18 am

Perhaps Tyler just needs to take more exercise. I hiked the Santa Monica mountains and caught Pokémon near the Backbone Trail yesterday. AMA.

58 Brian Donohue July 25, 2016 at 7:57 am

“Most of all it is about why the future will be a scary place.” In what ways? Compared to what? For whom?

I reckon I’ll order it, but your sketch above sounds kinda sprawling and woolly. I’m sure there are good parts.

59 Ray Lopez July 25, 2016 at 8:04 am

I’ll put it on my “Wish List” in Amazon.

60 Ray Lopez July 25, 2016 at 3:01 pm

It might be fun to compare and contrast TC’s book with this book that I’ve read, published in the late, roaring, 1990s: “The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement”, September 30, 1997 by Robert J. Samuelson (the economics reporter, not the economist).

61 Ray Lopez July 25, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Oh, I just figured out how to avoid Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem: (Wikipedia) “A common way “around” Arrow’s paradox is limiting the alternative set to two alternatives. ” – hence, the two-party system in the USA, comprising the Democratic and Republican parties, where each party ‘converges to the center’ (to capture each others voters) and the net result is “Tweedledee and Tweedledum”, the two parties look alike, and satisfy nobody but the median “middle class” voter. But it avoids a parliamentary faction political system and Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem.

62 Alphaceph July 25, 2016 at 8:45 am

> objectively valid case for a free and prosperous society, and consider the importance of economic growth for political philosophy, how and why the political spectrum should be reconfigured, how we should think about existential risk, what is right and wrong in Parfit and Nozick and Singer and effective altruism, how to get around the Arrow Impossibility Theorem, to what extent individual rights can be absolute, how much to discount the future, when redistribution is justified, whether we must be agnostic about the distant future

These topics seem somewhat disconnected – is that intended?

63 Ben July 25, 2016 at 8:50 am

I fell for the buffet secret years ago (true MR fans will know of what I speak). Not gonna take the bait on this one, TC, even though I will purchase and read once published.

64 Ben July 25, 2016 at 8:53 am

Also, sorry for being elusive but, as Sarah Hurwitz once wrote, your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise.

65 Alphaceph July 25, 2016 at 9:31 am

Now I’m not sure whether Tyler is trolling us.

66 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 11:20 am

I think you need to update your priors and perhaps read Tyler in a more Straussian manner, without mood affiliation: he is almost always trolling us.

67 prior_test2 July 25, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Not when it comes to anything regarding the Mercatus Center, GMU/Federalist/Mercatus/public choice/etc. fellowships, or MRU.

Though the fable about MRU being about two GMU econ professors, a 4 dollar app, and youtube would be considered trolling by most people unaware of how PR works in the environment of which Prof. Cowen is a part. In that sense, it was not trolling, it was likely honestly expected most people would believe what they were told.

68 Alphaceph July 25, 2016 at 1:48 pm

I’d love an explanation of “Straussian”

69 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Tyler can’t freely say anything he actually believes, and he doesn’t think we’re clever enough to discover his hidden beliefs through careful reading of his blog text. So instead, he just trolls us and laughs at prior_approval while eating ethnic food. I guess that’s getting closer to Straussian Nihilism, if you catch my Straussian drift.


70 Ben July 25, 2016 at 1:22 pm
71 Axa July 25, 2016 at 9:09 am

a) After reading the Amazon description I want to re-read The Rise of Meritocracy (Michael Young)

b) Only hardcover? What about readers on the other side of the Atlantic?

72 Pshrnk July 25, 2016 at 10:22 am

Which side is the other side?

73 Axa July 25, 2016 at 1:32 pm

It’s Amazon US store, thus the other side is around Meridian 6E.

74 Ray Lopez July 25, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Wow, is this book sci-fi or for real? Pretty impressive “sweep of history”, looking also to the future, and it’s like Asimov’s trilogy, there’s apparently three such books as part of a volume….sounds like a ‘cult classic’ that I will never read.

The Rise of the Meritocracy 1870-2033: The New Elite of Our Social Revolution Hardcover – 1959
by Michael Dunlop Young (Author)

75 Axa July 25, 2016 at 3:18 pm

it’s similar to Pictures of a Socialistic Future from Eugene Richter . A politician using fiction and metaphors to communicate an idea.

76 Johnny A July 25, 2016 at 9:38 am

Complacency about climate change – this complacency is our biggest problem. How much does the book deal with this?

77 Cliff July 25, 2016 at 10:49 am

No, it’s complacency about unfriendly AI

78 mulp July 25, 2016 at 1:19 pm

When robots are the only workers, robots are the only consumers.

Meanwhile people will be busy growing and making stuff, with the clever people raiding the landfills for discarded robots by the wasteful robots ruthlessly discarding perfectly good robots, minus brains, just because they are old models, and making cool stuff from the trash.

After all, anything you produce and barter and consume among friends and family is not economic activity, and thus does not exist.

79 anon July 25, 2016 at 10:13 am

I will have to listen to the talk mentioned above, but I have been thinking about a different, possibly similar vibe I read here:

History tells us what will happen next with Brexit & Trump

After reading that, I kind of felt that as dressed in history as it was, it was still, as mentioned above, about a dark zeitgeist. We have a sinister mood virus in play.

I really don’t think you can take chart after chart of good news and say “see we are *due*”. That’s Irrational. Good news is not bad news.

There are bad news stories, but we can certainly step back and see the bad as contained. The FBI has proven themselves as an anti-terror organization, for instance.

Be happy, and work on problems that are manageable, individually.

80 The Anti-Gnostic July 25, 2016 at 11:18 am

Wow. Trump, Farage are like Hitler. Interesting, unique take.

81 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Nothing unique about it. People might be on to something. People should not self censor from such concerns just because someone might come along and say “Godwin” or something.

82 anon July 25, 2016 at 10:15 am

BTW it would certainly be terrible to contribute to a bad mood virus, and any resulting bad mood choices.

83 Ken Payne July 25, 2016 at 10:17 am

Great, just when I was beginning to lose hope that things might get better, along comes Tyler to say, “Sure, go ahead and lose hope…” Whatever happened to the better world in “small steps to a better world”???

84 anon July 25, 2016 at 10:20 am

Doom sells, but that doesn’t make Doom Sellers the best people.

85 prior_test2 July 25, 2016 at 10:39 am

‘happened to the better world’

Average is over – happiness for the masses is now off the table, but the happiness of the rich getting richer is still a safe bet in the world which general director and chairman of the Mercatus Center Cowen takes his small steps in.

86 anon July 25, 2016 at 10:59 am

On the second Pokémon outing yesterday I took one of the kids down to a park. At dusk it was all working class families having barbecues, playing soccer, birthday parties, and like us catching Pokémon.

At any income happiness is an option.

87 Urso July 25, 2016 at 11:07 am

Kind of those families to allow a total stranger to review their W-2s.

88 anon July 25, 2016 at 11:21 am

You would make a very poor Sherlock Holmes. (Cars, Clothes, Languages, Stature, Gait.)

89 prior_test2 July 25, 2016 at 12:04 pm

‘At any income happiness is an option.’

Sure – but that is at the individual level. And we could have a fascinating discussion about the difference and similarities of happiness, contentment, and satisfaction.

But even more importantly, considering how consistently Prof. Cowen seems to feel that extending health care to all Americans would be an undue burden, might be a discussion what is required for happiness on a larger canvas. To give a concrete example from the past generation, and an example in which Prof. Cowen and his public university have also played a role in, is the creation of debt peonage among many college students. Of course someone facing 80,000 dollars in debt after getting their GMU degree could still be happy – after all, it is a GMU degree, right?

90 Econchic July 25, 2016 at 1:45 pm

I guess that now even TC has jumped on the Trump wagon of selling only doom and gloom. The only doom and gloom I’ll be buying is the one the Rolling Stones are selling!

91 Mike B. July 25, 2016 at 10:19 am

Sounds interesting! Will order when the Kindle version is available. As much as I like the feel of hardcover books, my poor eyes prefer the Andre-the-giant fonts on my Paperwhite!

92 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 10:39 am

How did you determine that your case is “true and objectively valid”? Did you send God a draft?

93 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 10:42 am

Doom is the ultimate fate of each of us, the hunan race, life, and the evidence of our existence. So a reasonable perspective to take if you are talking about the future.

94 prior_test2 July 25, 2016 at 10:45 am

‘Doom is the ultimate fate of each of us’

Death is not doom. Though the expression doom and destruction still pretty reads the same when written as death and destruction, the fact that everything comes to an end is not the same as doom.

95 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 10:51 am

Oh, no, I meant the video game. We all are eternal and there is an afterlife, but it is a place where we all play the same level of Doom for all eternity.

96 prior_test2 July 25, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Of course we all die, and everything comes to an end. That is not the same as doom.

97 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 12:15 pm

noun: doom

1. death, destruction, or some other terrible fate.
“the aircraft was sent crashing to its doom in the water”
synonyms: destruction, downfall, ruin, ruination; More
extinction, annihilation, death
“his impending doom”
(in Christian belief) the Last Judgment.
synonyms: Judgment Day, the Last Judgment, doomsday, Armageddon”the day of doom”

verb: doom;
3rd person present: dooms;
past tense: doomed;
past participle: doomed;
gerund or present participle: dooming

1. condemn to certain destruction or death.
“fuel was spilling out of the damaged wing and the aircraft was doomed”

98 anon July 25, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Of all the people on this thread, you need Gilbert’s book the most:


99 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 1:17 pm

I’ve actually read a lot of happiness-type literature, though I prefer Pinker. I am still considering a mid-life crisis psychology PhD, though it’s more likely to be economics (which I can twist to be psychological research).

I’ve got nothing against being happy, though my particular biological makeup is not well predisposed to it.

What bothers me is when you take a haughty position about your own happiness and rationality, and cast aspersions on the fools around you. My view is that you have seized onto a delusion (rational optimism, I believe you call it) that apparently works well for you. Other people clasp other delusions (all sorts of religious faiths, belief in some kind of technological singularity that will bring them eternal life, etc.). I’m torn between facing life as it is and going full William Blake romantic delusion. I’m not a militant atheist or nihilist, I just ask that people who consider themselves thoughtful be willing to bring down the delusional mask at times and give a knowing wink showing that they understand it’s all a game. I acknowledge you can’t give too many knowing winks or your ability to properly delude yourself is compromised.

Our choice is ultimately to face nihilistic reality head-on at all times like Camus’ Sisyphus, or find a comforting delusion to live by. I tend to think that the latter is a better choice, but I’m not sure yet. It may be that my best route through life is in contrarianism.

100 prior_test2 July 25, 2016 at 1:42 pm

‘death, destruction, or some other terrible fate’

Dooming someone to death would then seem to be a meaningless expression if death is seen as being an equivalent to doom.

And death is not a terrible fate, in the sense that it is inevitable. How one dies is another question, of course.

Though as a question, since you did not include any actual links – how did your dictionary manage to have two definitions both marked as ‘1’?

101 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 1:59 pm

It can be used as both a noun and a verb.


102 anon July 25, 2016 at 2:17 pm

I am not always happy, but I am happier when I do the basics. Diet, exercise, don’t let the mail or the dishes pile up.

I am quiet likey happier than usual today because I did two hikes yesterday.

103 Chris S July 26, 2016 at 12:01 pm

If we have to play the same level of Doom, can it be Doom II Level 16?

104 Cliff July 25, 2016 at 10:51 am

Unfriendly AI could be much much worse than death

105 Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta July 25, 2016 at 11:28 am

Unfriendly AI?

Easy to imagine.
Step one.
Erroneous or fraudulent charges deplete your account.
Step two.
Navigating incompetent automatic voice response system fails to resolve the issue in a timely fashion.
Step three.
Autopayment for your phone / telecom / internet bounces because your account is depleted. Services suspended.
Step four.
All accounts depleted and with telecommunications suspended, it becomes impossible to resolve the issue
Step five.
You starve.

No need for killer robots.
Incompetent artificial stupidity is sufficient.

Why do we seek extraterrestrial intelligence?
Have we given up on finding it on earth?

106 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 2:24 pm

I personally think people should be preparing for a rapid return to paper-only transactions for the eventuality of such a threat. I wonder what the Amazon charge would be for cheque payments …

107 anon July 25, 2016 at 11:29 am

Ok, I did hear most of that before.

Let me ask a question. Can we divide economists between those friendly to happiness research (as summarized by Gilbert in Stumbling on Happiness) and those at odds?

Is Tyler taking a happiness friendly position or one at odds?

It seems to me that many in other fields ignore what we actually know about humans and what makes them happy, because that knowledge does not favor their specialty.

Hearing about something bad in Europe makes me sad, running a couple miles on a mountain trail makes me happy. Gilbert can explain why. IMO any economic theory of the world has to dovetail with that.

108 rayward July 25, 2016 at 11:35 am

It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future. Why economists believe they have unique foresight for predictions of the future I don’t know. But I’m no economist and I have no unique foresight myself. As for Cowen’s prediction of a more violent future, I suppose it’s due to the combination of mimetic desire and the ubiquitous internet. Violence begets violence; or monkey see, monkey do. Beheadings will become as commonplace as haircuts, performed live to an enraptured global audience watching on their “smart” phones. Will Facebook edit out the beheadings, or will the lust for advertising revenues prevail over decency?

109 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 2:30 pm

They have data and tools that you don’t. But that doesn’t make them right. The data and tools are often not good enough to give good answers, even ignoring that humans are inherently unpredictable in many ways.

110 The Other Jim July 25, 2016 at 1:08 pm

I don’t think this one (“we’re getting to comfortable”) is going to be a hit for you, Tyler.

The USA has clearly gotten too comfortable with 19% underemployment, government corruption, being $20 trillion in debt, the idea that everything should be free, domestic cop-killing and international terrorism. But there is no way in hell NPR is going to invite you on to speak about those things.

Your only hope is to spin the idea that “complacency” — aka “happiness” — is causing problems that require government intervention. And since you can’t, you have to fall back on the idea that everyone is asleep and ignoring whatever alarmist garbage the Dems are selling this week. And I think that’s pretty weak tea.

Anyway, good luck to you.

111 JonFraz July 25, 2016 at 1:22 pm

U6, the commonly accepted measure of unemployment + underemployment, is now under 10%.

112 Andre July 25, 2016 at 6:43 pm

Thanks Obama.

113 mulp July 25, 2016 at 1:52 pm

What would Tyler say on those topics that NPR hasn’t already broadcast others saying?

Is Tyler going to say that all the problems began in 1980 when Reagan ushered in the conservative Free Lunch political-economy? Why would anyone blame the left when the voters have elected right-wing politicians to the greatest number of offices nationwide since the peaks of the Republican era from 1965 to 1935?

And to call Bernie a leftist is to ignore the leftists of the 60s who make Bernie a centrist, or at best a left of center centrist.

On the other hand, the right-wing WFBjr actively fought, now control the Republican party in some regions.

I remember when white conservatives were outraged by people walking around with guns on their shoulders in public places, back in the 60s. And then passed gun control laws, the first signed by Gov Reagan.

The complacency Tyler sees has arisen from the sharp move right over the past 40 years to deny the American Dream to ever more minority groups.

114 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 2:42 pm

Been checking for terrorists under your bed or in the closet recently?

Seeing myself as rational, I’ve been encouraging friends and family to forget about terrorism and to get down to the local home reno store for some anti-slip materials for their bathtub. Do you know how many Americans are killed every year by slippery bathtubs due to the rapid health deterioration associated with hip fracture?

OK, I’m going to return to brainstorming expensive and ineffective interventions …

(P.S. – care to share an estimate of what debt would have been if Obama had done nothing whatsoever and just worked with the GWB program as it was laid out?)

115 asdf July 25, 2016 at 1:42 pm

Read Cowen’s essay he mentioned.

I got four things from his essay:

1) Rich first world people shouldn’t have to take their cosmopolitan utilitarianism seriously enough to make any real personal sacrifices
2) However, they should take it seriously enough to flood their country with African immigrants and (partially?) gut the welfare state
3) This will somehow lead to higher sustainable economic growth on a multi-century timeline…
4) There are “near-universal” human rights that can override utilitarianism (but sort of reconcile on a long enough timeline?). Apparently, that means “rights” that Cowen determines based on his whims, but they also have exceptions when Cowen determines…

Ultimately, if you want to increase sustainable long term growth the most important factors are political stability and eugenics. Immigration strongly undermines both in potentially catastrophic ways, and has few potential upsides due to the incompatibility and low human capital of the average immigrant.

You could argue that “rights” mean we need to do things that aren’t good for long term growth, but this right to virtually unfettered immigration doesn’t seem firmly rooted in any cultural or philosophic tradition. It’s just something a few rich people in the modern first world came up with, who happen to be getting rich off it, and have conveniently decided the same logic doesn’t require them to do anything against their interests though it requires massive sacrifices from their countrymen. Nor should we conclude that giving up this idea of immigration as a “right” means we have to give up on other “rights”. Even modern East Asia doesn’t recognize this “right to immigration”, yet they aren’t going all Hitler. Many societies have recognized some rights and not others. In the end, I think immigration threatens many core “rights” as I expect immigration to create chaotic and impoverished societies full of antagonistic strife.

The longer a timeline one considers, the greater a crime immigration becomes. It is probably the greatest crime any of us are likely to see in our lifetimes, with the longest lasting and most devastating effects. Nearly all other issues being debated by our legislators today are mere child’s play (bills can be passed or overturned if we get it wrong). Immigration is forever. When I think about the majority NAM future our children will grow up with, I feel only dread. I’d do anything to stop it if some clear path to stopping it were visible.

I don’t want to rag on the whole thing, because I actually liked much of it. Probably close to my own views in a lot of ways. There is just a huge blind spot on by far the most important issue of the day, and that ignorance is criminal.

116 Asdf July 25, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Generous Cowen: “since all moral systems descend into repugnant conclusions or other absurdity taken 100%, I use a grab bag based on 90% gut feel and 10% thinking it over a little. Honestly, this is pretty close to most people’s common sense, and the vast majority of people would be better off not overthinking things”

Realistic Cowen: “when utilitarianism favors my interests and ethical biases, I’m a utilitarian. When not, I’m not. When rights ethics favor my interests and biases I’m a rights ethicists. When not, I’m not. When I need faith to justify myself I choose faith. When reason I use reason. Whatever I’m selling I use whatever moral club is at hand, then deny that same club to others who try to use it against me. My only defense is that everyone else has a bias to bullshit just the same, but I do feel guilty enough that I had to produce this word salad. After all, if we could all just go with common sense, why does anyone need me around. I’m a moral entrepreneur, people pay me for novelty, whether or it’s an improvement or snake oil.”

117 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 2:50 pm

I don’t think people speak of “near universal rights” on a whim. Especially people who have been sitting on a book for 15 years and are not releasing it for sale.

Personally, I’m not concerned by migration. The competition is tough, but I can also seek opportunities elsewhere too. And anyways, when the internet means you compete with the world, what the heck does it matter for my working opportunities if my neighbours are brown?

I do wonder. Do you ever think, in your considerations of immigration, about the fact that the most powerful nation in the history of the planet is … wait for it … a country of immigrants.

118 Mr. Econotarian July 25, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Happiness, intelligence, and grit are all highly heritable (i.e. genetic). Edit the DNA and we’re all fine. CRISPR can solve our problems.

119 asdf July 25, 2016 at 2:21 pm

CRISPR doesn’t exist yet, not in the way your alluding too anyway. We don’t know if it will ever exist. We don’t know if when it does exist it won’t present new problems (imagine lots of mentally off people with an IQ of 150, what might happen).

Going down a path guaranteed to lead to ruin in the hopes that an uncertain miracle technology will solve everything is reckless and criminal. End of the world religions have more logic to them then that.

I’m still waiting on my flying car. Who knows how long we will be waiting on CRISPR or what it will mean when it gets here. I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket.

120 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 2:59 pm

The “everone’s a deranged genius” scenario concerns me. We could do even worse – humans aren’t exactly perfect after all.

I can imagine it like kids playing with finger paints, or realizing you can tattoo your body and then going overboard … but with the genetic future of humanity. Say, one generation it’s a fad to make everyone “happy” no matter what. And two generations later everyone is enslaved to the max but still “happy”.

The permutations and combinations of retarded things that individuals, or humanity as a whole, might get up to with such technologies, is extremely numerous. So … do we speed ahead as fast as possible, hoping that when some red light or other thing appears, that we can invent and install brakes fast enough to prevent disaster? This should be done slowly.

Hopefully, CRISPR will be less exciting than anyone thinks, and it’s main application for at least the next several generations (giving serious time to think stuff through and avoid doing retarded things) will be limited to things like editing out a couple/few genes here and there which are 100% known to be the main (or only) causal factors for some extremely debilitating genetic disease.

121 Mr. Econotarian July 25, 2016 at 1:55 pm

BTW from the Amazon description “We’re moving residences less,” this is mainly due to underwater mortgages hungover from the real-estate bust coupled with the current mortgage interest deduction rules that only apply to primary residences. Move and you start paying tax on interest on your underwater mortgage house.

Also “The forces unleashed by the Great Stagnation will eventually lead to a major fiscal and budgetary crisis: impossibly expensive rentals for our most attractive cities,” the impossibly expensive rentals come from local anti-building regulations. Why are 60-story apartment buildings popping up in downtown Toronto but not San Francisco? Why does Sunnyvale not look like Hong Kong?

122 Cooper July 25, 2016 at 2:34 pm

We’ve been moving less for decades. The 1990s had less movement than the 1980s. It’s not just the housing bust hangover.

123 Chipper July 25, 2016 at 2:19 pm

But seriously, when is Bryan Caplan going to publish that goddamn book on education?

124 Edward Burke July 25, 2016 at 3:15 pm

“The Complacent Class”: early reflections on the performance of the Democratic Natl. Cmte.’s leaders and senior staffers?

Has Debbie Wasserman Schultz been chased COMPLETELY down the length of I-95 today, or is she catching her breath somewhere south of Richmond?

125 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Did the Clinton campaign really hire her? I saw something to the effect that they had, but I can’t believe they’d be that blatant.

126 Edward Burke July 25, 2016 at 3:47 pm

“Honorary chair of the Clinton campaign’s 50-state effort” is how it’s being termed, DWS will serve dutifully as a Clinton surrogate. (–which sounds as if she may’ve already given up on her own Congressional re-election bid, after the stunning rebuff she got this morning from the Florida delegation in Philadelphia.)

127 Turkey Vulture July 25, 2016 at 4:13 pm

So she resigned because leaked emails show (among other things, like a spreadsheet with donors, amounts, and desired posts) that the DNC was favoring Clinton over Sanders. And then the Clinton campaign hires her almost immediately afterward?

I don’t understand how being that blatant about it can make any sense. Is it meant as a signal to others that as long as they are loyal Clinton soldiers, they will be taken care of? That’s all I can come up with. Seems like a great way to piss off a bunch of Sanders voters who were already hesitant Clinton voters, at best.

Just an amazing election cycle. It has lain bare the corruption of both Parties and a captured media.

128 Troll me July 26, 2016 at 3:09 pm

A president hired someone who is experienced, qualified, and previously went to bat for them.


(Maybe there’s more to the story than I know, but I don’t see why people on the DNC should not be allowed to advocate for their preferred person, so long as there are no legal improprieties related to the general situation. Do Republicans refrain from such things?)

129 Daniel Weber July 25, 2016 at 4:55 pm

For crying out loud, at least wait until the inauguration to give her a nice job.

130 AlanG July 25, 2016 at 3:32 pm

Well “The Complacent Class” is already labeled a ‘best seller’ by Amazon and it’s not even out yet. I guess the blog really works as an advertising ploy (only joking; I’ve also pre-ordered to further drive up the sales).

131 Robbl July 25, 2016 at 4:08 pm

“These are my final thoughts on these subjects….”

Har har har

132 AnthonyB July 25, 2016 at 4:56 pm

What’s a matcher? (Yes, I know I could read the book to find out.)

133 Mark Barbieri July 25, 2016 at 9:05 pm

Count me as another person wanting to pre-order the Kindle version.

134 Jake July 26, 2016 at 1:43 am


“These are my final thoughts on those topics.”

Tyler is dying! I’m not joking and I am truly saddened to hear it.

135 Foxhuntingman July 27, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Will there be an audio edition?

136 Simon August 2, 2016 at 7:18 pm

When will it be possible to pre-order the Audible version? Not up on Audible yet.

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