I'm wary of summarizing the book — I really want you to read it for yourself — but the basic idea is very straightforward: Americans have grown accustomed to painless, automatic increases in prosperity. This is true of Americans on the right, who believe that painless tax cuts will deliver prosperity, and Americans on the left, who believe that above-market wages and more public investment funded by painless tax increases on the rich will deliver prosperity. Tyler convincingly argues that we've run out of this "low-hanging fruit."
In 1920, the marginal college student was fully capable of profiting from a rigorous college education. In 2011, the marginal college student is perhaps less capable, due to a confluence of factors. Some believe that credit constraints are the driver of an increase in dropout rates. Others, myself included, believe that traditional college instruction isn't necessarily right for, say, 80 percent of the population, and that the rigidity that defines an education sector that is tightly regulated and fueled by third-party public dollars doesn't lend itself to the kind of specialization that would yield big productivity increases. This is a subject of particular interest to me.
…Many thanks to Tyler for writing a really terrific provocation.
There is much more, including some very good points on commuting.