*Stubborn Attachments* is being published by Stripe Press

The full title is Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals.  I have been working on this book for about twenty years, and I recommend it to you all.

Here is the Amazon link, you can pre-order for October 16.  Here is the Kindle link.  I will get you the Barnes and Noble link as soon as it is available.  The Stripe Press people have done a fantastic job with the cover and also with the production more generally, my commendations to them!


I will certainly buy it when available on iBooks, if you post a reminder 😊 In the meantime, how about a short blurb?

There are some reviews on goodreads, at least of the early manuscript, and "Ivan Vendrov"'s seems the most cogent so far.

Ivan Vendrov …...I wanna Vend (sell) off ?

An OBVIOUS pseudonym....nice try Tyler!

Are there any major revisions or additions from the pre-print version of the book? I had the privilege of reading the pre-print version a few years ago and am still troubled by "the repugnant conclusion".

Why so coy? What was the "repugnant conclusion"?

Its a reference to Derek Parfit's repugnant conclusion. It involves the ethical dilemma of limiting a population size to have higher overall resources, virtue and value of life per capita. Is the overall good greater with a lower quality of life for a much larger group of people since life is inherently better than not life?

"inherently better"

Not required for the repugnant conclusion. See, this is what I mean. People don't even get the basic facts right. Just stop the bleeding and go for political representation of people who actually exist and who can articulate their preferences.

Thanks, Jim. "life is inherently better than not life": I don't see why. I can see that (usually) life is better for someone alive than dying is, but I can't see how anyone can weigh the value of a life that never came into existence.

Exactly, only utility in the minds of the living has value. Non-existent entities cannot have even potential utility. The whole repugnant conclusion turns on a category error.

We have no obligations to the unborn, save the value we feel within ourselves in bringing them into being. Otherwise you end up with ridiculous commitments to maximise the utility of successor generations.

"Otherwise you end up with ridiculous commitments to maximise the utility of successor generations"

Yes, kind of like the Romans who planted olive trees; for whom only their grandchildren would reap the fruit.

Spoken by the craven, selfish psychopath you truly are.

Craven = risk-averse
Selfish = rational
Psychopath = no delusions

Why, thank you, that's the nicest thing!

Seriously, is it hard to understand that non-existent beings don't experience anything and have no moral claims?

One big problem with the repugnant conclusion is the implicit implication that scarcity will remain an issue once the population becomes "sub-optimal." The greater the population, the more geniuses we have working on more problems, the faster those problems get solved, and the closer we get to a post-scarcity world. According to historical misanthropes, humanity should already be in decline by now. A cursory reading of Pinker would prove otherwise. Any policy informed by the repugnant conclusion would inherently be dehumanizing. It would enshrine a cynicism and misanthropy that can cause many problems and, ironically, reduce everyone's utility. Cowen shouldn't breathe any more life into the theory.

implication* sorry. I wish we had a few minutes to edit comments.

The repugnant conclusion, as formulated by Derek Parfit, doesn't actually make any empirical assumptions about the consequences of population growth, it is a purely theoretical argument to highlight a counterintuitive implication of utilitarian population ethics, which may or may not have any relationship with real-world trade-offs. Of course, even the theoretical argument goes away once you reject utilitarianism.

"The greater the population, the more geniuses we have working on more problems, the faster those problems get solved, and the closer we get to a post-scarcity world."

This discussion is actually less relevant for the repugnant conclusion, but I'd idly point out that there will also be more people causing more problems on purpose, implementing more disutility on purpose, and ultimately there are hard physical limits that are almost certainly not solvable even by the best superintelligences with the best ideas.

Also you have to factor in that many people in today's 7B world population are not pulling their weight, so "more geniuses with bigger population" only works for the First World, not the entire world. With 7B people, only say 25% (or less, just offhand maybe even 10%) being in the "First World", you could argue we don't really need a bigger population, just more "First World" people.

Tyler, can we get some clarity on whether the new print edition will be different from the edition you gave away as a bonus for early purchasers of "The Complacent Class"?

Does the book have much to say about environmental sustainability?

The smart money says the book will have nothing to say which will provoke awkward conversations at GMU's faculty rathskellar.

I have to give Art Deco/TStD credit for single handedly keeping the word 'rathskellar' in use. Art is really obsessed with that rathskellar the GMU faculty likes to hang out in.

Wait, they have a rathskeller? Neat.

Is that like a tavern only with uglier decor?

This is his best and most philosophical book and was a great primer on a few topics for me.

Through history, economic growth, in particular, has alleviated human misery, improved human happiness and opportunity, and lengthened human lives.

That's obviously true except for the human happiness thing. The idea that "happiness", however it's defined, exists on a continuum can't be the case. If economic growth makes people happier then they must have been less happy in the past, ergo at some point in history everyone must have been completely miserable. We know that's not the case. Throughout history there's been happiness. Even at one point in time, right now for instance, there are economically disadvantaged people on earth who may well be happier than their wealthy neighbors. There's no measuring happiness.

There used to be a saying on the "Street" that perfectly captured its overall moral position: "Happiness can't buy money."


Will signed copies be available?

Will unsigned copies be available?

Will unsigned copies be unavailable?

"If we want to continue on our trends of growth, and the overwhelmingly positive outcomes for societies that come with it, every individual must become more concerned with the welfare of those around us and in the world at large and most of all our descendants in the future"

That's too bad, because this individual doesn't share concern for "our descendants in the future", in fact this individual doesn't have descendants, doesn't plan on having descendants and would be perfectly happy if all life winked out of existence in 2050.

Here's the problem with universal collectivism: It doesn't net-benefit me. Neither does it net-benefit the people who net-benefitted me so far.

There is a lot to say about the numerous flaws of the "effective altruism" ideology, how it gets morality wrong or how it handles criticism badly. But by far the worst aspect is that it forces costs on other people in the name of "altruism" and then harvests the moral status as through they themselves had actually paid the costs. This is also one of my problems with the political left. I don't want universal collectivism, I want political representation of my interests and the interests of people who have net-benefitted me.

I don't want to be forced to support the alt-right movement depite all its flaws and vitriol, just to stop the bleeding.

"IF we want to continue on our trends of growth, and the overwhelmingly positive outcomes for societies that come with it"

Obviously you don't care so it doesn't apply to you.

And yet the implied costs are going to be socialized.

But you'll be dead soon enough so why worry?

In the long run, we're all dead. Even future generations. So why bring them into existence?

The fact that I'll be dead doesn't change the fact that there are people who benefit me more than they harm me, and vice versa. And I am intrinsically motivated to reciprocate that.

Wanna be a morally superior altruist? Then how about you pay for your own altruism.

Why does anything you want politically matter if you don't care about anything after 2050? Just live your own best life for yourself, why even bother voting? Then you die and who cares?

"why even bother voting?"

Because of reciprocity. I want to benefit those who net-benefitted me. Also, voting is self-defense, and it's not the only thing we need to do either.

So the only two choices are the left and the alt-right? Ever heard of libertarians? Christian conservatives? Greens? Pirate?

In the US?

We’re closing in on a world in which the only two options are socialism and national socialism.

Or more realistically, a 3.2 trillion a year tax increase for Medicare for all or voting for Trumpistas.

Watch out for the product placement in Death Wish 2.

Actually made me lol, a rarity Thanks

That will be the scene where the embalmer is reading it to his customer.

20 years! I wonder how many times you had to rewrite chapter 1.

Keep in mind Tyler's other book titles. This is a guy who thinks America became successful just by "eating low-hanging fruit" and thinks the American Dream of improving your life and being responsible for yourself are "self-defeating."

If you are interested in a lecture on how Americans MUST take care of the world and future generations, I'm sure it's in this book. Wild guess: carbon taxes.

Carbon taxes are a fairly benign idea which can be disputed on prudential grounds. Or it could at one time. Now the discussion is hopelessly corrupted by the tendency of academics and others to turn policy stances into markers delineating in groups and out groups.

It's doubtful any but a small minority of academics are much good at discussions of normative questions. They can merely tell you what the fashions are among their peers, which isn't all that interesting. Many of those who do attempt to discuss norms do so to apply forensic virtuosity to make the case for things which are patently stupid or monstrous (but fashionable among the tribe). See John Rawls, who professed to believe opponents of the legal profession's preferred regime in abortion law lacked 'public reason'. (Robert Altemeyer made it his business to use psychological tests to 'prove' such people were 'proto-fascists').

"Growth is good."

Isn't it a little more nuanced than that? Would that landscape of Ireland you posted look better with a bunch of strip malls and people living 20-stories on top of each other?

My hometown has experienced explosive growth. It's also more expensive, more taxed, more corrupt, more schizophrenic homeless. I'm sure the Mayor's office has the clampdown on crime stats, but there are more crimes taking place in what were previously secure, bourgeois areas. Do you think there's no such thing as diseconomy of scale?

Why the obsession with GROWTH? Is it because we've taken the economists' advice and leveraged our productivity for so many decades into the future that we have to pack a billion people into the place to keep the debt marketable, lest we find out the economists were wrong all along?

Is that a joke? We have more people every day. Without growth, we'd be dividing a pie up among more people every day.

The economy expands to meet the needs of the expanding economy.

In a lot of ways we're just running in place: get an ever-more expensive degree to earn higher pay for your increasingly expensive housing.

+1. Its like he's blind to the realities of population growth. Hello Earth to Anti-Gnostic: More people need more goods and services!!

Yes. The irrefutable Toilet Paper argument.

Formerly, the toilet paper manufacturers had to make a living off toilet paper sales to a niggardly 200 million people. That's barely enough to make a decent living. In 1920, when the US was only 106 million people, toilet paper manufacturers practically starved.

Now, with 320 million people, the Toilet Paper industry is finally profitable and sustainable. The only thing that could possibly be better would be 640 million people buying toilet paper.

At 1 billion people, there would be so many people buying toilet paper, you could become a millionaire just by re-selling your bulk purchases from Costco.

If the US had 10 billion people, it would be King Toilet Paper, like the antebellum King Cotton. Or Standard Oil. Toilet Paper magnates would be jetting around in flying cars, employing hundreds of people to cater to their exotic whims.

Ha! I had exactly that response to that picture yesterday. TC often posts pretty pictures: he obviously appreciates beauty. And my unbidden thought is always - keep people like him - away from that.

'Why the obsession with GROWTH?'

How else do you expect the rich to keep getting richer? Growth is the opiate of the masses, dulling them to the fact that they will never be among the rich.

And the benefits of resigning themselves to that "fact" are...what?

Absurd. The American masses are already high up among the ranks of the global and historical rich. Of course, that's assuming what you value about being rich is long healthy lives, leisure, travel, housing, food, shelter, education, entertainment, etc, etc. On the other hand, if what you really want from being 'rich' is the ability to lord it over those who are less fortunate, well, then I guess you're right -- growth won't solve that 'problem' (it's inherently unsolvable).

Absolutely right.

This rhetoric about "the rich" is a weapon for the less rich (but not poor) to gain more power. What they're concerned about isn't wealth (what you are talking about), but status. And obviously the competition for status is a zero-sum game.

Agreed. By any objective historical standard, the masses are rich (in the first world)

My 2 cents:

The largest contingent of inequality rabble rousers are the college educated but middle class.

Especially in blue coastal cities with high cost of living.

A college educated single person in their 20s or 30s making between 50 and 100k. That’s the demographic for almost all of this insanity.

It gets worse with age when they realize their chosen career path will max out at a “low” level whereas peers from their uni make multiples more. The billionaire class is tiny and irrelevant. It’s the “asshole” from their graduating class that went into ibanking 10 years ago which infuriates them.

Meanwhile the rural population has low cost of living with wide open spaces, low crime, and is by and large able to afford a house on a 25 dollar an hour salary. So who cares if someone’s rich? Hence the apathy, amid the cries and wails that “stupid rednecks just think they’ll get rich!” Tom frank nonsense.

I have zero data to back this up.

Growth is thought of as generally good in that it lifts the standard of living, which matters not so much to the rich but a lot to the poor.

But growth is especially needed when you have a society built on debt. There are three ways to handle a massive debt load: default, devalue or grow. A little growth will allow for less devaluation.

"As a means of practicing the altruism that Stubborn Attachments argues for, Tyler Cowen is donating all earnings from this book to a man he met in Ethiopia earlier this year with aspirations to open his own travel business."

It seems that being published is not very lucrative if the expected earnings are only the capital necessary to start a travel agency in Ethiopia.

"Millennium Travel Agency" has a nice ring. Maybe its target clientele could be American academics. TC's contacts could be as helpful as his dough-re-mi.

"Why the obsession with GROWTH?"

Population growth is not necessarily a good idea. The carrying capacity of the Earth isn't fixed, but it is possible for population growth to cut into the gains from technological growth. On the other hand per capita GDP growth is a great thing. That's what makes the average first world inhabitant today richer than the average king of the middle ages.

Will this be available on audible?

Yes, though a bit after the publication date for the book..

Our society will never be free and prosperous unless we fund Trump's Spaceforce to fight the giant hand holding the earth in its fingers!

Totally unrelated to this I'm collecting Bitcoin for funding the statup of my Space Force Consulting LLC which I'm forming today.

I only have three points:

The only good but is a dead bug

I’m from Buenos Aires, and I say kill em all

Huge missed opportunity if they don’t name it the Mobile Infantry

We should take Trump supporters and send them off to space, you know, to defend Jupiter from being invaded by Mexicans. Watch the earthly IQ of the USA increase bigly. Talk about win win.

Looking forward to this, Mr. Cowen!

I have never received a recommendation from someone who is an author of a work being discussed (" have been working on this book for about twenty years, and I recommend it to you all.") ; to me it seems presumptuous in the extreme; is this common in libertarian circles?

No, he stopped short of boasting - he didn't say it was self-recommending!

If you're feeling prissy about it, there is the option of teasing him. You're not actually required to be pompous.

How on earth is what I said pompous? Perhaps snarky to an arguably unpleasant (but, in my view, not obnoxious) degree. I think you people are getting a tad defensive here. And, isn't "self-representing" in this case clearly redundant, inasmuch as there is no other person indicated who might be the source of the recommendation? And don't worry : I don't intend to keep kicking this horse with further comments: I'm sorry my remark caused such a stir.....

The assumption is we blog readers are fans of the guy, and would be disposed to his recommendation to read something he wrote. And that's true for most of us. There are a few who come here to post how much they hate him, because they live small lives and only get heard anonymously trashing famous, successful people.

OK, I must pipe in again on this one. I visit this site every day, and have done so for at least 10 years, and have never left any comments, never mind anything that could be construed in any sense as abusive. I read (and bought) Cowen's book Average Is Over. I admit I don't like his overall philosophy at all, but I respect his scholarship enough to follow his work as closely as I do. My point was simply that I was surprised enough by Cowen's "self-recommendation" that I thought it worth my time to express my unease at the thought that someone could do such a thing. It' s not a crime, of course, or pathological, but I repeat: I have NEVER seen anyone else do this. If you want to defend the site or Cowen, tell me that I'm conflating his faux pas with libertarianism (to which I admit some guilt, at least in terms of the way I framed my original position), but do not, please, assume I'm simply trolling him.

Are you seriously claiming you've never seen a blogger pimp his own merch before?

No: it's precisely this particular "self-recommendation" I've never seen before, and which startles me: nothing less. This is why I think it is worthy of note. So I challenge you: collect two or three similar usages, preferably amongst lefty bloggers (i'm a leftist), and I will issue a public apology on this site.

If you really were here every day for 10 years you would know Cowen declares countless things to be 'self-recommending'. It's something the rest of us have fun with and riff on.

It appears to have triggered you. My challenge back to you is to buy betterfitting panties because the ones you are wearing are far too twisted up.

Please provide two or three examples. Please cite date. That is what I asked for.
What triggered me was the unusual usage: perhaps I don't apply a finely-toothed comb to the site. If you do, I hope you can easily make up for my negligence. Ball is in your court.

Oops I missed the ball. You 'win'.

No I don't: nobody wins here.

I wish you all the best, and the same to Prof. Cowen.

Back atcha. Hope you post more often, you're obviously not one of the trolly jerks.

I think it's just a matter of phrasing. If he had said, "I have been working on this book for about twenty years, and I think it is my best and most important work", would you see anything wrong in that?

And yet it's not that different from saying "I recommend it". Just the word "recommend" has connotations of "disinterested third party", which doesn't really apply here. Poor phrasing in the end, maybe.

No, I wouldn't, not at all. I admit, as I said before, that it may be a misstatement, of the kind we're all culpable of, and all too often these days. And if that's the case, I do believe Prof Cowen should learn from this and avoid making such mistakes in future, and I'd be happy with that. But: my Latin is terrible, but the prefix "re" suggests to me something that is repeated and passed on, which seems to fortify the idea that one cannot truly recommend anything originated by one's self. I know and respect Cowen's appreciation of Parfit, but in ordinary usage, I believe recommendation strongly resists casual reflexive use. Please correct me if you think otherwise. Thanks, however for the civil and engaging post, the first I've received on this threaD.

we look forward to reading another excellent book by Professor Cowen

That is a very 60's cover. Just missing some geometrical shapes in the background.

They seem to have hired the art director from Time Magazine -- what's left of it -- but at least upped his production budget slightly from the usual buck ninety-nine a week

"And wealth is there for human purposes and to have leisure time. Just think of leisure as a form of wealth and include that in wealth.

"And also if we destroy our environment in that distant future, we’ll be much less wealthy. So if you think about wealth consistently, environmentalism actually becomes really a quite fundamental principle of political philosophy.

(From an interview Tyler gave about his new book.)

I can't say I've seen this theme in evidence on the blog, where he seldom touches on the environment except to complain that the American West is "underutilized" - which is to say, we need to build more roads and diminish it in whatever way we have not yet done. He does link to interesting natural phenomena sometimes, which I appreciate (I sent that "Spiders Can Fly" link flying around to my friends and relations), though I haven't always understood what he wanted to convey when he did.

But I welcome the connection he's made between environmental protection and abundance, at the risk of alienating him by accord ...

I'm glad there will be an Audible version. I'm shifting more in that direction. Every time I look at all the worthy books on my shelf I haven't read yet i feel guilty.

I got an Amazon gift card for signing up for their credit card so what the hell.

But ...but ... the book won't have a comment section

Heh ... but Tyler's been mentioning Stubborn Attachments repeatedly for a year or two and even had some sort of giveaway program (something like buy his other book, get an electronic version of Stubborn Attachments for free). So there've been plenty of opportunities to read and comment on the book.

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