The Complacent Class

Everybody's favorite libertarian economist and blogger, Tyler Cowen, is back with his signature mix of despair and optimism, following up on The Great Stagnation and Average Is Over. His latest book, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream (St. Martin's Press), tells the story of various American subtypes of the rich ("the privileged"), poor ("those who are stuck"), and middle class ("those who dig in"). These classes, Cowen says, have historically contained larger shares of big-thinking go-getters, but they are increasingly reconciled to the status quo.

We don't lack in innovation, reports the Marginal Revolution founder, but our innovators are more likely to pursue comfort and convenience than to look for ways to revolutionize the world. Ironically, our politicians, entrepreneurs, and pundits are more prone than ever to use overheated rhetoric about Manhattan Projects and moonshots. Think of everything from apps that promise to "change the way you do business" to Joe Biden's hastily conceived mandate to cure cancer in the final year of Barack Obama's second term.

Cowen suggests the way out is some kind of large-scale, messy political or social upheaval. Maybe Trump's election is just what the doctor of economics ordered.