Blame the Millennials
By Amy Willis
This week, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomed back economist, author, and blogger Tyler Cowen of George Mason University. The subject was Cowen’s newest book, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. In it, Cowen argues that Americans have become less innovative, less geographically mobile, and more segregated due to a cultural shift toward complacency. And yes, he thinks Millennials are particularly afflicted with complacency.
Have Americans- especially Millennials– become addicted to a soma-like state of leisure? What’s needed to get folks out of their parents’ basements and designing beautiful new buildings and making movies great again?
1. How does Cowen define “complacency” in his book, and how does he argue it’s affecting the US economy? Why does Roberts suggest it may instead be an income effect, and why does Cowen think it’s not?2. What does Cowen mean when he says, “immigrants are more neurotic than average, and that’s a good thing?” Is Cowen making a Caplan-esque case for open borders? How so (or not)?
3. While Cowen is adamant that he’s not in favor of rioting, its relative paucity today is still cause for concern. Why does he think this, and what does this suggest about the future prospects for freedom?
4. Despite his concerns about complacency, Cowen maintains he’s an optimist. How about you? How valid do you find Cowen’s hypothesis? If Americans are indeed too complacent, what is to be done? If Cowen’s wrong (or his claim at least exaggerated) what additional evidence would you bring to the discussion?