If you grew up in America, you hear a lot of narratives about our country that speak to our shared sense of character — that we’re a nation of restless pioneers always striking out for greener pastures, or that we have a risk-taking, entrepreneurial spirit that spurs innovation and economic growth.
My guest today argues that while these narratives may have been true at one point in American history, the statistics show that in recent decades Americans have lost that pioneering, entrepreneurial get-up-and-go. Instead, we’ve become pretty complacent. His name is Tyler Cowen, he’s an economist at George Mason University, writer at his blog Marginal Revolution, and the author of several books. His latest is The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream.
Today on the show, Tyler and I discuss the statistics that indicate Americans are losing their dynamism — that we’re less mobile and starting fewer businesses — as well as the effect this trend is having on our economy and culture. Tyler also provides some insight on what’s causing this complacency, what to do to overcome it, and how it’s likely leading us to an era of severe disruption.
If you enjoyed my podcast with Neil Howe about the generational theory of history, you’re going to love this episode. Tyler’s ideas dovetail nicely with Howe’s cyclical view of history.
- What Tyler means when he says America has lost its dynamism
- How complacency manifests across different socio-economic levels
- The factors that led to the rise of the “complacent class”
- The decline of geographic mobility in America
- Is that decline necessarily bad?
- Personal preferences, and the consequences of getting exactly what we want
- Why segregation is actually on the rise in America (and not just racial segregation)
- How this segregation has led us to our current political gridlock
- Other reasons politicians can’t get anything done these days
- The declining state of entrepreneurship in America, and why Americans are starting fewer businesses
- How most innovation today is geared towards our leisure time, and why this is a bad thing
- The benefits of instability
- Signs that this age of complacency may be coming to an end
- How individuals can thrive amongst the complacency of America
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast
- On Becoming Antifragile
- The Strauss-Howe Generational Theory
- My podcast with Neil Howe about the generational theory
- Average is Over by Cowen
- My podcast with Kevin Kelly about technology and automation
- The Next Big Blue-Collar Job is Coding
The Complacent Class provides a lot of insights on the changing nature of our economy and provides subtle suggestions on what you can do to thrive in it. I highly recommend reading it, along with his book Average Is Over.
Connect With Tyler Cowen
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