The Complacent Class

by Tyler Cowen

The complacent class of people grew out of people making decisions that in the short term were in their best interests, but ended up creating a strong force of complacency and risk aversion that will hurt everyone. This book is partly summarized by it's intro into it's last chapter.

"So far I've discussed a number of main elements driving the trend toward a more static, less risk-taking America which are:
- collapse of fiscal freedom and democratic process,
- lower residential mobility,
- lower income mobility,
- less building in America's most productive cities,
- more segregation by income and status,
- a much greater concern with safety and risk,
- the coddling of our children,
- fewer start-ups,
- and slowed growth in living standards.

This leads to a calmer, safer, and more peaceful America in the short run but it also creates an America that is losing the ability to regenerate, reinvent, and create new sources of dynamism."

Some other great quotes of the book that I enjoyed pondering were:
- "In modern America, whenever we argue for doing something virtuous you will find something deeply calming, stabilizing, and risk reducing beneath the surface."
- "A new kind of tyranny will not resemble the diposition of antiquity but rather based on the conformist and mediocrity of future Americans."

The book presents evidence that America has grown more complacent and more risk adverse to change. It shows that Americans move to new places less frequently and we live more segregated lives (by both income, race, and culture).

The most staggering statistics presented are:
- 20,000 toddlers under the age of 2 are on ADHD medication,
- If high productivity cities lowered building regulatory constraints to the level of median cities, GDP would increase by 9.5% (from easier access to workforce and increased productivity from higher mobility).

I can definitely buy the argument that the world is far more complacent and less willing to take risk than before. I've experience NIMBY (not in my backyard) first hand for a basic city infrastructure program.

However, Tyler doesn't believe that this complacency is sustainable and that the power of the Trump and Sanders campaigns, along with the university protests, show a potential first wave of what could be a major reset towards a more chaotic and dynamic society.

I'm still too much of a econ pleb to really form my own opinion, so I enjoyed the insights I gained from this book and didn't really find much to argue with.

Originally posted of Facebook June 5, 2017.