GRID VIEW LIST VIEW

Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation

The United States continues to mint more millionaires and billionaires than any country ever. Yet, since the great recession, three quarters of the jobs created here pay only marginally more than minimum wage. Why is there growth only at the top and the bottom?   Renowned economist and bestselling author Tyler Cowen explains that high earners are taking ever more advantage of machine intelligence and achieving ever-better results. Meanwhile, nearly every business sector relies less and less on manual labor, and that means a steady, secure life somewhere in the middle—average—is over.   In Average is Over, Cowen lays out how the new economy works and identifies what workers and entrepreneurs young and old must do to thrive in this radically new economic landscape. Read more…

The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better

America has been through the biggest financial crisis since the great Depression, unemployment numbers are frightening, median wages have been flat since the 1970s, and it is common to expect that things will get worse before they get better. Certainly, the multi-decade stagnation is not yet over. How will we get out of this mess?   One political party tries to increase government spending even when we have no good plan for paying for ballooning programs like Medicare and Social Security. The other party seems to think tax cuts will raise revenue and has a record of creating bigger fiscal disasters than the first. Where does this madness come from?   As Cowen argues, our economy has enjoyed low-hanging fruit since the seventeenth century: free land, immigrant labor, and powerful new technologies. But during the last forty years, the low-hanging fruit started disappearing, and we started pretending it was still there. We have failed to recognize that we are at a technological plateau. The fruit trees are barer than we want to believe. That’s it. That is what has gone wrong and that is why our politics is crazy.   Cowen reveals the underlying causes of our past prosperity and how we will generate it again. This is a passionate call for a new respect of scientific innovations that benefit not only the powerful elites, but humanity as a whole. Read more…

The Age of the Infovore: Succeeding in the Information Economy

“Will change the way you think about thinking.” -Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind   Renowned behavioral economist and commentator Tyler Cowen shows that our super-networked world is changing the way we think-and empowering us to thrive in any economic climate. Whether it is micro-blogging on Twitter or buying single songs at iTunes, we can now customize our lives to shape our own specific needs. In other words, we can create our own economy and live smarter, happier, and fuller lives. At a time when apocalyptic thinking has become all too common, Cowen offers a much-needed information age manifesto that will resonate with readers of Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good for You, and everyone hungry to understand our potential to withstand, and even thrive, in any economic climate. Read more…

Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist

In Discover Your Inner Economist, one of America’s most respected economists presents a quirky, incisive romp through everyday life that reveals how you can turn economic reasoning to your advantage—often when you least expect it to be relevant.   Like no other economist, Tyler Cowen shows how economic notions—such as incentives, signals, and markets—apply far more widely than merely to the decisions of social planners, governments, and big business. What does economic theory say about ordering from a menu? Or attracting the right mate? Or controlling people who talk too much in meetings? Or dealing with your dentist? With a wryly amusing voice, in chapters such as “How to Control the World, The Basics” and “How to Control the World, Knowing When to Stop” Cowen reveals the hidden economic patterns behind everyday situations so you can get more of what you really want.   Readers will also gain less selfish insights into how to be a good partner, neighbor, and even citizen of the world. For instance, what is the best way to give to charity? The chapter title “How to Save the World—More Christmas Presents Won’t Help” makes a point that is every bit as personal as it is global.   Incentives are at the core of an economic approach to the world, but they don’t just come in cash. In fact, money can be a disincentive. Cowen shows why, for example, it doesn’t work to pay your kids to do the dishes. Other kinds of incentives—like making sure family members know they will be admired if they respect you—can work. Another non-monetary incentive? Try having everyone stand up in your next meeting if you don’t want anyone to drone on. Deeply felt incentives, like pride in one’s work or a passing smile from a loved one, can be the most powerful of all, even while they operate alongside more mundane rewards such as money and free food.   Discover Your Inner Economist is an introduction to the science of economics that shows it to be built on notions that are already within all of us. Read more…

Public Goods and Market Failures

Assertions of market failure are usually based on Paul Samuelson’s theory of public goods and externalities. This book both develops that theory and challenges the conclusion of many economists and policy-makers that market failures cannot be corrected by market forces. The volume includes major case studies of private provision of public goods. Among the goods considered are lighthouse services, education, municipal services, and environmental conservation. Read more…

In Praise of Commercial Culture

Does a market economy encourage or discourage music, literature, and the visual arts? Do economic forces of supply and demand help or harm the pursuit of creativity? This book seeks to redress the current intellectual and popular balance and to encourage a more favorable attitude toward the commercialization of culture that we associate with modernity.   Economist Tyler Cowen argues that the capitalist market economy is a vital but under-appreciated institutional framework for supporting a plurality of co-existing artistic visions, providing a steady stream of new and satisfying creations, supporting both high and low culture, helping consumers and artists refine their tastes, and paying homage to the past by capturing, reproducing, and disseminating it. Contemporary culture, Cowen argues, is flourishing in its various manifestations, including the visual arts, literature, music, architecture, and the cinema.   Successful high culture usually comes out of a healthy and prosperous popular culture. Shakespeare and Mozart were highly popular in their own time. Beethoven’s later, less accessible music was made possible in part by his early popularity. Today, consumer demand ensures that archival blues recordings, a wide array of past and current symphonies, and this week’s Top 40 hit sit side by side in the music megastore. High and low culture indeed complement each other.   Cowen’s philosophy of cultural optimism stands in opposition to the many varieties of cultural pessimism found among conservatives, neo-conservatives, the Frankfurt School, and some versions of the political correctness and multiculturalist movements, as well as historical figures, including Rousseau and Plato. He shows that even when contemporary culture is thriving, it appears degenerate, as evidenced by the widespread acceptance of pessimism. He ends by considering the reasons why cultural pessimism has such a powerful hold on intellectuals and opinion-makers. Read more…

What Price Fame?

In a world where more people know who Princess Di was than who their own senators are, where Graceland draws more visitors per year than the White House, and where Michael Jordan is an industry unto himself, fame and celebrity are central currencies. In this intriguing book, Tyler Cowen explores and elucidates the economics of fame.   Fame motivates the talented and draws like-minded fans together. But it also may put profitability ahead of quality, visibility above subtlety, and privacy out of reach. The separation of fame and merit is one of the central dilemmas Cowen considers in his account of the modern market economy. He shows how fame is produced, outlines the principles that govern who becomes famous and why, and discusses whether fame-seeking behavior harmonizes individual and social interests or corrupts social discourse and degrades culture.   Most pertinently, Cowen considers the implications of modern fame for creativity, privacy, and morality. Where critics from Plato to Allan Bloom have decried the quest for fame, Cowen takes a more pragmatic, optimistic view. He identifies the benefits of a fame-intensive society and makes a persuasive case that however bad fame may turn out to be for the famous, it is generally good for society and culture. Read more…

Creative Destruction: How Globalization is Changing the World’s Cultures

A Frenchman rents a Hollywood movie. A Thai schoolgirl mimics Madonna. Saddam Hussein chooses Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” as the theme song for his fifty-fourth birthday. It is a commonplace that globalization is subverting local culture. But is it helping as much as it hurts? In this strikingly original treatment of a fiercely debated issue, Tyler Cowen makes a bold new case for a more sympathetic understanding of cross-cultural trade. Creative Destruction brings not stale suppositions but an economist’s eye to bear on an age-old question: Are market exchange and aesthetic quality friends or foes? On the whole, argues Cowen in clear and vigorous prose, they are friends. Cultural “destruction” breeds not artistic demise but diversity.   Through an array of colorful examples from the areas where globalization’s critics have been most vocal, Cowen asks what happens when cultures collide through trade, whether technology destroys native arts, why (and whether) Hollywood movies rule the world, whether “globalized” culture is dumbing down societies everywhere, and if national cultures matter at all. Scrutinizing such manifestations of “indigenous” culture as the steel band ensembles of Trinidad, Indian hand-weaving, and music from Zaire, Cowen finds that they are more vibrant than ever–thanks largely to cross-cultural trade.   For all the pressures that market forces exert on individual cultures, diversity typically increases within society, even when cultures become more like each other. Trade enhances the range of individual choice, yielding forms of expression within cultures that flower as never before. While some see cultural decline as a half-empty glass, Cowen sees it as a glass half-full with the stirrings of cultural brilliance. Not all readers will agree, but all will want a say in the debate this exceptional book will stir. Read more…

Markets and Cultural Voices: Liberty vs. Power in the Lives of Mexican Amate Painters

This intriguing work explores the world of three amate artists. A native tradition, all of their painting is done in Mexico, yet, the finished product is sold almost exclusively to wealthy American art buyers.   Cowen examines this cultural interaction between Mexico and the United States to see how globalization shapes the lives and the work of the artists and their families. The story of these three artists reveals that this exchange simultaneously creates economic opportunities for the artists and limits economic opportunities and growth for their villages.   A view of the daily village life of three artists connected to the larger art world, this book should be of particular interest to those in the fields of cultural economics, Latino studies, economic anthropology and globalization. Read more…

Good and Plenty: The Creative Successes of American Arts Funding

Americans agree about government arts funding in the way the women in the old joke agree about the food at the wedding: it’s terrible–and such small portions! Americans typically either want to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts, or they believe that public arts funding should be dramatically increased because the arts cannot survive in the free market. It would take a lover of the arts who is also a libertarian economist to bridge such a gap. Enter Tyler Cowen. In this book he argues why the U.S. way of funding the arts, while largely indirect, results not in the terrible and the small but in Good and Plenty–and how it could result in even more and better.   Few would deny that America produces and consumes art of a quantity and quality comparable to that of any country. But is this in despite of or because of America’s meager direct funding of the arts relative to European countries? Overturning the conventional wisdom of this question, Cowen argues that American art thrives through an ingenious combination of small direct subsidies and immense indirect subsidies such as copyright law and tax policies that encourage nonprofits and charitable giving. This decentralized and even somewhat accidental–but decidedly not laissez-faire–system results in arts that are arguably more creative, diverse, abundant, and politically unencumbered than that of Europe.   Bringing serious attention to the neglected issue of the American way of funding the arts, Good and Plenty is essential reading for anyone concerned about the arts or their funding. Read more…