George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen has just published a timely new book, “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream.”
Cowen’s message is that America is a nation that has lost its edge.
Entrepreneurism and the willingness to take risks – key factors that once defined the American economy and made it the growth engine of the world – are in decline.
Income is stagnating; productivity is down; startups as a percentage of overall business activity is down; the percentage of Americans under 30 who own a business is less than half of where it stood in the 1980s; the percentage of Americans who stay in the same job is up; the interstate migration rate declined 51 percent from the 1970s to 2013.
Cowen attributes this stagnation to a complacency that now grips our culture. He offers a number of explanations, but key factors include adversity to risk and a sense that a society can be created in which risk is eliminated.
It’s a dangerous illusion, and we’re paying a dear price for it.
Cowen’s book is timely. It has arrived at the same moment President Trump has submitted his new budget to Congress.
It’s a courageous budget designed to turn around a ship of state that is sinking from fiscal excess.
What’s the connection to Cowen’s book? Our federal budget is bloated with social spending programs that have expanded massively over the years, whose real objective is to take any risk out of life.
Few would argue that the government should provide some temporary safety net for citizens that fall on hard times.
But these spending programs aren’t that. They are the product of an illusion, the result of a culture of rampant materialism, that all of life is a social-engineering problem. If designed correctly, the thinking goes, society can purr like a well-oiled machine with all pain and suffering engineered out of it.
This great lie is…