Posts Tagged ‘Tyler Cowan’

Sunday Review: The great stagnation: how America ate all the low hanging fruit, got sick, and will (eventually) feel better, by Tyler Cowen

03/07/2011, 10:30:20 AM

by Anthony Painter

There is a complacent assumption that austerity will pass. As soon as our course is corrected, then the upward charge begins again. The sunny uplands of things only getting better will return. Just in case you were feeling a wave of optimism, these assumptions that have served us well for a couple of centuries and more may no longer apply. We have entered a great stagnation. Or so Tyler Cowen thinks.

Whenever things are bad there’s always a Malthus on the scene and in his short book, The Great Stagnation, Cowen is one of the candidates for the vacancy of pessimist for our times. He tells America that it will eventually feel better, but that’s just the soothing words of a doctor refusing to dispirit a terminally ill patient. You’ll have more bad days than good with this illness. This is not to dismiss this pacy and powerful book or the argument he expounds within it. It’s just not ultimately convincing.

The thing about Malthus figures – and I’m using this in a broad sense of pessimistic accounts about our economic future – is that they are occasionally right. There are occasional disasters – economic or otherwise – so if you predict them you are going to be right now and again. When you are right then you become a global celebrity. Just ask Nicholas Nassim Taleb. It is important, though, to be right for the right reasons a much as it is to be right per se.


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