The Complacent Class

The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream

[Amazon Link]

A pretty good book from Tyler Cowen bemoaning the decreasing dynamism in America, and (worse) that the people who should care about it, don't. A book actually owned by the University Near Here, and (finally) the faculty member who had it out (due date 4/19/2019) returned it early.

If you were pretty happy about your job, home, educational opportunities for you and your kids, and America in general, Tyler's book should be like a big slap in the face with a wet fish. Not only shouldn't you be happy; it's that your happiness is actually a major part of the problem. Tyler thinks we should be a little more on edge.

Chapter by chapter, he picks at the troubling currents in American society. We are a lot less mobile, tending to stick in our communities when we could (theoretically) do better elsewhere. And those communities are increasingly segregated, not just on racial characteristics, but also by economic status, education, class, etc. Our companies are increasingly staid, investing less in R&D, content with maintaining the status quo, lacking innovation, stifling competition. (Even companies like Apple; when was the last time they came out with an actually revolutionary product? The IPhone, over a decade ago?)

Some social innovations have improved matching in all areas of life; music sites, for example, will provide you with an effectively infinite supply of music you are nearly guaranteed to like. Which is wonderful, but will you ever discover anything new?

And of course, pot is nearly totally legal. Talk about guaranteed complacency.

It's an adage that something that can't go on forever, won't. And (true enough) the decline in American dynamism has to stop at some point. Will we like the results when it all hashes out? Probably not, but at least we won't be complacent about it.

URLs du Jour

2018-12-06

[Amazon Link]

  • At Cato, Gene Healy (author of, not coincidentally, The Cult of the Presidency) bemoans the ongoing Imperial Rites for George H.W. Bush.

    The president described in the Federalist was to have “no particle of spiritual jurisdiction.” Yet there’s an unsettling, quasi-mystical orientation toward government at work in much of the ritual. While lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, the president’s body is placed atop the Lincoln Catafalque: the funeral bier constructed for our 16th president–one of the holy relics of the American civil religion. Above him hangs the cathedral-like ceiling, which features the fresco “The Apotheosis of Washington,” painted by Constantino Brumidi in 1865. It depicts the first president “sitting amongst the heavens in an exalted manner, or in literal terms, ascending and becoming a god.” I generally find the so-called “New Atheists” insufferable, but we could use a little of their militant impiety when it comes to our presidential cult.

    Unfortunately, it seems there's no easy path of retreat. Now that we've made all this fuss over Republican GHWB, are we going to say no to (likely to be next, sorry) Democrat Jimmy Carter?


  • Megan McArdle leaps into the fray with a semi-clickbait headline: The incredibly unpopular idea that could stem opioid deaths. Well, what is it?

    […] you don’t free slaves by killing them, and as long as fentanyl suffuses the illicit drug markets, that’s what a “tough love” policy amounts to. The drug naloxone can counter the effects of an opioid overdose, but death tolls have continued to rise even as public-health workers have made naloxone much more widely available. What about detox? About half of addicts who go through treatment are using again within six months, according to Sally Satel, a drug policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

    That leaves two options: Keep doing what we’re doing and let addicts keep dying as they’re dying, until the opioid epidemic burns itself out. Or start talking about ways to make safe, reliable doses of opiates available to addicts who aren’t ready to stop. That would mean opening more methadone clinics and making it less onerous for doctors to prescribe buprenorphine, a relatively mild opioid that’s difficult to overdose on. But lowering the death toll may well require a more drastic step: legalizing prescriptions of stronger opiates.

    I'm for complete decriminalization of all drugs, but Megan's idea is fine too. Neither of our proposals are likely to go anywhere, because the "compassionate" politicians would essentially prefer that people keep dying instead.


  • At the Federalist, David Harsanyi makes a scientific observation: Climate Change Alarmism Is The World’s Leading Cause Of Hot Gas.

    Even as anti-gas tax riots raged in France this week, the naturalist David Attenborough warned a crowd at a United Nations climate change summit in Poland that the “collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” UN General Assembly President Maria Espinosa told the media that “mankind” was “in danger of disappearing” if climate change is allowed to progress at its current rate.

    David recounts the long history of aieee!-we're-all-gonna-die doomsayers. It's not pretty, but they ought to reread that fable about the boy who cried wolf.


  • At NR, Michael Tanner asks a deceptively simple question: Why Are People Poor?.

    Too often, government policies help make or keep people poor. Rather than having another sterile debate over whether this program should be increased by $X billion or that program should be cut by $Y billion, we should strive for fundamental reform of those areas of government that most harm the poor…

    Michael outlines possible areas of anti-poverty action: reforming policies on criminal justice, education, housing, savings, and growth.

    Could it be that actually fixing things would but scads of government bureaucrats out of jobs?


  • 'Tis the season for year-end compilations, and you do not want to miss The Babylon Bee's Top Ten Books Of 2018. It is difficult, for example, to disagree with their number 10 pick:

    10.) Stop Browsing Facebook and Go Read A Friggin' Book You Morons — Karen Swallow Prior: Prior may be a little harsh here, but we like her overall message: log off Facebook and go read a friggin' book. Most of the book is written in all-caps as she yells at the reader to stop going on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks and just read some classic literature. Point taken, Karen!

    Many of these books can be read in one sitting, due to their non-existence. (There's at least one exception, though…)


  • And finally, the Google LFOD alert rang for a story in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat about a citizen of Pun Salad's hometown: Rollinsford man wins big on ‘Price is Right’.

    Lee Norton of Rollinsford won $43,390 in prizes to be precise — including a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, an SUV and a trip to Winnipeg, Canada — during a recent appearance on the popular game show “The Price Is Right.” The episode on which Norton appeared aired Tuesday morning on CBS.

    What was second prize? Two trips to Winnipeg? But anyway, where's the LFOD? Ah, here:

    “The Price Is Right” contestants are chosen from the audience with the iconic slogan “Come on down!” Norton was the first contestant selected on Tuesday’s show. He and Savannah, who was shown cheering from the audience, both wore green shirts that read “NH live free or die,” the state slogan.

    Live free or die? I choose ‘live free,’” host Drew Carey said, reacting to Norton’s shirt.

    Good for Lee. And Drew.


Last Modified 2018-12-06 2:05 PM EST