Thursday, October 24, 2013

Peak Cowen

George Mason economics professor Tyler Cowen blogs at the excellent Marginal Revolution. He says things lots of smart, wealthy people like to hear, such as that we need to import more Third Worlders with fungible skills while offshoring millions of factory jobs and automating others to the fullest extent possible. That means intense competition between workers in non-tradeable sectors and the newer, cheaper proletariat. Tyler Cowen is working very hard to replicate this Third World model in the United States, which has traditionally relied on high inputs per worker to fuel rising living standards.

Cowen is remarkably untroubled by this growing Third-Worldization of the US economy:
To sum up, Mr. Cowen believes that America is dividing itself in two. At the top will be 10% to 15% of high achievers, the “Tiger Mother” kids if you like, whose self-motivation and mastery of technology will allow them to roar away into the future. Then there will be everyone else, slouching into an underfunded future of lower economic expectations, shantytowns and an endless diet of beans.

I’m not kidding about the beans.

Poor Americans, writes Mr. Cowen, will have to “reshape their tastes” and live more like Mexicans. “Don’t scoff at the beans,” he says. “With an income above the national average, I receive more pleasure from the beans, which I cook with freshly ground cumin and rehydrated, pureed chilies. Good tacos and quesadillas and tamales are cheap too, and that is one reason why they are eaten so frequently in low-income countries.”

(Via Mangan's.)
Cowen really does say those things, and even got his own article in Time magazine to tell us all about our glorious bean-filled future.

From Mangan's:
Porter said...
Cowen says: With an income above the national average, I receive more pleasure from the beans...

More pleasure from the beans than what? Wearing a gimp suit? Having a sigmoidoscopy? And do the epicurean delights of bean consumption occur with or despite a higher than the national average income?

Does this Maria Antoinette actually believe his imported oompa loompas will forever docilely dine on discarded legumes while he devours caviar, truffles, and quail eggs? More importantly, does he have any subsidiary labor units...what pre-beaners called "children?" What are his hopes for their future? A warm grate in the winter? A cozy 300sqft favela? A hale old age of 35? Perhaps he assumes his higher than the national average income will purchase for them the best electrified concertina money can buy. Or perhaps he simply doesn't give a damn. After all, The Economy is a jealous master.

10/23/2013 2:11 PM
Mangan said...
Another great one, Porter. No, Cowen thinks only in terms of money (and beans), and doesn't venture into the realms of thought where revolutions break out and people are strangled in their beds.

10/23/2013 2:19 PM
These fundamental, even existential debates about the national interest need to be aired in more places than Blogger vanity sites. Isn't the issue of the composition of the American nation kind of important? I'm not so sure Americans, who are pretty good at dealing out organized violence when the mood strikes, are going to march so docilely into the shabby, crowded future that Cowen has planned for them. Nor am I so sure that Cowen's newer, cheaper proles will be satisfied with their all-bean diet in such close quarters with millionaire IT executives. The Alawites and Christians in Syria seemed to think things would rock along forever with them at the top. Then everybody realized they were outnumbered five to one.


Bob Wallace said...

The stupid are always surprised when you kill them.

Anonymous said...

Spouting nonsensical social prescriptions is a luxury reserved for dual passporters. And nonsense is probably way too charitable, given the divide et impera mentality of the current elite.