Since de Tocqueville, restlessness has been accepted as a key American trait. Our willingness to move, take risks, and adapt to change have produced a dynamic economy and a tradition of innovation. The problem, according to legendary blogger, economist, and bestselling author Tyler Cowen, is that Americans today have broken from this tradition, working harder than ever to avoid change: moving less, marrying people more like ourselves, and choosing as much as we can based on algorithms that wall us off from anything that might be too new or too different. Match.com matches us in love. Spotify and Pandora match us in music. Facebook matches us to about everything else. This "matching culture" brings positives: music we like, partners who make us happy, neighbors who want the same things. We're more comfortable. But, to Cowen, there are significant collateral downsides to this comfort: heightened inequality and segregation, and decreased incentives to innovate and create. The Complacent Class argues this comfort cannot go on forever. We are postponing change, due to our short-term desire for comfort, but this will make inevitable change harder.
The Complacent Class will lead to a major fiscal and budgetary crisis: preposterous rentals for desired cities, worsening segregation, and a lackadaisical work ethic. To avoid this, Americans must stop stagnating and re-embrace restlessness.
TYLER COWEN (Ph.D.) holds the Holbert L. Harris chair in economics at George Mason University. He is the author of a number of explanatory and text books, including The Complacent Class, as well as writing the most read economics blog worldwide, marginalrevolution.com. He has written regularly for The New York Times and contributes to a wide number of newspapers and periodicals.