Regular readers of VM know that our blogs, from conception to completion, are framed by the interests and convictions of WRM. They also know that we keep a few researchers and writers locked in the basement to make sure WRM’s line gets out daily.Yet somehow, contributor Andrew Lewis was able to escape long enough to concern himself with a recent economics book by Tyler Cowen. The book, Average is Over, contends that shifts in the labor market will lead to a dwindling of the middle class. In his review—which is up at The American Interest—Andrew argues that despite this gloomy outlook, the full picture actually bodes quite well for many Americans:
Everyone has their own notions of what constitutes the American Dream, but when writer and historian James Truslow Adams coined the phrase in the 1930s, he wrote that in America “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” Cowen’s vision of our future actually reinforces this idea.This claim might seem strange at first glance for a book that delves into the perpetually gloomy subject of economic inequality. But the takeaways from Cowen’s work are, at least marginally, more optimistic than most people would expect. While Cowen foresees an America with more polarizing income inequality, the country won’t be entirely in the grip of the forces we have grown used to. In the past, income inequality was largely driven by differences in social status. In the future, Cowen argues, society will become more meritocratic: ability will be to an even greater extent the primary driver of labor market success. For those Americans who currently lack access to elite education or other resources or privileges of status, the book offers many reasons to be optimistic about the future.
We like to give our contributors the opportunity to branch out and explore their own interests, and we appreciate the readers who take the time to read and share opinions on their work. It’s especially nice when contributors get recognized by the other writers they’re interacting with. Read the whole thing here and leave your comments below.