Why Texas doesn’t have to be our future

g9510.20_TexasPR.indd

This appeared yesterday on the cover of Time magazine yesterday (subscription required) Why Texas Is Our Future. It’s written by Tyler Cowen, and is an extension of his latest book called “Average is Over”. When I checked out this synopsis of Cowen’s article it reminded me of his appearance on NPR a month or so ago, to discuss his book. Here’s an excerpt from that conversation.

INSKEEP: Is there a level at which, Tyler Cowen, your argument is basically saying, don’t even argue, just give up here? Because in this country there’s been a lot of focus for a long time on helping the poor pull themselves up. And you seem to be saying don’t even try because you’re not going to change that trend.

COWEN: I absolutely do not want to give up. But if you ask the question: is the rise in inequality inevitable, it probably is. The question is: what’s the way to deal with that so that even when income inequality is going up, maybe happiness inequality isn’t going up in the same way.

The message seems to be, the US is doomed to a state of greater inequality and those who are doomed larger share “..clustering in a kind of lower-middle class existence”, need  to find a “new” way to be happy in it.  And it looks like Texas has become Cowen’s “Galt’s Gulch“.

A better perspective on his book, and what it really shows, comes from Matthew Yglesias, Average Is Over—if We Want It to Be.

The reason Cowen focuses more on the somewhat dour outlook for the median household than on these possible solutions to the problem is that he doubts the political system will deliver any of these solutions. He notes that none of them are particularly on the partisan agenda of either political party, that the nature of the U.S. political system makes large changes generally unlikely, that an aging population is less likely to embrace radical changes, and that elites have a lot of ways of reenforcing their control over the political process.

That seems like a reasonable forecast to me. But it’s a very different forecast from the forecast that automation and the rise of the machines means that “average is over.” The actual forecast is that the political system will be under the control of a relatively narrow elite who will stomp on the interests of the median household.

So I would take the message to be something like “politics is really important just as it always has been and people ought to get more fired up about some ideas that aren’t at the current forefront of the congressional agenda.” Cowen’s actual message seems to be that we ought to make ourselves more complacent, and that these somewhat bleak trends he forecasts aren’t really all that bad if you look at them in the right light. But I don’t quite see why. If good public policy were easy, there wouldn’t be so much poverty and misery in the world. But if good public policy were impossible, there wouldn’t be any success stories and “growth miracles” and “trente glorieuses” and so forth.

Why not try? Average is only over if we want it to be over. And I don’t!  [Emphasis added]

We just saw this play out over the last several weeks in Washington.  There was no great sense of urgency by our elected officials to settle their grievances over the government shutdown.  When it was only the working people being hurt.  But when it came to defaulting on the debt, which would have hurt the wealthy and corporations, a deal got done.

Our government has been captured by corporations and the rich, aka plutocracy. And unless and until the people re-assert themselves and take it back, the US may be doomed to become Texas. If that doesn’t scare you into action I don’t know if anything can.

Further Reading:
Time Magazine: Texas is America’s Future.

Advertisements

4 Responses

  1. […] Eye On Williamson is blogging at a temporary home. A recent article says that Texas may be the future for the US. It will only happen if we let it, Why Texas doesn’t have to be our future. […]

  2. […] Eye On Williamson is blogging at a temporary home. A recent article says that Texas may be the future for the US. It will only happen if we let it, Why Texas doesn’t have to be our future. […]

  3. […] Eye On Williamson is blogging at a temporary home. A recent article says that Texas may be the future for the US. It will only happen if we let it, Why Texas doesn’t have to be our future. […]

  4. […] Eye On Williamson is blogging at a temporary home. A recent article says that Texas may be the future for the US. It will only happen if we let it, Why Texas doesn’t have to be our future. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: