Tyler Cowen in The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest For The American Dream (2017) posits that anti-establishment insurgent campaigns were the talk of the 2016 presidential campaign, and both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were legitimate anti-establishment candidates.  But peek beneath the surface reveals that much of the fear and anger that drove their campaigns was based not on a hope for change in Washington but on a hope for a return to the past.  Trump's rhetoric about "making American great again was, when you looked at the fine print, mostly a promise that in electing him, voter could avoid the forces of change that are sweeping over the rest of the world, whether it be the loss of manufacturing jobs, an increasing dependence on immigrants, or the loss of the political and cultural dominance of white men.  His argument for making a better deal on behalf of America was little more than a recipe for de facto stasis, supposedly funded for free by better trade deals and rooting out fraud and waste.

Rep. Steve King Criticized For Tweet Supporting European Nationalist


Rep. Steve King is under fire from fellow Republicans for tweeting out support for a far-right nationalist in Europe. But years of criticism for past racially insensitive remarks make it clear that King isn't swayed by disapproval from his own colleagues.

The White House has luke-warmly distanced itself from King racist comments via Sean Spicer carrying the can.  However the Associated Press 3/15, reports that King stood by his racist remarks  comments in a CNN interview in which he also said, "If you go down the road a few generations or maybe centuries with intermarriage, I'd like to see an America that is so homogeneous that we look a lot the same from that perspective."  King is known for making racially charged commentary.  Last year at the RNC, King questioned contributions to civilization by nonwhites.  In 2013, he described children in the country illegally as having "calves the size of cantaloupes because they've been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."

Later in an interview with Iowa Public Radio host Jan Mickelson on 1040 WHO, King said blacks and Hispanics will be battling each other before whites become the minority in the United States.

King was responding to Univision's Jorge Ramos' comments about changes in the U.S. demographic in the next decades.  "When you start accentuating the differences, then you start ending up with people that are at each other’s throats.  And he's adding up Hispanics and blacks into what he predicts will be in greater number than whites in America.  I will predict that Hispanics and the blacks will be fighting each other before that happens," King said.

It's easy enough to single out Trump for his campaign promises, but it's important to recognize that stasis has been the defining characteristic of our government for some time now. 

Wake Up Already, America’s ‘Complacent Class’45:36

Workers exchange spools of thread as a robot picks up thread made from recycled plastic bottles at the Repreve Bottle Processing Center, part of the Unifi textile company in Yadkinville, N.C. (Chuck Burton/AP)Workers exchange spools of thread as a robot picks up thread made from recycled plastic bottles at the Repreve Bottle Processing Center, part of the Unifi textile company in Yadkinville, N.C. (Chuck Burton/AP)

Economist Tyler Cowen is very worried about the USA. Americans, he says, have lost their spunk, their nerve, their risk-taking attitude toward the world. A nation of onetime pioneers and explorers has settled in, hunkered down, become risk-averse and self-protective. Become, he says, complacent. We don’t need to go back, he says. We need to go forward. And we’re not. This hour On Point, Tyler Cowen says get going America, while there’s still time. — Tom Ashbrook


Tyler Cowen, economist and author. Professor of economics and director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Author of the new book, "The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream." Also author of "Average is Over" and "The Great Stagnation." (@tylercowen)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Wall Street Journal: How American Workers Got Lazy — "The Census Bureau made a startling disclosure in November: During a recent 12-month period, the percentage of Americans who moved from one dwelling to another was at its lowest point since 1948, when such data began to be collected. While the reasons for depressed mobility are varied, it may be emblematic of a broader lethargy that’s set in across the country. Is the 'land of opportunity,' with dynamic labor markets and fresh sources of renewal, a thing of the past?"

Washington Post: Upper class elites might hate Trump, but they were key to his suc... -- "Cowen argues that the educated urban elite, who are well equipped to compete in today’s economy, have become increasingly isolated from other parts of the country — and so don’t see the urgency with which the country needs reform to help those left behind. While people on the top have little motivation to change, he believes they may be forced to, as others grow increasingly disgruntled."

Quartz: A top economist says Americans are not nearly as ambitious or inn... — "Americans often point to our role as the world’s leading innovator. There are plenty of realms in which this is true, whether we look at lists of top universities, most important pharmaceuticals, or leading tech companies. And yet despite this leadership in innovation, if you compare America today to its past, the country seems to have lost its mojo."

How The West & Steve Bannon See The World

Americans see themselves as saviors of the democracy worldwide because we do not as David C. Korten states, "confront our national shadow."  In Jungian psychoanalysis, the term "shadow" refers to aspects of the self that have been denied and relegated to the unconscious mind as threats to the conscious mind's preferred self-image.  It includes not only negative qualities but also positive potentials the conscious mind finds too unnerving to accept.  For example, a man may deny those aspects of himself associated with the feminine; a woman may deny those aspects of herself associated with the masculine. 

It is much the same for nations.  This is a time of sorrow and denial for the United States.  We suffer from the considerable gap between our idealized self-image as a democratic, peace-loving nation and the reality of our history of genocide, slavery, discrimination, exploitation of working people, and imperial expansion.  The denial of our national shadow comes at a heavy price, for we cannot correct disabilities we deny.  An essential mark of maturity in both individuals and nations is the capacity to acknowledge and address all the dimensions of one's character, both positive and negative.  To become the people and the nation of our ideals, we must find the wisdom and the courage to collectively acknowledge and learn from our past transgressions and to engage in a process of national and global healing and reconciliation.

Those who dismiss such critical examination as an act of disloyalty, even treason, reveal that they have yet to develop the emotional maturity to acknowledge the shadow of our national experience and to assume the full responsibilities of democratic citizenship, which requires a capacity for critical self-examination, both individually and nationally.

However, Trump voters have never figured out the alliance between Steve Bannon and Donald Trump and their shared view of the world.  This view can be traced back, at least for the purpose of this post, to Lothrop Stoddard and Glenn Frank's Stakes Of The War: Summary of the Various Problems, Claims and Interests of the Nations at the Peace Table (1918).  The war of course is "The Great War," or what turned out to be World War One, whose outcome seems to be racing toward us today.  With the breakdown of Neoliberalism, the new era will issue in worldwide political chaos occurring not only in the Middle East fighting ISIS but in social upheavals/civil wars within the West itself.  In the Appendix of Stakes of the War: The Colonies, the Western imperialists redraw international lines and divided the world of peoples-of-color among themselves to their own posterity.


Stoddard and Frank posit that the colonial questions which will arise for settlement at the close of the present war differ radically from the class of problems which have been treated in the Stakes of War.  In those problems, while the material basis has been territory, the spiritual factors have been race and nationality.  Those areas are all inhabited by self-conscious populations, mostly civilize, whose political aspirations form a vital part of any settlement proposed.  This is not the case with the colonial areas which can reasonably be expected to come before the peace conference.  With the partial exception of German Southwest Africa, none of these colonial areas contain a settled white population, while in all save Kiao-Chau the natives are savages or semi-savages, incapable of self-government and devoid of national consciousness.

Solutions That Have Been Proposed And What They Mean

Stoddard and Frank declare that among the numerous suggestions for a solution of the colonial problem, three types of solutions stand out as the most likely: (1) the old system of national control and agreed-upon spheres of influence; (2) the administration of the politically weak and unorganized territories of the world by a league of nations, if such an international organization is effected by the peace conference; (3) the administration of specific colonies by local centers of international control.

The larger implications of these three types of solutions may be set down as follows: National Control and Agreed-Upon spheres of Influence.

The obvious difficulty in this system is that it contains an inevitable threat to the peace of the world.  When the investor class of a given nation runs into difficulty in one of the weak and unorganized territories, when the investing interests of one nation clash with the investing interests of another, the investor turns to his home government for help.  And since the problem of guaranteeing investments is inextricably tangled with the problems of diplomatic prestige and national honor, it has been a very natural development that the foreign offices should become collection agencies and insurance companies for the foreign investors class.  Colonial history teems with instances where the business conflict of rival nations in colonial territory has reacted upon the situation in Europe, now manacling, now upsetting, and the peaceful relations of Europe.

Another difficulty involved in this solution is the latent threat that resides in the potential military power of the native populations, when the territory is in the hands of any of the great powers. 


Lothrop Stoddard in The Rising Tide Of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1920) explains the beginnings of so-called radical Islamism to Bannon-Trump have promised to destroy "root & branch," has its genesis in Christian imperialism and it present reiteration is a reflection the historical impact of anti-colonialism.  In the ideology of Bannon-Trumpsters Muslim agitation is a passing phrase.  However Stoddard writing from philosophy/sociology of the late 19th and early 20th century, determines that Islam's warlike vigor has impressed men's minds ever since the far-off days when its pristine fervor bore the fiery Crescent from France to China.  But with the passing cycles this fervor wanted, and a century ago Islam seemed plunged in the stupor of senile decay.  The life appeared to have gone out of it, leaving naught but the dry husks of empty formalism and soulless ritual.  Yet at this darkest hour a voice came crying from out the vast Arabian Desert, the cradle of Islam, calling the Faithful to better things.  This puritan reformer was the famous Abe-el-Wahab, and his followers, known as Wahhabis, soon spread over the length and breadth of the Mohammedan world, purging Islam of its sloth and rekindling the fervor of olden days.  Thus began the great Mohammedan Revival.

The revival, like all truly regenerative movements, had its political as well as its spiritual side.  One of the first things which struck the reformers was the political weakness of the Moslem world and its increasing subjection to the Christian West.  It was during the early decades of the nineteenth century that the revival spread through Islam.  But this was the very time when Europe, recovering from the losses of the Napoleonic Wars, began its unparalleled aggression upon the Moslem East.  The result in Islam was a fusing of religion and patriotism into a "sacred union" for the combined spiritual regeneration and political emancipation of the Moslem world.

Europe's material and military superiority were then so great that speedy success was recognized to be a vain hope.  Nevertheless, with true Oriental patience, the reformers were content to work for distant goals, and the results of their labor, though hidden from most Europeans, was soon discernible to a few keen-sighted white observers.  Half a century ago the learned Orientalist W. G. Palgrave in Essays on Eastern Questions (1872), wrote these prophetic lines: "Islam is even now an enormous power, full of self-sustaining vitality, with a surplus for aggression; and a struggle with its combined energies would be deadly indeed.  The Mohammedan people of the East have awakened to the manifold strength and skill of their Western Christian rivals; and this awakening, at first productive of respect and fear, not unmixed with admiration, now wears the type of antagonistic dislike, and even of intelligent hate.  No more zealous Moslems are to be found in all the ranks of Islam than they who have sojourned longer in Europe and acquired the most intimate knowledge of its sciences and ways.  Mohammedans are keenly alive to the ever-shifting uncertainties and divisions that distract the Christianity of today, and to the woeful instability of modern European institutions.  From their own point of view, Moslems are as men standing on a secure rock, and they contrast the quiet fixity of their own position with the unsettled and insecure restlessness of all else."

Stoddard posits that this stability to which Palgrave alludes must not be confused with dead rigidity.  Too many of us still think of the Moslem East as hopelessly petrified.  But those Westerners best acquainted with the Islamic world assert that nothing could be farther from the truth; emphasizing, on the contrary, Islam's present plasticity and rapid assimilation of Western ideas and methods.  "The alleged rigidity of Islam is a European myth," says Theodore Morison in "Can Islam Be Reformed?"  Nineteenth Century (October, 1908), late principal of the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, India; and another Orientalist, Marmaduke Pickthall in "L'Angleterre et la Turquie," Revue Politque Internationale (January 1914), write: "there is nothing in Islam, any more than in Christianity, which should halt progress.  The fact is that Christianity found, some time ago, a modus vivendi with modern life, while Islam has not yet arrived thither.  But this process is even now being worked out."

The way in which the Mohammedan world has availed itself of white institutions such as the newspaper in forging its new solidarity is well portrayed by Bernard Temple in "The Place of Persia in World-Politics," Proceedings of the Central Asian Society (May 1910): "It all comes to this, then," he writes.  "World-politics, as viewed by Mohammedanism's political leaders, resolve themselves into a struggle--not necessarily a bloody struggle, but still an intense and vital struggle--for place and power between the three great divisions of mankind.  The Moslem mind is deeply stirred by the prospect.  Every Moslem country is in communication with every other Moslem country: directly, by means of special emissaries, pilgrims, travelers, traders, and postal exchanges; indirectly, by means of Mohammedan newspapers, books, pamphlets, leaflets, and periodicals.  I have met with Cairo newspapers in Baghdad, Tehran, and Peshawar; Constantinople newspapers in Basra and Bombay; Calcutta newspapers in Mohammerah, Karbala, and Port Said."

Stoddard declares that These European judgments are confirmed by what Asiatic say themselves.  For example, a Syrian Christian, Ameen Rihani in "The Crisis of Islam" Forum (May 1912), thus characterizes the present strength and vitality of the Moslem world: "A nation of 250,000,000 souls more than one-half under Christian rule, struggling to shake off its fetters; to consolidate its opposing forces; replenishing itself in the south and in the east from the inexhaustible sources of the life primitive; assimilating in the north, but not without discrimination, the civilization of Europe; a nation with a glorious past, living faith and language, an inspired Book, and undying hope, might be divided against itself by European diplomacy but can never be subjugated by European arms.  What Islam is losing on the borders of Europe it is gaining in Africa and central Asia through it modern propaganda, which is conducted according to Christian methods.  And this is one of the grand results of 'civilization by benevolent assimilation.'  Europe drills the Moslem to be a soldier who will ultimately turn his weapons against her; and she sends her missionaries to awaken in the ulema and proselytizing evil.

Stoddard's jeremiad about the rise of Islamism goes on for pages.  However, Western arrogance allowed this tale of caution to be ignored until 9/11 and the Mohammedans rose out the Arabian Desert to make itself felt in the West.

One of my favorite quote when it comes to China in the 21st century comes from futurist Jean Gimpel in The End Of The Future: The Waning of the High-Tech World (1995): 

The End Of White Supremacy

But we should take head of the fact that DE-industrialization will mainly happen in the west and in the former Soviet Union, and that this dramatic trend will mark the end of 500 years of European domination of the world.  In a very pertinent book, Pierre Lellouche wrote  in 1992 that, when the USA and the Soviet Union wee confronting each other, mankind was witnessing the encounter of two ideologies , the democratic and the Marxist, created by our white reigning civilization.  When capitalism and democracy collapses in the west, as I predict it will following the bankruptcy of our financial system after the disintegration of Marxism in the Soviet Union, we will very possibly be witnessing the twilight of the white race--provisionally we hope.

As is now generally recognized, the center of would trade has moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  In 1982, the volume of trade across the Pacific overtook that across the Atlantic.  The developing countries in the Far East grew in 1993 by 7.4 percent compared with the world's 0.6 percent.  Nevertheless, when Wall Street crashes, triggered off perhaps by a sharp fall of shares in Tokyo, Hong King or Singapore, the Pacific Basin will suffer an economic deceleration.  But in the long run the Far East will recover progressively, achieving world economic supremacy while the former countries of our once glorious civilization will become, in their turn, developing countries.

China will progressively dominate the Pacific Basin and beyond and, for the second time in her long history, she will have entered an era of growth in which her psychological drive and her technological evolution will rise in parallel curves.  China is at the beginning of a cycle that could last a millennium, while western civilization stands at the end of a cycle that is already 1,000 year old.

Stoddard On Asia

Long dead, Lothrop Stoddard forecasts the future of the West.  Perhaps this is because the West/the United States can't give up its Irredentist imperialistic nature.  In dealing with Asia, Stoddard writes that for the "moment ignorance was bliss."  Accordingly, the fin de siecle white world having partitioned Africa and fairly well dominated brown Asia, prepared to extend its sway over the one portion of the colored world which had hitherto escaped subjection--the yellow Far East.  Men began speaking glibly of "manifest destiny" or piously of "the white man's burden."  European publicists wrote didactically on "the break-up of China," while Russia, bestriding Siberia, dipped behemoth paws in Pacific waters and eyed Japan.

Such was the white world's confident, aggressive temper at the close of the last century.  To be sure voices were occasionally raised warning that all was not well.  Such were the writings of Professor Person and Meredith Townsend.  But the white world gave these Cassandras the reception always accorded prophets of evil in joyous times--it ignored them or laughed them to scorn.  In fact, few of the prophets displayed Pearson's immediate certainty.  Most of them qualified their prophecies with the comforting assurance that the ills predicted were relatively remote.

Meredith Townsend wrote a prophecy of white expulsion from Asia that Stoddard quotes profusely.  That prophecy hails back to 1911, and was written in the light of the Russo-Japanese War.  Now the application of Mr. Townsend's main thesis--Europe's inability permanently to master and assimilate Asian--had been elaborated by him long before the close of the nineteenth century.  nevertheless, the preface to the fourth edition of Europe's failure to conquer Asia as absolute and eviction from present holdings as probable within a relatively short time; whereas, in his original introduction, written in 1899, he foresaw a great European assault upon Asia, which would probably succeed and from which Asia would shake itself free only after the lapse of more than a century.

Stoddard posits that Mr. Townsend's words of 1899 in "Asia and Europe," so exactly portray white confidence at that moment that I cannot do better that quote him.  His object in publishing his book is, he says, "to make Asia stand out clear in English eyes, because it evident to me that the white races under the pressure of an entirely new impulse are about to renew their periodic attempt to conquer or at least to dominate that vast continent.  So grand is the prize that failures will not daunt the Europeans, still less alter their conviction.  If these movements follow historic lines they will recur for a time upon a constantly ascending scale, each repulse eliciting a greater effort, until at last Asia like Africa is 'partitioned,' that is, each section is left at the disposal of some white people.  If Europe can avoid internal war, or war with a much-aggrandized America, she will by A.D. 2000 be mistress in Asia, and at liberty, as her people think, to enjoy.  If the reader will compare these lines with Mr. Townsend's 1911 judgment, he will get a good idea of the momentous change wrought in white minds by Asia's awakening during the first decade of the twentieth century as typified by the Russo-Japanese War.

1900 was, indeed, the high-water mark of the white tide which had been flooding for four hundred years.  At that moment the white man stood on the pinnacle of his prestige and power.  Pass four short years, and the flash of the Japanese guns across the murky waters of Port Arthur harbor revealed to a startled world--the beginning of the ebb.


America's 'Complacent Class': How Self-Segregation Is Leading To Stagnation


March 2, 20175:08 AM ET

Tyler Cowen argues, in his new book The Complacent Class, that Americans are in a period of stagnation because we are doing less and less of what made us successful in the past: embracing change, moving to different parts of the country and associating with different kinds of people. mathisworks/Getty Images/iStockphoto

In a new book, The Complacent Class, economist Tyler Cowen argues that the United States is standing still.

People have grown more risk averse and are reluctant to switch jobs or move to another state, he says, and the desire to innovate — to grow and change — has gone away.

In an interview with NPR's Rachel Martin, Cowen says he's worried that more and more communities are self-segregating — by income, education or race.

"We're making decisions that are rational and even pleasurable from an individual point of view, but when everyone in society behaves this way — to cement in their own security, their own mobility — social mobility as a whole goes down, inequality goes up, many measures of segregation go up," he says. "And ultimately a bill for this comes due."

The Complacent Class
The Complacent Class

The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream

by Tyler Cowen

Interview Highlights

On how self-segregation leads to complacency

If you live in Arlington, Va., and if you move to Ann Arbor, Mich., or even Santa Monica, Calif., those places are more alike than ever before. But most importantly, segregation by income has gone up in virtually every part of this country. So wealthier people tend to live together more than before and so do poorer people. And this is bad for the country as a whole and we see a version of this in the last election where so many people are shocked by the candidate who actually won.

On what this complacency means

[I]f you cease being challenged and you think your way of life is the only way, ultimately that way will become weak, it will be subject to less improvement, you will enter a kind of bubble and continually be surprised by the challenges the outside world keeps on throwing at you. But you're not very well-equipped intellectually to handle them.

On the fact that median male wage was higher in 1969 than it is today

It is truly a shocking fact. Now you could argue the measurements are not perfect, that's true, but that even the numbers can come out that way. So many of the advances in our economy have come from women working more, working harder, getting more educated. That's great. But when it comes to males, something has very badly gone wrong.

I think we have switched to a service-sector economy — most jobs are now service sector. That's bad for some percentage of men. Jobs require more and more that you be skilled in information technology. That's great for the top 1 percent, 10 percent, 15 percent. Not so great for the median or the bottom third for males.

On why he writes in his book: "The biggest story of the last 15 years, both nationally and globally, is the growing likelihood that a cyclical model of history will hold rather than a model of ongoing progress."

In the 1990s, pretty much everything seemed to be going in the right direction. More countries were democratic, more countries were becoming free. Lately we see China, Russia, Turkey moving back in a much more authoritarian direction, significant parts of the Middle East up in flames. The forward march of progress is not the main story today.

The risk of an unraveling of the basic liberal globalized world order has been going up for some number of years now and only now do we see it with Brexit and the election of Trump. We need to take this risk very seriously.

On why he feels optimistic and not unsettled

I think of the '80s and '90s as very calm, smooth optimistic decades. But when you think back to our broader history — the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon trying to undermine the Constitution — those are all terrible, deeply unpleasant events, but we did get through them. And I think viewed in a longer-run perspective, this country will recapture its dynamism. I think innovations that have been restricted to the tech sector will move through most of our economy.

At some point real wages will go up quite a bit more again. My hope is the current political mood is something we're getting out of our system rather than a permanent change. So ultimately I would bet on optimism, but I think those big bumps in the road, they're not distant. Right now we're just at them.

NPR associate editor Reena Advani contributed to this report.


Views: 25

Comment by mary gravitt on March 17, 2017 at 11:51am

Are we Americans on the road to our own self-destruction by listening to a leader who needs to be on psychotic drugs to control his childish behavior.  Or are we all so complacent that we do not know public insanity when we see and hear it?


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