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Publisher's Summary

Since Alexis de Tocqueville, restlessness has been accepted as a signature American trait. Our willingness to move, take risks, and adapt to change have produced a dynamic economy and a tradition of innovation from Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs.

The problem, according to legendary blogger, economist, and best-selling author Tyler Cowen, is that Americans today have broken from this tradition - we're working harder than ever to avoid change. We're moving residences less, marrying people more like ourselves, and choosing our music and our mates 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 just about everything else.

Of course, this "matching culture" brings tremendous positives: music we like, partners who make us happy, neighbors who want the same things. We're more comfortable. But, according to Cowen, there are significant collateral downsides attending this comfort, among them heightened inequality and segregation and decreased incentives to innovate and create.

The Complacent Class argues that this cannot go on forever. We are postponing change due to our nearsightedness and extreme desire for comfort, but ultimately this will make change, when it comes, harder. The forces unleashed by the Great Stagnation will eventually lead to a major fiscal and budgetary crisis: impossibly expensive rentals for our most attractive cities, worsening of residential segregation, and a decline in our work ethic. The only way to avoid this difficult future is for Americans to force themselves out of their comfortable slumber - to embrace their restless tradition again.

©2017 Tyler Cowen (P)2017 Gildan Media LLC

Critic Reviews

"Tyler Cowen's blog, Marginal Revolution, is the first thing I read every morning. And his brilliant new book, The Complacent Class, has been on my nightstand after I devoured it in one sitting. I am at round-the-clock Cowen saturation right now." (Malcolm Gladwell)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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MUST READ


This book is a MUST READ. For a new generation flooded with hardware and software, Cowen offers important insights into a general decline in risk-taking and creativity that has been reinforced by the literal codification of existence. More and more our devices are lulling us into (advertiser-funded) augmented realities that render us into a state of numbness easily appeased by consumer goods. Cowen effectively uses social and economic examples from history and from other nations to illustrate the profound existential challenges on the rise in our device-driven realities.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Great book. Very cerebral. Maybe better in print?

I struggled to finish sometimes due to the somewhat dry academic nature of the book. Being academic in style isn't necessarily bad, the topic was actually really well formed and argued. This is a book I definitely would have loved more in print though. I'll be buying Tyler's next book, but not in audiobook format.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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First Draft Of An Actual Book

I like Tyler Cowen’s blog. I’ve read it periodically for more than a decade now. I appreciate his common sense on things, particularly economics and business and big social trends. I follow his ethnic restaurant advice (get the weirdest, worst, most inaccessible sounding thing on the menu).

This book has glimmers of interesting insights (kind of like a blog, I suppose), but it doesn’t exactly bring it home, so to speak. It just feels unfinished.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Uninteresting thesis supported by circular logic

Chapter 5, which discusses matching of consumers with products and services, or with other consumers, is interesting and informative. Otherwise the book is a complete waste of time. Cowen frequently confuses cause and effect. Other times he just draws completely wrong conclusions. His argument that our standard of living is not increasing as fast as it once did consists of layered fallacies. As does his argument that the rate of innovation is decreasing. The truth is almost certainly the opposite, but even if it's not, he does a very poor job of mustering evidence in favor of his thesis.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Hunter
  • heber, UT, United States
  • 07-27-17

No so much

This one was long on opinion and short on fact. It's easy to play arm chair quarterback and criticize others without offering constructive suggestions

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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great read

loved the book and the concept. highly recommended. food for thought about our society and the international geopolitical theatre

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Badly argued, selective use of data

Would you be willing to try another book from Tyler Cowen? Why or why not?

Perhaps. I expected better argumentation and tighter reasoning from him.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Dissapointment at the loose structure of the book, lack of cohesion, and general 'overfitting' of the data to support his arguments.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Confused at times

There are some intriguing insights in this book especially around NIMBY culture and urban policy but too often the author loses his point. In one chapter he seems to lament the loss of violent protest and doesn't circle back around to explain himself fully.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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An interesting read but not a scholarly treatise

Any additional comments?

This is a well-written book that musters a lot of arguments about the lack of energy and drive to succeed in the USA since the 1970's. The author could actually have written a much more upbeat book titled, "The Contented Class", with the same statistics. He could have noted that poverty has been (essentially) abolished in the USA and even poor people have much more "stuff" than middle class people did in the 1940's and 1950's. Then, he could have described how having "enough" has led to contentment and a lack of desire to get more of everything, which might even break the cycle of growth that has caused so many environmental problems. Instead, as with most economists, he sees growth as key to everything.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Dense

This book is interesting, and very dense. Plan to listen carefully.

I honestly kinda disliked the book...the tone of the book...until the very last chapter. That's when the whole thing started to make sense to me. Overall, very helpful. But the listener must stick with it.