cover image The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream

The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream

Tyler Cowen. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-10869-2

In recent decades, the U.S. has been overtaken by complacency, declares economics professor Cowen (The Great Stagnation). He categorizes complacent Americans into three classes: the privileged, “those who dig in,” and “those who are stuck”; all three may want to change their lives in the abstract, but the will to do so has been replaced by acceptance of the status quo. He cites a “not in my backyard” mentality for why the revolutionary tendencies of the 1960s gave way to stasis. A society that once thrived on “Big Projects” such as going to the moon and constructing the interstate highway system has slowed down. Even the booming tech sector has become focused on convenience rather than ambition; Cowen contrasts Spotify with the 1970s’ supersonic Concorde. He also takes a (de rigueur) page from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America to analyze current American indifference. He concludes that such otherwise very different phenomena as the protests in Ferguson, Mo., and the rise of Donald Trump threaten this complacency and suggest that societal change is on the way. Cowan’s predictions take on a different coloring with the results of the 2016 presidential election, and it will be fascinating to see whether and how they come true.[em] (Feb.) [/em]