I suppose that I should note that I cannot get on board with Professor Cowen’s habit of disregarding books that do not grab his attention. For whatever reason, I feel I have to finish a book, no matter how much I may dislike it. This may seem masochistic, but I worry that I might miss out on the book suddenly turning out to be good. I also would not feel comfortable judging only a partially-read book, or a partially-viewed movie (the article does not discuss this, but Professor Cowen also believes that it is perfectly all right to walk out of movies that one does not like), and I wouldn’t want to respond to a query about a book or a movie with “I only got through part of it, and decided that I didn’t want to get through the rest.” I can understand, of course, the desire to avoid perpetrating the sunk-costs fallacy, but I do everything I can to give books and movies a chance. Sometimes, the gamble does not pay off; other times, it does.
As for whether we have Greatly Stagnated, I suppose that I am more optimistic than is Professor Cowen, but the fact that he seems to believe that we have Greatly Stagnated does concern me (I have not yet read the book–I’ve just read about it–but it is worth noting that Professor Cowen’s expectations regarding the American economy are ultimately optimistic ones; it’s just that I think that if we get our fiscal crisis under control, we will experience robust economic growth faster than he seems to suggest). There are other issues on which I disagree with Professor Cowen as well, but we can put that to the side; the profile of him is very interesting, and highly recommended–as are a great many of the solutions and approaches he prescribes to public policy, and to how best to think about public policy and economic issues. One can and must also appreciate the many ways in which Professor Cowen has helped people discover how thinking like an economist can help augment the quality of one’s personal choices. And of course, if you are looking for good food in the DC area, there is no better guide. The world would be a lot better place if Marginal Revolution were hosted by the New York Times, and Paul Krugman weren’t.