Day 41: Lunch With Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen works 7AM-11PM every single day. He writes for two and a half to three hours every night—”not a very long time,” in his words. The rest of the day is dedicated to reading, meetings, thinking, and discussing (far different from meetings).

His secret to knowing so much about so many things? “I don’t have any tips or tricks. I just read really fast.”

Where does he get his news? He subscribes to four newspapers and 25 magazines. He’s also a member of several WhatsApp discussion groups, and checks his Twitter feed regularly. He describes this as a “firehose” of information.

Tyler Cowen believes this generation of Americans is the most complacent in history, and that most people in developed countries who are poor simply don’t work as hard as their ancestors. (This is an uncharitable way of phrasing his position, but it’s accurate nonetheless.) He’s written a book on this, and he’s also made a few videos for MRU, which you can find here.

He likes Jordan Peterson’s influence, but thinks he’s making a lot of it up as he goes. He believes Trump is an aberration, but expects many more weird politicians to be elected—just not Trumpy ones. He’s opposed to Brexit not because he’s pro-Remain, but because he believes Brexit will end up making the U.K. less free than it is right now. And he’s terribly—and, I believe, incorrectly—optimistic about social media. He believes its influence is outsized right now because it’s new, and that given time, its true utility—as a vehicle of education and human connection, among other things—will come to the fore.

He thinks about half of the adherents of any given ideology are in it to dislike the other side, rather than to actually promote the ideas they espouse. According to him, the illiberal right (for example) is on the rise because they tell a better story of hating the left than the conservative establishment does.

Tyler wants to be the person who’s taught more people economics around the world than anyone in history. That’s part of why he started MRU. He’s also not happy with Mercatus’ growth over his 30-year tenure as director—”If you’re happy, you should just quit your job.” Admirable.

Tyler Cowen is incredibly intelligent, almost frighteningly so. It was a privilege to speak with him today, if only for an hour. But he said he’d like to have lunch again. Lucky me.


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