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Tyler Cowen

Are Things Really That Bad? Actually, No

A lot of news seems especially grim right now, but the US and the world are in a far better place than they were just 40 years ago.

The houses are nicer than the neighborhood.

The houses are nicer than the neighborhood.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Before I begin, please note: I am not a pessimist. I am not short the market, and I think the world is far more likely to muddle through than to fall apart. Nonetheless, I now believe the future will be far more irresponsible and stupid than I once did.

I am increasingly worried that human success and failure are ruled by taste — the demand side, in economic terms. If there are fewer beautiful and charming residential post-World War II neighborhoods, it is because most people do not want to live in them. If there are fewer movies today with the dramatic impact and compositional rigor of “Citizen Kane,” it is because people do not very much want to see them. It is not that it is too difficult or expensive to make another “Citizen Kane.”