Basically a cross between Huxley, Blade Runner, & Back to the Future Part II

by William Schuth in ,


The Los Angeles Times spoke with a libertarian economist and ethnic food aficionado at George Mason University has a very dim outlook on the country's economic future:

Imagine a future in which real wages for most workers decline year after year; a future in which middle-class jobs that disappeared in the Great Recession won't be coming back; a future in which young Americans either squeeze into an increasingly wealthy elite or tumble to the bottom, with fewer and fewer in what we once called the middle class.

Actually, that's a description of the present. The future looks even bleaker, according to libertarian economist Tyler Cowen.

For his new book, "Average Is Over," Cowen projected current trends out over the next 20 years. His conclusion?

"Our future will bring more wealthy people than ever before, but also more poor people," he writes. "Rather than balancing our budget with higher taxes or lower benefits, we will allow the real wages of many workers to fall — and thus we will allow the creation of a new underclass."

Remember, Cowen isn't adding or subtracting anything from what's already happening. He's merely forecasting based on current trends: middle-class American jobs being eliminated by automation and outsourcing, downward pressure on wages for all but the most skilled, growing inequality between the wealthy and everyone else, and elected officials who don't seem capable of slowing those trends, let alone stopping them.

And that's not all. Cowen foresees a future in which employers constantly measure individual workers' performance "with oppressive precision," the better to weed out underperformers quickly; a future in which retirees, their savings exhausted, move to newly built shantytowns (like "the better dwellings you might find in a Rio de Janeiro favela") in low-cost states like Texas; a future in which the new underclass, instead of rebelling against the elite, consoles itself with online entertainment and scientifically improved narcotics to make life palatable.


The rest of the article is worth reading, so do click through.

SPOILER ALERT: if these economic conditions were to come to pass, the libertarian economist says he'd support a guaranteed minimum income.  Even a libertarian is afraid of the economic fallout of massive income inequality.

EDIT: I didn't mean to imply by my title that we will have flying cars within the next two years. Sorry if I got anyone excited.