Over the past 20 years, arguably no libertarian thinker has cut a broader or deeper intellectual swath across American public policy and culture than Tyler Cowen.
The 56-year-old New Jersey native holds the Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University and acts as chairman and general director of the Mercatus Center, a think tank based at the school. Cowen also co-founded the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution and is a regular contributor to Bloomberg. He is the host of Conversations with Tyler, a podcast series that includes interviews with people as diverse as tennis pro Martina Navratilova, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and comedian Dave Barry, and he is the author of a shelf full of books, including 1998's In Praise of Commercial Culture, 2007's Discover Your Inner Economist, and 2017's The Complacent Class.
His work covers everything from the literal and figurative prices of fame to how globalization empowers Mexican folk artists to whether public funding for the arts has been more successful than most free marketers would grant. A recurring theme over the past decade is a fear that the West may have entered a period he calls "the great stagnation," in which technological innovation and economic growth have slowed even as risk taking and moonshot-type ventures are demonized or ignored altogether.
In October, Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with Cowen about his latest book, Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals (Stripe Press). The work is an unapologetically libertarian argument for what he calls long-term sustainable economic growth and, more importantly, for intellectual and cultural attitudes devoted to freedom and prosperity.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Timmes