2011-01-19

Does Tyler Cowen Have a Consistent, Underlying Theory?

What governs Tyler Cowen's opinions?

David Warsh once wrote "Sometimes Cowen, 48, seems to have nothing but outside interests".


Recently, Cowen has been extolling the virtues of Scott Sumner's "quasi-monetarist" point of view. At least once a day, he posts something about what Sumner says that he agrees with. Fair enough, except that this seems to be mostly a phenomenon of the past year (at least, if his blog posts are any indication). There was no real process of slowly being won over by Sumner's views, it just seemed to happen one day.


Infamously, Cowen made some Obama-favorable statements in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, not just on his blog, but also at public speaking engagements. Why this strikes me as odd is that Marginal Revolution is generally regarded as a "libertarian" blog. (I now assume this designation is the result of Alex Tabarrok's infrequent blog posts, not Cowen's.) Much can be said about Barack Obama, but I think we can all agree that he is not a libertarian. For that reason, it seemed odd to me that Cowen would buy into the audacity of hope at all.


On top of all this, one of the reasons I now only infrequently read that blog is due to Cowen's proclamation that he didn't think mosques were an appropriate motifs for European skylines. (I guess he prefers his Europe full of whores, gothic arches, bistros, and cigarettes?)


Taking all this together as one big picture, it makes perfect sense, though. Cowen is a powerful economic mind, but he is not idealistic. His views don't just move with the times, they move with the fashions. What's "in" is what Cowen is interested in. What Cowen is interested in is what he believes in. Before, it was Obama and the Romers. Right now, it's Sumner. In the future, it will (hopefully) be Boettke.


Whatever he believes, he will always believe the most popular thing. He's not into any one thing, he's into the crowd.


Needless to say, things are much different for me.