Get used to beans.
That’s one suggestion in Tyler Cowen’s new book, Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation. Cowen creates a stark image of a future U.S. economy in which most people either rocket toward the top or drift toward the bottom. A thinning middle class doesn’t mean people can’t work their way up any more, but it does mean it will be harder to muddle along with marginal skills or a soft work ethic, since a hollowed-out middle will no longer be able to shelter those who don’t have what it takes to make it to the top.
Americans will adapt. “Many of society’s lower earners will reshape their tastes...toward cheaper desires,” Cowen writes in Average Is Over. That’s where the beans come in, since they provide all the nutrition of fancier food at a fraction of the cost. “Don’t scoff at the beans,” Cowen encourages readers who might feel unsettled by his dystopian view of America’s future. Cooked with freshly ground cumin and pureed chili peppers, he insists, they can be quite tasty.