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Tyler Cowen (/ˈkən/; born January 21, 1962) is an American economist, who is an economics professor at George Mason University, where he holds the Holbert C. Harris chair in the economics department.[2] He hosts the economics blog Marginal Revolution, together with co-author Alex Tabarrok. Cowen and Tabarrok also maintain the website Marginal Revolution University, a venture in online education.

Tyler Cowen
Tyler Cowen 1.jpg
Born (1962-01-21) January 21, 1962 (age 57)
InstitutionGeorge Mason University
FieldCultural economics
School or
Neoclassical economics
Alma materGeorge Mason University
Harvard University (PhD)
Thomas Schelling
InfluencesChicago School, Carl Menger, Plato[1]

Cowen writes the "Economic Scene" column for The New York Times and since July 2016 has been a regular opinion columnist at Bloomberg Opinion.[3] He also writes for such publications as The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Newsweek and the Wilson Quarterly. He serves as general director of George Mason's Mercatus Center, a university research center that focuses on the market economy.

He was ranked at number 72 among the "Top 100 Global Thinkers" in 2011 by Foreign Policy Magazine "for finding markets in everything".[4] In a 2011 poll of experts by The Economist, Cowen was included in the top 36 nominations of "which economists were most influential over the past decade".[5]


Education and personal lifeEdit

Cowen was raised in Hillsdale, New Jersey.[6] At 15, he became the youngest ever New Jersey state chess champion.[7][8]

He graduated from George Mason University with a bachelor of science degree in economics in 1983 and received his PhD in economics from Harvard University in 1987 with his thesis titled Essays in the theory of welfare economics. At Harvard, he was mentored by game theorist Thomas Schelling, the 2005 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics. He is married to Natasha Cowen, a lawyer.



The Los Angeles Times has described Cowen as "a man who can talk about Haitian voodoo flags, Iranian cinema, Hong Kong cuisine, Abstract Expressionism, Zairian music and Mexican folk art with seemingly equal facility".[9] One of Cowen's primary research interests is the economics of culture. He has written books on fame (What Price Fame?), art (In Praise of Commercial Culture) and cultural trade (Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World's Cultures). In Markets and Cultural Voices, he relays how globalization is changing the world of three Mexican amate painters. Cowen argues that free markets change culture for the better, allowing them to evolve into something more people want. Other books include Public Goods and Market Failures, The Theory of Market Failure, Explorations in the New Monetary Economics, Risk and Business Cycles, Economic Welfare and New Theories of Market Failure.


Cowen presenting his 2011 book The Great Stagnation

The New York Times columnsEdit

Cowen's New York Times columns cover a wide range of issues such as the 2008 financial crisis.[12]

Dining guideEdit

His dining guide for the D.C. area, "Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide",[13] was reprinted in the Food section of The Washington Post.[citation needed]

Political philosophyEdit

Cowen has written papers on political philosophy and ethics. He co-wrote a paper with philosopher Derek Parfit arguing against the social discount rate.[14] In a 2006 paper, he argued that the epistemic problem fails to refute consequentialist forms of argument.[15]

Cowen has been described as a "libertarian bargainer" who can influence practical policy making,[16] yet he endorsed bank bailouts in his March 2, 2009 column in The New York Times.[17] In a 2007 article entitled "The Paradox of Libertarianism", Cowen argued that libertarians "should embrace a world with growing wealth, growing positive liberty, and yes, growing government. We don't have to favor the growth in government per se, but we do need to recognize that sometimes it is a package deal".[18]

In 2012, David Brooks called Cowen "one of the most influential bloggers on the right", writing that he is among those who "start from broadly libertarian premises but do not apply them in a doctrinaire way".[19]

In an August 2014 blog post, Cowen wrote: "Just to summarize, I generally favor much more immigration but not open borders, I am a liberal on most but not all social issues, and I am market-oriented on economic issues. On most current foreign policy issues I am genuinely agnostic as to what exactly we should do but skeptical that we are doing the right thing at the moment. I don't like voting for either party or for third parties".[20]

Cowen has described himself as a liberal on most social issues[21] and supports same-sex marriage.[22] After the Supreme Court issued its holding regarding same-sex marriage, Cowen said that "this is exciting and very positive news. Most of all, it is a breakthrough for those people who can now marry, or exercise the choice not to marry".[23]

Cowen is a teetotaler, stating he is "with the Mormons" on alcohol,[24] later stating: "I encourage people to just completely, voluntarily abstain from alcohol and make it a social norm".[25]


Fellow economists have criticized Cowen's pro-free market views. In his January 23, 2009 blog titled "Dumping on Robert Barro", Cowen challenged those who were advocating at the time more stimulus for the American economy to show him evidence that stimulus works.[26] In response, economist Bill Mitchell pointed out "the Post World War II period up until the mid-1970s".[27]

According to William K. Black, associate professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and former bank regulator, Cowen "assumes that productivity determines personal wealth and is measured by wealth", but in reality Cowen's "meritocratic vanguard caused the greatest loss of wealth to society" while "so many financial CEOs not only destroyed societal wealth, but also became wealthy through accounting control fraud".[28] Black also pointed out that Cowen along with what he calls "theoclassical economists" through their ideas have "created such a criminogenic environment that control fraud is frequently the optimal strategy for maximizing the CEOs' self-interest".[29] In another column, Black challenged Cowen's "assumption that unrestrained self-interested actions produce a hyper-meritocracy that improves life", stating instead that "unrestrained self-interested actions are the primary threat to humanity".[30]


On March 26, 2014, Cowen was attacked while teaching "Law and Literature" in his classroom by Jonathan Pendleton, who tried to perform a "citizen's arrest" of Cowen and then pepper sprayed him.[31] A bystander intervened and Pendelton was detained and arrested shortly after by police. Cowen and his students reportedly suffered no lasting injuries. In Pendelton's trial, Cowen testified that his attacker believed that Cowen accused him that he "controlled his mind at a distance" and "of sexual harassment".[32]



Select journal articlesEdit

Select articlesEdit


  1. ^ Illing, Sean (June 3, 2017). "9 questions for Tyler Cowen". Vox Media. Archived from the original on June 5, 2017. Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think? [...] More proximately, I would cite economics as a discipline and Plato's dialogic method for philosophy
  2. ^ "Cowen Named Holbert Harris Chair". The Mason Gazette. George Mason University. Retrieved May 13, 2017.
  3. ^ Tyler Cowen, columnist Bloomberg
  4. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers (#72 Tyler Cowan:For finding markets in everything)". Foreign Policy. December 2011. Archived from the original on April 16, 2012. Retrieved March 21, 2012.
  5. ^ "Economics' most influential people". February 1, 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  6. ^ Rosenwald, Michael S. "Tyler Cowen's appetite for ethnic food -- and answers about his life", The Washington Post, May 13, 2010. Accessed November 2, 2017. "Cowen is 48. He grew up in Hillsdale, N.J., an hour's drive from New York."
  7. ^ "Interview with the Former "Youngest New Jersey Chess Champion," Tyler Cowen". September 8, 2006. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  8. ^ New Jersey State Champions 1946 – Present New Jersey State Chess Federation, Official Site
  9. ^ The joy of thinking globally, February 7, 2003, Daniel Akst, Los Angeles Times
  10. ^ Cowen, Tyler (April 12, 2012). "Penny Pleasance in The New York Journal of Books". New York Journal of Books. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  11. ^ Tyler Cowen (February 28, 2017). The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-250-10869-2.
  12. ^ "Too Few Regulations? No, Just Ineffective Ones".
  13. ^ "Tyler Cowen Ethnic Dining Guide".
  14. ^ "Against the social discount rate" by Derek Parfit and Tyler Cowen, in Peter Laslett & James S. Fishkin (eds.) Justice between age groups and generations, Yale University Press: New Haven, 1992, pp. 144–161.
  15. ^ "The Epistemic Problem Does Not Refute Consequentialism" by Tyler Cowen, Utilitas (2006), 18: 383–399
  16. ^ Klein, Daniel B. "Mere Libertarianism: Blending Hayek and Rothbard Archived May 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine". Reason Papers. Vol. 27: Fall 2004.
  17. ^ Cowen, Tyler (March 1, 2009). "Message to Regulators: Bank Fix Needed Quickly". New York Times.
  18. ^ "The Paradox of Libertarianism".
  19. ^ Brooks, David (November 19, 2012). "The Conservative Future". New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2012.
  20. ^ Cowen, Tyler (August 4, 2014). "Matt Yglesias on Tyler Cowen". Marginal Revolution. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  21. ^ Cowen, Tyler (August 4, 2014). "Matt Yglesias on Tyler Cowen". Marginal Revolution. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  22. ^ Cowen, Tyler (April 9, 2009). "A Bayesian approach to legal gay marriage". Marginal Revolution. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  23. ^ Cowen, Tyler (June 26, 2015). "Legal gay marriage". Marginal Revolution. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  24. ^ Cowen, Tyler (August 12, 2017). "I'm with the Mormons on this one — how about you?". Marginal Revolution. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  25. ^ Cowen, Tyler (October 16, 2018). "Rob Wiblin interviews Tyler on *Stubborn Attachments* (BONUS)". Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  26. ^ "Dumping on Robert Barro" by Tyler Cowen, January 23, 2009
  27. ^ "Fiscal policy worked – evidence" by Bill Mitchell, May 27, 2010
  28. ^ "The “Hyper-meritocracy” – an Oxymoron Led by Criminal Morons" by William K. Black, October 4, 2013<
  29. ^ "Bank Failures are “Inconceivable” under the Latest Neoclassical Fantasy" by William K. Black, October 6, 2013
  30. ^ "The Faux Hyper-Meritocracy that Threatens to Destroy Us" by William K. Black, October 8, 2013
  31. ^ Attack:
    Greenwood, Arin (March 27, 2014). "Tyler Cowen Pepper Sprayed While Teaching Law School Class On Vigilantism". Huffington Post.
  32. ^ Weiner, Rachel (April 29, 2014). "Tyler Cowen's attacker asccused the professor was controlling his mind, Cowen testifies". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 29, 2014.

External linksEdit