For the past four years, I’ve been ordering the most unappatizing sounding item on the menu when I eat at nice restaurants. This counterintuitive advice from Tyler Cowen’s 2007 book Discover Your Inner Economist has worked surprisingly well. Cowen’s newest book, An Economist Gets Lunch, is a combination of practical eating advice like this, and also a history, economics, and science book about food. If there is one overarching lesson it is that looking at food through the framework of supply and demand can help you both understand our food system better, and also help you be a smarter consumer and get more out of every meal.
But Cowen is not an apologist, and he doesn’t argue that we can just deregulate our way to a better food system. In fact he has many words of support for policies and values often supported by progressives. To help improve both the long-term budget gap and the growing environmental problem, he advocates ending subsidies for big agriculture, and argues for a carbon tax. In addition, he believes that meat should be “taxed” for environmental reasons, and that one easy way to do this is to enforce more strict animal welfare laws.
“Why American Food Used to Be So Bad and Other Lessons From Tyler Cowen,” by Adam Ozimek, The Atlantic, April 12, 2012
In 2008 I got a book advance of $200,000, of which my agent took 15% and the IRS took approximately one-fourth. Still, that’s a lot of money, even paid out in quarters over the course of several years, and for a few months after I got that initial check–for the first time in my adult life–I mistakenly assumed that I didn’t have to keep track of how much money I was spending. Because surely this good fortune was the beginning of more good fortune to come!
There would be foreign rights sales, audio rights sales, fat old-school magazine payments for first serial rights when the book came out, maybe a film or TV option — not to mention all the paid teaching and speaking opportunities that having written the kind of book that a publisher would pay a six-figure advance for would undoubtedly bring my way. And then, too, there would be another payment of the same amount or more money for another book, a book I couldn’t quite imagine and hadn’t even started writing, but would definitely be able to write in a year or less after the first book came out because what was I, lazy? No, I was quick, quick like a blogger!
Without whining or belaboring, I will just say briefly that precisely zero of these rosy fantasies came to fruition.
“It Was Here And Then It Was Gone: More Than $1K Worth of Clothes I’ll Never Wear Again,” by Emily Gould, The Billfold, April 10, 2012