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No Debate: Mason Professors Deliver Better Than ‘Average’ Conversation

November 8, 2013

By Buzz McClain

When George Mason University Professor Steven Pearlstein (formerly a Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning economics columnist) grilled Mason professor Tyler Cowen (a best-selling libertarian economic theorist) about the controversial predictions in Cowen’s new book, some expected a fiery clash of competing concepts.

As it turns out, Pearlstein, a Robinson Professor, and Cowen, general director of the Mercatus Center, are weekly lunch mates and collegial colleagues. On Nov. 6 they shared an intense economic theory conversation as if they were at lunch, minus the usual meal, with a well-attended “open class” of students and staff at George’s Restaurant in the Johnson Center on the Fairfax Campus.

Pearlstein downplayed potential drama during his introduction: “You’ll be surprised to find that I’m not as liberal as you might think, and he’s not as dogmatically libertarian as you might believe.”

For more than an hour Pearlstein and Cowen explored the economic theories Cowen puts forth in his book “Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of Stagnation,” and discussed what salary inequities, education and happiness might be like on a global scale, thanks to technological breakthroughs.

ven Pearlstein and Tyler Cowen

Steven Pearlstein, Robinson Professor of Public and International Affairs, and Tyler Cowen, chairman and general director of the Mercatus Center, hold a conversation regarding Cowen’s new book, “Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of Stagnation” at the Fairfax Campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn