“The Permanent Problem” is an ongoing series of essays about the challenges of capitalist mass affluence — in particular, how to make it sustainable, and how to translate material plenty into a society where most people can expect, in the words of John Maynard Keynes, to “live wisely and agreeably and well.” The author is Brink Lindsey, a vice president at the Niskanen Center. These essays are adapted and cross-posted from brinklindsey.substack.com


What is the permanent problem?

The nature of the crisis

The declining leverage and status of ordinary people

The political marginalization of ordinary people

The age of stasis

Loss aversion (by any other name) and the decline of dynamism

The anti-Promethean backlash

The retreat from reality

The absence of systemic competition

The global fertility collapse

Is dynamism doomed?

Technological progress vs. diminishing returns

Prospects for a more inclusive capitalism

The performative turn

Fighting in a burning house: The media environment vs. democracy

How mainstream journalism squandered its authority

The loss of faith

Saying yes

Democracy’s crisis of legitimacy

The case for muddling through

The case for Plan B

The possible relevance of Joseph Tainter

Envisioning the next level: An exercise in definite optimism (part 1)

The next level of rich: An exercise in definite optimism (Part 2)

Rebalancing capitalism: an exercise in definite optimism (Part 3)

Economic independence vs. the alternatives

The need for a counterculture

Avoiding Scylla and Charybdis

Thoughts on flourishing

Choosing the experience machine

What are humans for?

Revalorizing the frontier

Life under and immense and tutelary power

Thoughts on techno-optimistic socialism

Libertarian roots revisited

The advance of the monoculture

The need for a media temperance movement

Why we need the Jetsons and solarpunk

Speculations on an arc of history

Productivity growth: the good, the bad, and the ugly


Beginning in January 2024, Lindsey started the Permanent Problem podcast to supplement his ongoing essay series. The podcast focuses on capitalism’s triple crisis – and especially on the prospects for defusing the crisis and revitalizing social progress.

Reviving capitalist dynamism, with Tyler Cowen

How to create the sci-fi world we were promised, with James Pethokoukis

Rethinking our vision for the future, with Virginia Postrel

Giving gender equality a modern context, with Richard Reeves

Decoding the birth rate decline, with Tim Carney

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