Tyler Cowen seems to come off as losing right away because he forget that the phrase very serious people is usually used in a sarcastic and derision filled manner. FWIW, I like Farrell’s line about “Being Tom Friedman Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry.”
My definition of a very serious person is a well-paid and/or well-connected wonk or opinion journalist who likes to present themselves as being “above the fray” or as a presenter of “hard truths”. Said wonk or opinion journalist does not realize their own partisan motivations for the policies they advocate and does not take time to realize how others might be adversely effected by said advocated policies. Very Serious People are often in positions that are lofty enough that they become immune to criticism and/or being wrong.
So a journalist or wonk can advocate for military action and intervention and not realize how people will suffer because he or she doesn’t know anyone in the armed services. They can advocate for trade deals that might send blue-collar labor abroad because they don’t do blue-collar labor and don’t know anyone who does for a living.
What is your definition of a very serious person?