Has Tyler Cowen Been Reading Romanian Reform Literature?
Here’s Peter Siani-Davies in The Romanian Revolution of December 1989:
In an article in Romania Literara, which was effectively a hymn of praise for technocrats, Illiescu suggested that the defining characteristic of the twentieth century had been technological development. As the century had progressed, he argued, the introduction of automation and advanced production techniques also had important social consequences, as the demand for manual labor declined in relation to a corresponding rise in the need for technical expertise. On the basis of these changes, Illiescu suggested that society could now be broadly divided into noncreative and creative forces, the former roughly identified with the working class, the latter with intellectuals – defined at their widest extent.
The basic social diagnosis sounds surprisingly like that of Average is Over, though to be sure, Illiescu’s proposed solution (something that might broadly fall under the heading of reform communism) comes nowhere close to anything Cowen would suggest.* That two men, writing more than twenty years apart (Illiescu’s piece was published in 1987), in profoundly different circumstances, and informed by drastically different life experiences, would generate similar understandings of society perhaps suggests some larger point to be made about the commonality of the human experience. But grandiosity aside, one at least has the feeling of, “huh, didn’t expect to find you, libertarian economist’s most recent book topic, here, in a book about the Romanian Revolution of 1989.” If Cowen’s next book refers to a Provisional Council of National Unity we’ll know he really has been cribbing from Ion Illiescu all along.
*Admittedly, I have not yet read the book, but as a regular Marginal Revolution reader exposure to its intellectual content has been unavoidable