Why be robust?

Cowen, Nick (2016) Why be robust? In: Interdisciplinary Studies of the Market Order: New Applications of Market Process Theory. Economy, Polity, and Society, 1 . Rowman and Littlefield International Ltd, London, pp. 63-85. ISBN 9781786602015

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Why be robust?

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How can liberal political theorists combine their normative commitments with realistic assumptions of human behaviour and capacities? This is an important question for scholars who wish to use their theories to evaluate existing political institutions and recommend practical alternatives. This chapter describes a particular approach to realism in political theory by using the notion of 'robustness' from the Robust Political Economy framework. Robust institutions are those that perform well even when people are neither omniscient nor perfectly motivated to follow the common good. I argue that these problems, of limited knowledge and self-interest, emerge from three assumptions about the constitution of human beings commonly found in the liberal theoretical tradition: methodological individualism, subjectivism and analytical egalitarianism. I propose a combination of public choice and market process theory as best suited to the task of evaluating the robustness of normative political theories because they allow us to apply these assumptions systematically to all domains of human activity. Compared to standard neo-classical methodology, this approach offers an enriched account of the epistemic challenge to social co-operation that individuals face and the role of institutions, including private property and voluntary exchange, in ameliorating this challenge. I show how this systematic evaluation of the motivational and epistemic properties of institutions can help critique and extend RawlsÕ contractarian theory of justice and offer a new perspective on the role of realism in political theory.

Keywords:robust political economy, political theory methods, realism, Rawls, liberalism, market process, public choice
Subjects:L Social studies > L210 Political Theories
L Social studies > L150 Political Economics
L Social studies > L430 Public Policy
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:36352
Deposited On:03 Jul 2019 13:54

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