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Robust Political Economy: Classical Liberalism and the Future of Public Policy (New Thinking in Political Economy Series) Paperback – February 28, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1849807654 ISBN-10: 1849807655

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Product Details

  • Series: New Thinking in Political Economy
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Edward Elgar Pub (February 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849807655
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849807654
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,033,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

'I really enjoyed reading Mark Pennington's book. Really, really enjoyed it. He nicely blends public choice and Austrian insights, the notion of robust political economy as something that takes into account self-interest, knowledge, and incentives. Pennington expertly highlights the comparative institutional arrangements and the plurality of choices that a system with several property and exit possibilities provides. Uniquely, he discusses how neither straight neoclassical economics nor the Stiglitz variety gets it. This is an important book because it attempts to address the critics directly. It is a book almost custom-made for those who want to defend classical liberalism against the common arguments.' --- Bruce J. Caldwell, Duke University, US

'Mark Pennington presents a wide ranging and imaginative treatment of the superiority of classical liberalism over the various state-centered ideologies that presently enjoy wide currency. Among other things, we learn why people who are concerned with inequality and social solidarity should embrace the minimal state of classical liberalism and reject today's total states with their unlimited domains. I was delighted to have been able to read this book as I learned much from it, and I am confident other readers will have the same experience.' - --Richard E. Wagner, George Mason University, US

'Mark Pennington presents a wide ranging and imaginative treatment of the superiority of classical liberalism over the various state-centered ideologies that presently enjoy wide currency. Among other things, we learn why people who are concerned with inequality and social solidarity should embrace the minimal state of classical liberalism and reject today's total states with their unlimited domains. I was delighted to have been able to read this book as I learned much from it, and I am confident other readers will have the same experience.' --- Richard E. Wagner, George Mason University, US

About the Author

Mark Pennington, Reader in Public Policy and Political Economy, Department of Politics, Queen Mary, University of London, UK

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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By William C. Greene on April 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book, by professor Mark Pennington, makes very clear what causes the fundamental conflict between classical liberalism and today's anti-market egalitarians and communtarians. The former begin with a realistic assessment of the flawed nature of human beings. Any society that hopes to succeed in providing freedom and affluence to its citizens must deal with what author Pennington refers to as the "two human imperfections" that make any community fragile: First, is our all too human "limited rationality" that renders decision-making so problematic, and the second failing is our "limited benevolence," which asserts a recurring self-interest in each of us that works against optimum social cooperation.

The basic error in thinking of the anti-market people, who advocate central government planning, is that an elite at the top can correct for the two human failings by making all decisions for the citizenry and redistributing the wealth that the selfish individuals want to keep for themselves. Thus today's liberals seek to maintain a parent-child relation with the people of the country with themselves as parents dictating massive regulations and rules of behavior. Obviously, this denies freedom to most everyone and runs counter to American traditions of liberty.

The chasm that separates these two factions is that one side takes an abstract concept--a perfectly ordered world-and sets it up as a goal. Then, in looking at the real world, imperfections from that ideal world are obvious, so the need for government to correct things becomes in their minds an essential and noble goal. What they miss is that human nature must be dealt with, and no perfect society may ever be designed. It is the old utopian-idealist's dream world versus the practical reality of what is possible.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mike Mertens on February 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great book that synthesizes the work of many thinkers in the classical liberal tradition while actively engaging with their critics. The book mixes both theory and practice and I found myself highlighting material on almost every page.

Mark Pennington lays out a model of classical liberalism based on what he calls “Robust Political Economy” which seeks to answer 3 questions:
1. Which institutions perform best when people are not omniscient?
2. Which institutions perform best when people are motivated by self-interest?
3. Which institutions perform best when people have limited knowledge and are prone to self-interested behavior?

He starts by noting that two of the fundamental organizing principles of classical liberalism are the freedom to associate and disassociate with others and the private or several ownership of private property. He then points out that this leads to the development of “spontaneous orders” which have 3 key benefits:
1. They are better placed to cope with conditions of imperfect knowledge and bounded rationality
2. They allow for experimental evolution
3. They provide safeguards against the abuse of power where people do act out of their self-interest

There are valuable insights throughout the book and I found myself highlighting and making margin notes on just about every page. Here are 2 brief quotes that demonstrate what I mean:

“In a process which removes the ‘exit’ option, the costs of supporting irrational policies are spread across all other members of society rather than being concentrated on those holding to false beliefs.
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