Robust Political Economy Revisited: Response to Critics

MARK PENNINGTON

CRITICAL REVIEW, Volume 28, Issue 3-4

Abstract: Robust political economy is the attempt to theorize about political institutions in such a way as to guard against the knowledge and incentive problems that we can expect will threaten the public good in the real world. An implication of this attempt is the need to reason symmetrically about whether a proposed institution is liable to be as prone to failure due to knowledge and incentive problems as the situations it is designed to address. Another implication is that one should be wary of ad hoc institutional or policy proposals, that is, proposals that are not grounded in systematic tendencies to mitigate the knowledge and incentive problems. With these implications in mind, I am not convinced that the alternative institutions, conceptions of the state, and conceptions of social justice defended by my critics meet the test of robustness that, I maintain, can best be met through decentralization of power down to the level of the individual.