Robust Against Whom?

Austrian Economics: The Next Generation

ISBN: 978-1-78756-578-4, eISBN: 978-1-78756-577-7

ISSN: 1529-2134

Publication date: 3 December 2018


Robust political economy (RPE) is a research program that combines insights from Austrian economics and public choice to evaluate the performance of institutions in cases of limited knowledge and limited altruism, or “worst-case scenarios.” Many critics of RPE argue that it is too narrowly focused on the bad motivations and inadequacies of social actors while smuggling in classical liberal normative commitments as part of a purported solution to these problems. This chapter takes a different tack by highlighting the ways that RPE as currently understood may not be robust against particularly bad conduct. It suggests that depending on the parameters of what constitutes a worst-case scenario, classical liberal institutions, especially a minimal state, may turn out to be less robust than some conservative or social democratic alternatives.




I am grateful to the two anonymous reviewers, Steve Horwitz, and all participants at the 2017 Wirth Workshop in Austrian Economics at McGill University for helping me strengthen the paper.


Cowen, N. (2018), "Robust Against Whom?", Horwitz, S. (Ed.) Austrian Economics: The Next Generation (Advances in Austrian Economics, Vol. 23), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 91-111.

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