Friday, May 27, 2011

Robust Political Economy and the Question of Motivations

Boettke, Leeson and Subrick (Boettke and Leeson 2004; Leeson and Subrick 2006) describe institutional robustness as the ability of a given system of social organization to stand up to the test of the so-called “hard cases,” i.e., hypothetical scenarios under which the ideal assumptions concerning, e.g., information and motivation possessed by the members of a given society are relaxed. In this paper I employ the methodology used by these authors in order to undermine their contention that the best-case version of socialism is based on benevolence and the worst-case version of liberalism is grounded in selfishness. My argument contends that the pursuance of self-interest is a beneficial and robustness-enhancing force in both of these systems. Moreover, I delineate several dimensions of motivation other than the one associated with the spectrum of benevolence and selfishness, and suggest that their relationship with the question of institutional robustness is worthy of further exploration. Finally, I endeavor to show that with regard to each of these dimensions worst-case liberalism, unlike best-case socialism, proves stable and robust.

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