Robust Political Economy: Classical Liberalism and the Future of Public Policy

‘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

‘I really enjoyed reading Mark Pennington’s book. 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. He 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

This important book offers a comprehensive defence of classical liberalism against contemporary challenges. It sets out an analytical framework of ‘robust political economy’ that explores the economic and political problems that arise from the phenomena of imperfect knowledge and imperfect incentives.

Using this framework, the book defends the classical liberal focus on markets and the minimal state from the critiques presented by ‘market failure’ economics and communitarian and egalitarian variants of political theory. Mark Pennington expertly applies the lessons learned from responding to these challenges in the context of contemporary discussions surrounding the welfare state, international development, and environmental protection.

Written in an accessible style, this authoritative book would be useful for both undergraduate and graduate students of political economy and public policy as a standard reference work for classical liberal analysis and a defence of its normative prescriptions. The book’s distinctive approach will ensure that academic practitioners of economics and political science, political theory and public policy will also find its controversial conclusions insightful.

Dr Mark Pennington is Reader in Public Policy and Political Economy, Department of Politics, Queen Mary, University of London. His work is interdisciplinary in nature spanning the domains of economics, politics and philosophy with a focus on the political economy of institutions and decisions. His recent work has sought to combine Hayekian and public choice insights to question some of the major premises of contemporary democratic theory. This work resulted in his receipt of the Eleventh prize for ‘Contributions to the Understanding of Spontaneous Order’ awarded by the Atlas Foundation for Economic Research in 2007. He has completed 5 books: Planning and the Political Market: Public Choice and the Politics of Government Failure (Athlone: 2000); Comparative Politics (ed with Judith Bara); and for the IEA, Conservation and the Countryside: By Quango or Market?, Liberating the Land, and Rescuing Social Capital from Social Democracy (with John Meadowcroft).


  • 20/01/2011