Future Directions for Rent-Seeking Research

  • Gordon Tullock
Part of the Topics in Regulatory Economics and Policy book series (TREP, volume 1)


In the existing literature there is not a single direct measure of rent-seeking cost. It is true that there are a great many indirect measures, but these involve both theoretical and practical problems. Direct measures would clearly be much more useful. The problem here is very much like the problem of measuring the black economy. Indeed, it can be argued that the rent-seeking industry is a very important part of the black economy. A large part of the total cost of rent-seeking activity is concealed by the people who bear it, partly because in many cases it is actually illegal (bribes, for example), and partly because publicity would be counterproductive. Nevertheless, it would be highly desirable that this screen be penetrated, and that we obtain direct measures. Theoretical reasons, which will be discussed below, indicate that these measures would almost certainly be partial, but still better than nothing.


Cost Curve Public Image Black Economy Special Privilege Protective Tariff 
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  1. 1.
    There is now quite a large body of data on the cost of legal proceedings collected by the Rand Corporation. Since the project is continuing to produce data, I see nothing much to be gained by giving specific citations. The interested student can write to the Rand Foundation and get a list of their publications.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Published in full in Toward a Theory of the Rent Seeking Society. Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    I will be occupying such a distinguished chair in the Spring of 1987.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bruno S. Frey and Klaus Foppa, “Human Behavior: Possibilities Explain Action”, Journal of Economic Psychology 7 (1986), 137–60, pp. 137.Google Scholar
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    the quotation is taken from page 26.Google Scholar
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    of them also thought that the congressmen “make a lot of money by using public office improperly”.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    The Iowa farmers have recently undergone quite a financial crisis because a number of them had borrowed too much money on their land. The bulk of them however, did not have large mortgages and the crisis meant that their personal wealth fell from let us say three quarters of a million to half a million.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    I am not saying it would not be nice to have foreign countries carry out our ethical system. The fact is, however, that we do not have enough power to achieve this goal. Hence efforts to do so normally have no effect on ethics and a considerable effect on our relations with the government which we are attempting to influence. When I was in Korea as an American diplomat, it was perfectly obvious that President Rhee thought of the United States as his principle foreign ally and his principle domestic enemy. This led to a series of difficulties on policy, which could have very easily been avoided if he had not suspected us (correctly) of attempting to overthrow him.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Two such systems; Cuba is somewhat different, but even more unpleasant.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Frequently the voter is sufficiently badly informed so that he believes both that the American voter must be protected against the Japanese competition which would unemploy him, and that free trade is a good thing.Google Scholar
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    Including the vote somehow as part of this value.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Oliver Williamson usually refers to this kind of thing as “impacted information”.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Once again, Williamson usually refers to this as “opportunistic behavior”.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gordon Tullock

There are no affiliations available

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