“PRIVILEGE-SEEKING”—NOT “RENT-SEEKING”. Economics has some jargon that is confusing. One of my pet peeves is the phrase “rent-seeking”. To most people it would seem to have something with landlords and tenants. In fact, “rent-seeker” is one of the harshest names that an economist can call some one. In this paper on “Cronyism”, David Henderson proposes a better term: “The term economists use to describe this investment in getting government favors is rent seeking. The term is misleading: It is really privilege-seeking.” Henderson explains why he condemns “cronyism” or privilege-seeking: “This particular individual gets a subsidy because of his connection to politicians; that one does not. This particular
industry gets subsidies or government protection from competition because it is particularly effective at organizing politically….” Kids, you may not agree with an attack by Henderson or other economists on what they consider to be wasteful expenditure, but if they don’t use the word “rent-seeking”, you will have a better understanding that they are attacking and why they are attacking.
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