July 22, 2019

Special Issue on Rent Seeking

  • Matthew D. Mitchell

    Senior Research Fellow
  • Ginny Seung Choi

    Program Director, Academic and Student Programs
  • Virgil Storr

    Board Member, Mercatus Center
  • Randall G. Holcombe

    DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics, Florida State University
  • Barry Weingast

    Ward C. Krebs Family Professor, Department of Political Science, Stanford University
  • Joshua C. Hall

    Associate Professor, Department of Economics, West Virginia University
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Just over five decades ago, the late economist Gordon Tullock published a paper titled “The Welfare Costs of Tariffs, Monopolies, and Theft.” Largely ignored at first, the article has come to be celebrated for initiating the study of “rent seeking,” one of the 20th Century’s most important advancements in economic theory.

In recognition of Tullock’s insight, Mercatus Senior Research Fellow Matthew Mitchell recently guest-edited a volume in the journal Public Choice. The volume includes original articles by Roger Congleton; James Robinson and Daron Acemoglu; Federica Carugati, Josiah Ober, and Barry Weingast; David Laband and John Sophocleus; Joshua Hall, Josh Matti, and Amir Ferreira Neto; Michael Munger; Seung Ginny Choi and Virgil Henry Storr; Randall Holcombe; Vlad Tarko and Andrew Farrant; and Mitchell himself.

In the introduction to the special issue, Mitchell writes:

In the Bizarro World of DC Comics, up is down, black is white, and nothing is as expected. The same could be said of a rent-seeking market. When either economic surplus or real resources can be transferred involuntarily, individuals and groups who might be favored or disfavored have an incentive to expend effort seeking or opposing those transfers. Such efforts often are socially wasteful and ought to be considered alongside other costs of transfers such as deadweight losses. That is the central insight of Gordon Tullock’s (1967) seminal paper, “The welfare costs of tariffs, monopolies, and theft.” We celebrate his insight in this special issue of the journal Tullock founded.

Describing the papers in the volume, Mitchell says:

Contributors examine the making of this classic piece and its effect on economic theory, empirical analysis, and economic teaching. Original papers also develop new insights into questions of development, the control of violence, corruption, culture, equity, regulation, rent extraction, the Political Coase Theorem, and more.