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Rent-seeking is a concept used to describe the activity of individuals or firms who attempt to obtain or maintain wealth-transfers, primarily with the help of the state.[1] More specifically instead of making a productive contribution to an economy, a rent-seeker attempts to obtain benefits for themselves by manipulating the political environment.[2] Rent-seeking has also been defined as the process whereby one is able to obtain a greater rent, i.e. return, than would have been possible on the free market, through activities such as government lobbying or taking advantage of other connections to the state.[3] Rent-seeking is seen as unproductive or a wasteful activity, as it results in wealth being transferred from productive individuals and firms to the rent-seekers. Examples of rent-seeking include things such as obtaining government bailouts, subsidies or having the state enact and enforce barriers to entry. The formulation of the concept is credited to Gordon Tullock, while the idea of the phrase "rent-seeking" is credited to Anne Krueger.[2]

Rent seeking is distinguished from corruption in that rent seeking is legal and corruption is not. Both are searches for privilege and personal gain through the political process.[4]


  1. Pasour, E.C. "Rent Seeking: Some Conceptual Problems and Implications", 1983, page 1.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Henderson, David. "Rent Seeking", Accessed October 2011.
  3. Thomas DiLorenzo. "How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, from the Pilgrims to the Present", 2005, page 126.
  4. Thornton, Mark (15 September 2006). "The Economics of Prohibition". 

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