There are sloppy definitions of rent-seeking, which quote the American Gordon Tullock as having originated the term in 1967.

However Tullock’s lobbyists who seek political benefits for themselves at the expense of others may be crooks and thieves, but they’re not rent-seekers in the most strict sense.

Australian economist-journalist Ross Gittens incorporated the lesser meaning earlier this year when he suggested in an article that Australia has now become a nation of rent-seekers. However, there is a more particular (and accurate) use of “rent-seeking” that has not been debauched by modern economists and legalists.

The purest form of rent-seeking is the private taking of a nation’s natural resource rents that, owned by the community as a whole, ought to be captured by the community as a whole.

This may be done by using the rents for revenue (instead of arbitrary taxation), delivering a universal basic income – or a combination of both.

The failure to publicly capture land and natural resource rents is the most substantial form of theft in civil society, a fundamental breach of human rights which, leading to vast wealth disparities, is to be condemned and put right.

Don’t let economists–who try to hide the extent of natural resource rents–confuse you with lesser forms of rent-seeking.


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