Companion to the Political Economy of Rent Seeking
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Companion to the Political Economy of Rent Seeking

Edited by Roger D. Congleton and Arye L. Hillman

The quest for benefit from existing wealth or by seeking privileged benefit through influence over policy is known as rent seeking. Much rent seeking activity involves government and political decisions and is therefore in the domain of political economy, although it can also take place in personal relations and within firms and bureaucracies. Rent seeking, which involves the unproductive use of resources, is however primarily associated with policies that create rents as well as rent extraction or political benefit for the creators of rents. The contributions in this outstanding volume provide an accompaniment or “companion” to the literature on rent seeking and the related political economy of rent creation and extraction. The chapters, written by leading scholars in the field, demonstrate the centrality of rent-related incentives to the study of economics, politics, culture, public administration and history.
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Chapter 21: Rents and development failure in Africa

John Mukum Mbaku and Mwangi S. Kimenyi


This chapter describes rents and rent seeking in Africa. No description of Africa can be complete without reference to the centrality and pervasiveness of rent seeking and rent extraction. Although there are differences among the many countries, as a general principle, politicians and civil servants have used rent-creating and rent-extracting opportunities to their personal advantage whenever possible. In apartheid South Africa, rent seeking took the form of legislation. In particular under authoritarian regimes but also where there have been elements of democracy, rent seeking has involved rent extraction through corruption. The successful rent-seeking and rent-extracting military and ethnic or tribal groups have marginalized other groups, often resulting in violence. Rent seeking has created incentives for skilled people to forgo their professions to seek rent-extracting positions in government. Business has been in the hands of adept rent seekers rather than necessarily competent businessmen and women.

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