Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A Useful Definition of Rent Seeking

Richard Epstein offers an insightful definition of rent seeking:
". . .rent-seeking in politics is simply a statement that the sovereign, i.e., those fallible people with sovereign power, will allow the citizen a little something so long as he continues to make the sovereign better off."
He also has a helpful way of looking at our constitution:
". . .the issue of constitutionalism is just this: how to constrain the misconduct of the sovereign while allowing him the ncessary power to keep peace and good order."
I believe there was a period of time in the history of the Supreme Court's constitutional jurisprudence (a.k.a. "the economic due process era") that the Court's opinions often reflected an understanding of these insights. I believe "founders" like James Madison understood these insights as well. Perhaps the Senators in the confirmation hearings for Justices of the Supreme Court could ask whether or not nominees understand these insights still today?

Well, perhaps not. After all, the fallible people with sovereign power, are some of the same people who are asking the questions. Silly me.

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