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Productive Versus Unproductive Labor and Rent Seeking: Lessons from History

Michael A. Brooks, Ben J. Heijdra and Anton D. Lowenberg
Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE) / Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft
Vol. 146, No. 3 (Sept. 1990), pp. 419-438
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40751325
Page Count: 20
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Productive Versus Unproductive Labor and Rent Seeking: Lessons from History
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Abstract

Rent seeking and "directly unproductive expenditures" are treated in the literature as wasteful uses of resources. Analogously, classical political economists categorized certain types of labor "unproductive". Examination of the classical literature on unproductive labor suggests three lessons for rent seeking theory. First, it is problematic to assert a priori that competition for rents is necessarily wasteful. Second, rent seeking theory should be seen in dynamic terms, because the main effect of rent seeking, like unproductive labor, is to inhibit growth. Third, any meaningful discussion of rent seeking waste requires a constitutional approach to appraise alternative institutions. “Rent seeking” und “direkt unproduktive Ausgaben” werden in der Literatur als Ressourcenverschwendung angesehen. Analog wurden bestimmte Arbeiten von klassischen Ökonomen als “unproduktiv” eingestuft. Die klassische Literatur über unproduktive Arbeit läßt folgende Empfehlungen für die Theorie des “rent seeking” angebracht erscheinen: Erstens ist die Behauptung problematisch, Wettbewerb um Renten sei a priori notwendig Verschwendung. Zweitens sollte eine Theorie des “rent seeking” dynamisch sein, weil die wichtigste Auswirkung von “rent seeking”, ähnlich wie bei unproduktiver Arbeit, eine Verringerung des Wachstums ist. Drittens erfordert jede sinnvolle Diskussion von “rent seeking” einen konstitutionellen Ansatz zur Bewertung verschiedener Institutionen.

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