Money for Nothing: Politicians, Rent Extraction, and Political Extortion / Edition 1

Money for Nothing: Politicians, Rent Extraction, and Political Extortion / Edition 1

by Fred S. McChesney
     
 

ISBN-10: 0674583302

ISBN-13: 9780674583306

Pub. Date: 05/28/1997

Publisher: Harvard

Surveys reveal that a majority of Americans believe government is run for special interests, not public interest. The increased presence and power of lobbyists in Washington and the excesses of PAC and campaign contributions, in-kind benefits, and other favors would seem to indicate a government of weak public servants corrupted by big private-interest

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Overview

Surveys reveal that a majority of Americans believe government is run for special interests, not public interest. The increased presence and power of lobbyists in Washington and the excesses of PAC and campaign contributions, in-kind benefits, and other favors would seem to indicate a government of weak public servants corrupted by big private-interest groups.

But as Fred McChesney shows, this perspective affords only a partial understanding of why private interests are paying, and what they are paying for. Consider, for example, Citicorp, the nation's largest banking company, whose registered lobbyists spend most of their time blocking legislation that could hurt any one of the company's credit-card, loan, or financial-service operations. What this scenario suggests, the author argues, is that payments to politicians are often made not for political favors, but to avoid political disfavor, that is, as part of a system of political extortion or "rent extraction."

The basic notion of rent extraction is simple: because the state can legally take wealth from its citizens, politicians can extort from private parties payments not to expropriate private wealth. In that sense, rent (that is, wealth) extraction is "money for nothing"--money paid in exchange for politicians' inaction. After constructing this model of wealth extraction, McChesney tests it with many examples, including several involving routine proposals of tax legislation, followed by withdrawal for a price. He also shows how the model applies more generally to regulation. Finally, he examines how binding contracts are written between private interests and politicians not to extract wealth.

This book, standing squarely at the intersection of law, political science, and economics, vividly illustrates the patterns of legal extortion underlying the current fabric of interest-group politics.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674583306
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
05/28/1997
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Model

1. Background: The Economic Theory of Regulation

2. Rent Extraction: The Theory of Political Extortion

Demonstrations

3.Observing Extortion: The Practice of Rent Extraction

4. Validating the Model: Empirical Tests of Rent Extraction

5. Contracting for Rent Preservation: The Durability Problem

Extensions

6. Extraction and Optimal Taxation: Excises, Earmarked Taxes, and Government User Charges

7. Costs and Benefits of Interest-Group Organization

8. Improving the Model: Worthy Yet Unanswered Questions

Notes

References

Index

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