Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Rent-Seeking In America

I'd say that most Americans get some kind of ill-gotten gain from force initiation. Examples:
  • Landholders enjoy land prices artificially raised by growth limits, zoning rules, and capitalization of tax-financed government services.
  • Homeowners enjoy subsidized or guaranteed mortgages.
  • Renters often enjoy rent controls and eviction limits.
  • Stockholders benefit from corporations being shielded by limited liability, and from bailouts socializing their losses.
  • Exporters enjoy subsidies; importers enjoy tariffs and quotas.
  • Fossil fuel companies generally don't pay market prices for resource severance.
  • Nuclear power companies enjoy legislated limits on their liability.
  • Agribusiness and farmers enjoy subsidies, price controls, land set-asides, below-cost water, import quotas/tariffs, etc.
  • Media corporations enjoy restrictions on technology for manipulating content, and excessive copyright tenure.
  • Pharma, software and others enjoy unreasonable patent advantages.
  • Land developers enjoy eminent domain abuses.
  • Seniors enjoy a retirement pyramid scheme and health insurance funded via inter-generational theft.
  • Union workers enjoy antitrust exemptions, and laws about closed shops, prevailing wages, good-faith bargaining, etc.
  • Employees enjoy restrictions on employers regarding wages, hours, hiring, and firing.
  • Teachers, nurses, firemen, police, prison guards, and many other government workers receive excessive disability and retirement benefits in exchange for their bloc voting.
  • Doctors, lawyers, many engineers and other "professionals" enjoy competition limits via occupational licensure.
This list of rent-seekers is just a start — you could add to it using almost any item from this list of agencies and laws to abolish. Of course, many people are both victims and beneficiaries of various kinds of rent-seeking and force-initiation. My judgment is that the net tangible benefits of all this force initiation generally flow 1) from the more-productive to the less-productive (whether poor or wealthy), 2) from competitive sectors to monopoly-ridden sectors, and 3) from the young to the old. The flow of opportunity costs is much harder to evaluate, and eliminating all this aggression would be massively positive-sum, so even people who might appear to be net beneficiaries of rent-seeking shouldn't be assumed to be worse off it were all gone.

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