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14-09-2018 | Issue 1-2/2019

Public Choice 1-2/2019

Uncontestable favoritism

Journal:
Public Choice > Issue 1-2/2019
Author:
Matthew D. Mitchell

Abstract

One might obtain special favor or avoid disfavor by winning a competitive contest, a socially wasteful process that has been studied extensively in the rent-seeking literature. But favor or disfavor might also be uncontestable. In that case it will be efficient along some dimensions but grossly inequitable. The rent-seeking literature, in focusing on contest success functions, has tended to ignore the institutional roots of uncontestable rent-creation and rent-extraction. But casual observation suggests that institutional rules and cultural norms often ensure that favor and disfavor cannot be easily contested. Understanding that observation helps to resolve the Tullock paradox and explains the evolutionary persistence of inequitable social arrangements. It also illuminates economic and philosophical tradeoffs.

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