Das Konzept des Rent Seeking ist ein zentraler Bestandteil der Public Choice, die James Buchanan und Gordon Tullock gemeinsam entwickelt haben. Die wohl beste Definition dessen, was mit Rent Seeking gemeint ist, findet sich im Buch “The Rent Seeking Society” von Gordon Tullock:
“This brings me to my defintion of rent seeking. Instead of attempting to take, say, the total cost of a project, including all of the sales and maneuvering costs, and set that off against the total benefit, I have a more modest proposal. Clearly, that total cost is what we would like to do but cannot. My suggestion is that we use the term ‘rent seeking’ (and I always have) solely for cases in which whatever is proposed has a negative social impact.
Consider a clear-cut case. Suppose that a steel manufacturing company in difficulty (as steel manufacturing companies tend to be at the moment) has a choice between two different operations, both of which will cost the same and, according to experts, have equal prospects of success and have equal effects on its profits. The first proposal is to invest a large amount of money in getting the government to ban the import of Korean steel on the purported grounds that is environmentally dangerous. The result of this would be the rise in the price of steel, and most people in the United States will be at least slightly worse off than they were before. (I assume that the environmental charge is false).
The alternative proposal is to introduce some new machinery in its plant which will increase its efficiency enough so that it will make the same amount of additional profits. Indeed, in this case, it may acquire a little bit of semimonopoly power because its costs would be lower than that of its competitors. Clearly, the next effect on society is that the cost of steel is somewhat lower, and most people are somewhat better of. Needless to say, the steel company’s competition are not. I use ‘rent seeking’ for the first and not for the second. This is not, however, to repeat a denial that competition may have costs and that individuals investing in it may be consciously aware of the fact that they are damaging their competitors” (Tullock, Rent Seeking Society, S.9-10)