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Rent seeking as an evolving process: the case of the Ancien Régime

Robert Ekelund () and Mark Thornton ()

Public Choice, 2020, vol. 182, issue 1, No 7, 139-155

Abstract: Abstract Rent-seeking behavior can thrive in democratic and other forms of government where the government is able to hand out exclusive privileges or positions. One of the most famous examples is the venal aristocratic Ancien Régime of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France. This paper presents the Revolution as guided by private interests rather than as an uprising powered by aspirations of peasants for the provision of public goods. While taxation, income distribution, and multiple other causal factors played a role, opposition to rent seeking, from merchants, tradespeople, upper-income members of the Third Estate, and others negatively affected by French policies, was the tipping point leading to the Revolution in 1789. In constructing a public choice–based theory to make this argument, we bifurcate the mercantilism that characterized the French economy into seventeenth- and eighteenth-century types.

Keywords: Rent-seeking; French mercantilism; Public choice; Revolution (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N H3 K0 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s11127-019-00674-8

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