The Petty Larceny of the Police Power

J. Gregory Sidak


In this review essay of Fred S. McChesney's book, Money for Nothing: Politicians, Rent Extraction, and Political Extortion, I use McChesney's theory of rent extraction to address the rapacious use of the police power. McChesney's central argument is that, to make accurate predictions of the actions of legislators and regulators, one must model those actors as self-interested parties who maximize their personal welfare by extracting from private citizens a protion of the wealth that those government officials forbear from expropriating altogether.

In Part I of this Essay, I discuss McChesney's theory of rent extraction, note one disagreement that I have with his analysis, and suggest possible answers to several engimas that he identifies. Part II applies McChesney's model of rent extraction to one current debate concerning the structure of government: the statutory line-item veto. Part III provides a glimpse of the potentially profound implication of McChesney's analysis for judicial review.

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