Can the theory of rent seeking that was developed with the American sociocultural and socio-economic construct as its bases explain the nature of rent seeking behavior in Ethiopia? Part-II

By Habtamu Alebachew

Thirdly, there are also structural differences in the types and extents of victims of rent seeking/ collection in the West versus Ethiopia.

In Britain, a country of a big mass of civil society, the capitalist class paid the first painful burdens of rent seeking followed by the state, which lost a good amount of revenue from the market. However, once the capitalist class reasserted its leading position of the modern British history and made use of the vast booty from colonies, rent seeking/collection declined as a major socioeconomic problem.

In the United States, the first victims are companies, which have to compete with similar other companies that enjoy the legal backup of rent-seeking legislators followed by the government and the low-income section of American society entitled to social welfare benefits and general welfare of life.

In Ethiopia, the first and primary victim of rent seeking is the entire population for three major reasons: firstly, rent seeking arrests and counteracts against citizens’ motivations to expedite and exploit their inner potentials in the most productive ways for the benefit of all because they see unproductive people gain the rewards.

Secondly, rent seeking in Ethiopia is a matter of concern for the larger portion of the population because we are not a civil society with less dependence on government. Ethiopians still demand the supportive hands of the government for household development, which could dry up because of rent collection.

Thirdly, in its worst and extreme growth, rent collection is a naked public corruption, which actually diverts expensive resources away from the development process, where poverty still has a big backlog, and development is a new experience for Ethiopians.

This is a problem in the West but with comparatively less severity because ‘growth’ is more of government emphasis than ‘development’ while Ethiopia’s government is duty bound to insure both growth and development.

Thus, Ethiopia may have growth with rent seeking social environment at its background but can never achieve development without adequate fight against it.

In the West, no matter how serious rent seeking behavior may be, its ultimate danger comes under grassroots moral and value controls because of the prevalence of such values as ‘rugged individualism’ in the United States, ‘social welfarism’ in Europe and ‘social security’ in Japan. Their free press culture dominant through long historical evolution is a valuable asset in the bottom-up fight against rent seekers sometimes dubbed as the fourth branch of government.

In Ethiopia, anti rent seeking values and social rules have yet to develop and consolidate as the entire history of the country and the society was one of poverty, rent collection and naked public corruption.

With no need for a serious research, one can safely argue that both government and private media establishments have greatly sided consciously or unconsciously with the rent-seeking regime rather than against it.

For all these reasons, while rent seeking is either constitutional as in the case of the United States, with of course, less impact on the overall social welfare, largely historical in Britain, and, technical in other developed states, it is historical, economic, political, technical, even ideological and strategic concern and priority for Ethiopia.