Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 211–234 | Cite as

Bootleggers, Baptists, and the risks of rent seeking

  • Patrick A. McLaughlin
  • Adam C. SmithEmail author
  • Russell S. Sobel
Original Paper


Interest groups ‘caught’ influencing public policy solely for private gain risk public backlash. These risks can be diminished, and rent seeking efforts made more successful, when moral or social arguments are employed in pushing for changes to public policy. Following Yandle’s Bootlegger and Baptist model, we postulate this risk differential should manifest itself in regulatory output with social regulations being more responsive to political influence than economic regulations. We test, and confirm, our theory using data on economic and social regulations from the new RegData project matched with data on campaign contributions and lobbying activity at the industry level.


Rent seeking Social regulation Bootleggers and Baptists 

JEL Classification

A13 H42 K20 



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mercatus CenterGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.College of Arts and SciencesJohnson and Wales UniversityCharlotteUSA
  3. 3.Baker School of BusinessThe CitadelCharlestonUSA

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