Public Choice

, Volume 181, Issue 1–2, pp 167–190 | Cite as

Uncontestable favoritism

  • Matthew D. MitchellEmail author


One might obtain special favor or avoid disfavor by winning a competitive contest, a socially wasteful process that has been studied extensively in the rent-seeking literature. But favor or disfavor might also be uncontestable. In that case it will be efficient along some dimensions but grossly inequitable. The rent-seeking literature, in focusing on contest success functions, has tended to ignore the institutional roots of uncontestable rent-creation and rent-extraction. But casual observation suggests that institutional rules and cultural norms often ensure that favor and disfavor cannot be easily contested. Understanding that observation helps to resolve the Tullock paradox and explains the evolutionary persistence of inequitable social arrangements. It also illuminates economic and philosophical tradeoffs.


Rent seeking Contests Uncontestable Corruption Cronyism Crony capitalism Favoritism Privilege 

JEL Classification

D7 D72 D74 H1 



I am grateful to Arye Hillman, Roger Congleton, Randall Holcombe, William Shughart and anonymous reviewers for numerous helpful comments and suggestions. I bear full responsibility for any errors or omissions that remain.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mercatus CenterGeorge Mason UniversityArlingtonUSA

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