Rent Seeking; Academic Tenure and Long Run Contracts

From: D
Sent: Thursday, March 28, 2019 4:39 PM
Subject: Professional Advice…

Dear Professor,

I read your career advice to “I” and as a result was curious whether you thought that the tenure system was a form of rent seeking. I don’t have a firm opinion either way and am only wondering if you had thought about it.

Respectfully, D

Dear D:

I reject the notion of rent seeking. I think that tenure, a long run contract, is valid; that is, compatible with libertarianism.

As to whether or not it is wise to grant tenure to professors, this is an empirical question. Benefits: more freedom for professors; they are less likely to depart from the tenure granting institution. Costs: dead wood. It is more difficult to fire tenured professors who are no longer pulling their weight. Is it wise to offer a professional athlete a long run, 10 year contract? On the one hand, you tie him up to your team for a decade; if he continues to be excellent, that’s good for your team. On the other hand, if he gets injured, or his skills decrease, the team has made an entrepreneurial mistake. Ditto for tenure of professors.

On rent seeking:

Block, 2000A, 200B, 2002, 2015; Block and DiLorenzo, 2017

Block, Walter E. 2000A.  “Watch Your Language,” February 21;;

Block, Walter. 2000B. “Word Watch,” April 20;; accessed on


Block, Walter E. 2002. “All Government is Excessive: A Rejoinder to ‘In Defense of Excessive Government’ by Dwight Lee,” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 35-82.; rent seeking, market failure

Block, Walter E.  2015. “The rent seeker.” Romanian Economic and Business Review, Vol. 10, No. 3, pp. 7-14, Fall;

DiLorenzo, Thomas J. and Walter E. Block. 2017. An Austro-Libertarian Critique of Public Choice; Addleton Academic Publishers;; 30-18 50th Street, Woodside, New York, 11377;; ISBN 978-1-942585-26-8, eISBN 978-1-942585-27-5; An Austro-Libertarian Critique of Public Choice

From the blurb for this book:

Among all the various schools of economic thought, the ideas of the Public Choice school have a unique relationship with Austrian economics. Both embrace a rigorous application of methodological individualism, and many great scholars in both traditions have been influenced and inspired by the works of the other. These similarities, however do not change the very real differences that exist between the two schools. In An Austro-Libertarian Critique of Public Choice, Thomas DiLorenzo and Walter Block brilliantly identify both the ways the two schools complement each other, as well as highlighting the various shortcomings that exist within the positivist Public Choice approach. The result is a book that is a must read for any scholar interested in either economic tradition.


7:14 am on July 25, 2019