Rent seeking is the process where people or firms expend valuable resources (time, energy, or other resources) while attempting to win a competition. This is often referred to as a market failure, but many times it is actually a government failure. Some common real-world examples you see for this is when the government offers grants or projects and firms must bid for them, when scholarships are offered and students must apply, or when lawyers fight over class-action lawsuits. In these cases, economic theory predicts that too much effort will be expended to win the prize.

In this song, 10 individuals are in a contest to try to win the truck. To win it, they must keep their hands on the truck the longest. Any time a contestant removes his or her hands from the truck, he/she is removed from the competition. The last one standing wins. This is a good example of rent seeking, as these people are engaging in a non-productive activity to win a prize. While their hands are on the truck, they aren’t working or producing anything useful for society. (And these competitions sometimes last for several days!)

Discussion Questions for “If I Had This Truck”

Link to Lyrics for “If I Had This Truck”