Rent-seeking is a culture in which the principal route to wealth is not creating wealth, but taking possession of or benefiting from wealth created by others.
This takes many forms. On Europe’s oldest highway, the Rhine river, the castles on rocky outcrops date from the time when bandits with aristocratic titles extracted tolls from passing traffic. In poor countries the focus of political and business life is often rent-seeking rather than wealth creation. That helps explain why some countries are rich and others poor.
Rent-seeking can be effected through rake-offs on government contracts, or the appropriation of state assets by oligarchs and the relatives of politicians.