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Surveys reveal that the majority of Americans believe government is run for special interest, not public interest. The increased power of lobbyists in Washington and the excesses of campaign contributions and other favours seem to indicate a government corrupted by big private-interest groups. This gives only a partial understanding of why private interests are paying. The book argues that payments to politicians are often made not for political favour, but to avoid political disfavour as part of a system of ""rent extraction"". Politicians can legally extort from private parties payments to not expropriate private wealth. In this sense it is money for nothing, money paid in exchange for a politician's inaction. The author tests this model of wealth extraction with many examples and shows how it applies more generally to regulation.