After reading Michael Hudson's essay, "Veblen’s Institutionalist Elaboration of Rent Theory," one can't help seeing rampant rentier mentality as a symptom, not the original cause.
Component momentum in a system comes as no surprise at all within biology or system theory, or even psychology or anthropology.
From other system perspectives, runaway rent-seeking habits are one specific that falls under the more general heading of institutional momentum. Other names are phenotypic persistence, principal of prior plausibility, etc, etc ... or just random habits unrestrained.
The deeper issue is why the group momentum of such habits isn't recognized, diverted & shaped to other purposes sooner. That comes down to failure at group-wide, situational awareness, followed by failure to automatically trigger appropriate checks & balances in a complex system - a topic well discussed by the framers of our Constitution.
In small tribes, daily or weekly group-wide council discussions address this group awareness requirement. However, given our population size, no current media process parses all our distributed observations fast enough.
That leaves one pondering how far off track we really are, and what the recovery steps are.
Just when we need to be distributing enough resources & time to continually improve the quality of our distributed decision-making abilities ... we've instead gone off the rails. Our policy decision-making habits are already so concentrated that our population-wide, self-regulation gap may be widening beyond control. Worse, our distributed situational awareness may have lost ability to reconnect. Is the probability of recovery already insignificant? How would we know? Can that gap be estimated quantitatively?
(And arranging terrorist events just isn't an adequate rallying cry anymore. Black Ops thinking just won't cut it as a continuous mobilization strategy.)
Rampant rent seeking is a symptom of distributed disconnects, & failure to evolve checks & balances as fast as our options are expanding. As a nation, culture or system, we're distracted, and it no longer matters what the distractions are. The core problem is that we can't parse our options fast enough to optimize how we explore them. The result is random policy drift by elites reconstituting Central Planning by any other name.
We need indirection, and the communication throughput to capitalize on best options that some will inevitably stumble upon before all will. It's no longer a question of if HP needs to know that HP knows. Rather, we need to know how quickly HP needs to know what HP knows. There's no other way to drive continuous improvements in group agility.
How WOULD we drive continuous improvement in group agility? Group practice? When was the last time YOU acted like an owner of your democracy?
Every day, there are always many things we should start doing differently. Yet if we don't actually start, it just won't matter what we would'a, could'a, should'a done.