Regulatory Capture and United Nations Treaty Bodies

The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and the Law notes that identifying instances of "rent-seeking" behavior or "regulatory capture" is largely a normative enterprise: we apply the terms where we feel something has gone awry. For example, we generally do not consider responsiveness of members of Congress to their constituents to be "capture" even though the underlying economic phenomenon is the same: this instance is seen as the proper function of the regulatory body (notwithstanding the hypersensitivity known as "pork").

Thus, the term "capture" was widely used by leftists such as Ralph Nader to identify places where business interests were involved in regulation, and this remains the central linguistic case of "capture."

But imagine a regulatory body where half the members belonged to a lobbying interest completely unrelated to the original mandate of that regulatory body. Also imagine that many of these members are also professors: the very people who decide when and where to assign the label "capture." So not only is the regulatory body "captured," but the term "capture" is captured as well!

The situation I am describing is that of the major human rights treaty bodies, and the industry in question is the abortion industry. Of the eight major human rights treaties, only the recent (2006) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has any textual reference to "sexual and reproductive health" (the legislative history of even that convention specifically excludes "abortion").

But representatives of major corporate abortion providers, such as IPPF, and abortion lobbying groups, such as the Center for Reproductive Rights, have slowly infiltrated several of the treaty bodies, and now a right to abortion is being inserted, ex cathedra, in many of these treaties.

This behavior makes sense: it is rent-seeking, because groups such as IPPF stand to profit enormously where they can deregulate abortion through these treaty bodies. In fact, this goes beyond rent-seeking, because the "captured" body was never intended to regulate what it was capture for! This isn't rent-seeking: it is rent-creating.

Are there other examples of such rent-creating behavior, in the American context? An analogous situation would be where an industry unrelated to the jurisdiction of the FDA seeks to capture the FDA in order to expand jurisdiction over the industry, perhaps to preempt other regulation in the area. I can't think of any others off the top of my head, but perhaps you can.