In 1891, Edward Bellamy suggested that the American people should “assume through their salaried agents the conduct of industry as they have already (in this country) assumed the conduct of political affairs.” He explained:
The president, governor, and mayor do not make a profit on the business of the nation, State, or city, as employers do upon the industries which they manage. These and all other public officials receive salaries only, as agents, the business being conducted for the benefit of the people as the principals. … There is no more sense in permitting the industrial affairs of this country to be run for private profit than there would be in allowing their political affairs to be so exploited. (Quoted in Benjamin Tucker’s Instead of a Book, pp. 473-474.)
Okay, so they didn’t have the term “rent-seeking” back then. But surely they had the concept?