vested interest

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Popularized in sociology by Thorstein Veblen, The Vested Interests and the Common Man (1919).


vested interest (plural vested interests)

  1. (law) An indefeasible right or title, distinguished from a contingent interest, which could be defeated (i.e. cease) if a certain event occurred.
    • 1940, Thomas Wolfe, chapter 46, in You Can't Go Home Again, OCLC 964311:
      I saw them enjoying a special privilege which had been theirs so long that it had become a vested interest: they seemed to think it was a law ordained of nature that they should be forever life's favorite sons.
  2. A fixed right granted to an employee, especially under a pension plan.
  3. A stake, often financial, in a particular outcome.
  4. (in the plural) A group of people or organizations with such a stake, especially those that seek to control an existing system or activity from which they derive benefit.
    • 1920 [1919], Thorstein Veblen, The Vested Interests and the Common Man, New York: B. W. Huebsch, page 78:
      Today, under compulsion of patriotic devotion, fear, shame and bitter need, and under the unprecedentedly shrewd surveillance of public officers bent on maximum production, the great essential industries controlled by the vested interests may, one with another, be considered to approach—perhaps even conceivably to exceed—a fifty-percent efficiency; []
    • 1929, Alexander Berkman, chapter 8, in Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism, New York: Vanguard Press, OCLC 83572649:
      But it was not a question of evidence, of guilt or innocence. Tom Mooney was bitterly hated by the vested interests of San Francisco. He had to be gotten out of the way.
    • 1957 [1944], Karl Polanyi, chapter 6, in The Great Transformation, page 70:
      On this point there was no difference between mercantilists and feudalists, between crowned planners and vested interests, between centralizing bureaucrats and conservative particularists.
    • 2019, Danny Burns; Cordula Reimann, “Movement Building”, in Extinction Rebellion, editor, This Is Not A Drill, London: Penguin, →ISBN:
      It should now be obvious to everyone that vested interests only change when they are forced to do so.
  5. An exceptionally strong interest in protecting or promoting something to one's own advantage.
    Synonym: dog in the hunt
    • 2004, Donella Meadows; Jorgen Randers; Dennis Meadows, “Transitions to a Sustainable System”, in Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, →ISBN:
      Pervasive changes unfold spontaneously from new system structures. No one need engage in sacrifice or coercion, except, perhaps, to prevent people with vested interests from ignoring, distorting, or restricting relevant information.
    • 2005, Tony Judt, “The Social Democratic Movement”, in Postwar: A history of Europe since 1945, London: Vintage Books, published 2010, →ISBN:
      Even the creation of a self-interested class of welfare bureaucrats and white-collar beneficiaries was not without its virtues: like the farmers, the much-maligned ‘lower middle class’ now had a vested interest in the institutions and values of the democratic state.
    • 2007 October 24, Patrick Wintour, quoting John Yates, “Honours investigator calls for change in law”, in The Guardian[1]:
      Mr Yates conceded: "These cases are very difficult to prove because they are bargains made in secret. Both parties have an absolute vested interest in those secrets [not] coming out.


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