FREE WILL GETS A CHANCE TO PLAY BALL

by Ben Kleinman

In America, we expect a lot from our government. After all, the government's tripartite essence is to be for the people, by the people, and of the people and we assume that 'the people' refers to us. We're very right to expect something from the government, but how much is too much? And what does any of this have to do with baseball?

America is not truly a free market economy. As I have learned from my computer science classes (and a brief encounter with reality) very little is pure anything. Were we living in an absolutely free market, there would be no laws, no regulations, no protections, and no taxes. The only warning labels products would bear would be those that manufacturers discovered the market demanded. All decisions would be based on profit and loss (or unrealized profit for the optimists out there). Such a system would eventually deteriorate (according to one theory or another) into a plutocracy of businesses, a board of directors for the United States that decided what would and what wouldn't be available (I know I've just used the subjunctive -- cool, huh). Someone somewhere considered this a bad thing, so our government has taken action to prevent it from occurring. Hence, business is regulated.

Freedom is not absolute in America. Well, it's only absolute in the same manner that you can do anything you're physically able to do, just as you can anywhere at all. But for a high percentage of those activities (look ma, a statistic. Kind of.) you'll find yourself with the freedom to move around an 8 by 10 cell in prison if you attempt them. So we are regulated by our government just as businesses are.

So where does the government get off on regulating us? After all, as Tulane Students are fond of saying to TUPD officers after getting the boot, our money pays for their existence. The answer is that our freedom comes with a responsibility. Any abuse of your freedom to impinge upon someone's else's liberty can result in the revocation of your freedom. It's my favorite 'put your fist anywhere you want -- except my face' adage. Once you realize that the government is the embodiment of the will of the people it makes more sense. Laws are nothing more than us regulating ourselves.

They (Who? The Cars.) says it's easy if you do it right. Have we done it right? Government should regulate the behavior of individuals and businesses. Businesses are or can become too powerful to be subject to the will of an individual. Only by acting in concert can the small person get the attention of corporate America, and citizens acting in concert is government. Individuals are subject to government regulation because the lack of such regulation would result in the destruction of the populace amidst the chaos and, dare I say, debauchery of anarchy.

So if some regulation is necessary, why isn't everything regulated? Before succumbing to the domino fallacy, allow me to make a point. Other people (read as 'the government') only care about themselves. The only interest our government has in regulating your behavior is in stopping you from hurting me or someone like me (God fearing citizen that I am). If you want to hurt yourself, feel free. It's none of my business and none of the government's business as to how you live your own life. Just leave me alone. Having made my point (I hope) it should now be fairly obvious to anyone with the aptitude required to gain entry into this fine university that what I do is my own business as long as it doesn't affect you. And what I do to myself should not be subject to government regulation. I do have free will.

I shall segue into baseball. In headlines bigger than any used since OJ was arrested, newspapers around the country proclaimed the end of the baseball strike. This article is not about the damage the strike did to the game or an explanation of how baseball is a metaphor for human life. Rather, I'm going to use the actions of the owners as an example of how we can become too dependent on regulation and less reliant on self.

Many people have castigated the players for being greedy vultures preying on the remains of a middle-class wallet already ravaged by the beasts of government taxes and corporate salary freezes. As much as that analogy appeals to me, literary brilliance does not the truth make. The fact of the matter is that owners thought baseball players were taking home too much of the owner's profits and the players thought otherwise. In the ensuing disagreement, the players decided that as a sign of their determination they wouldn't fulfill the duties of their old contract until the owners had agreed to a suitable future contract. Now, in baseball this is fairly old hat. Players strike against owners and owners lock-out ball players. (literally. The owners lock the real doors and pocket the real keys and prevent baseball players from taking the field. It's happened.).

What owners proposed was a salary cap. They wanted it written into the contract that no baseball player could make more than a certain amount of money.

I am opposed to a salary cap for any job. The concept of caps is repugnant because it is just utterly and totally out of whack with any system even vaguely reminiscent of a free market. What happened to market forces, supply and demand, and all the economic verbiage that gets thrown out when the price of a box of cereal in increased to $4.50?

These owners managed to amass the huge sums of capital required to purchase and run a baseball team (MLB just expanded and the entry fee was a cool $150,000,000. That's even more than tuition.) but they are unable to exercise the will power required to say 'no.' Personally, I don't want artificial restrictions and regulations placed on my salary. The employer keeps a reasonable amount, I keep a reasonable amount. If either one of us is unhappy, we talk and the end result is either a cut in pay, a raise, a firing, or a quitting. The concepts power is in it's simplicity. But owners wanted to change the rules. They lost faith in themselves and their capabilities and insisted that some provision be made to prevent them from paying players more than they could afford. Such a provision already exists and it's called saying no. If you don't want to pay John Silvester 1.6 million dollars then don't.

No matter how stupid a salary cap is, if employees and employers agree to it then fine, they're entitled. This issue happened to become a national one because baseball is exempt from anti-trust laws. That means that the regulations the government has to protect us from monopolies don't apply to baseball, despite it's monopolistic appearance.

Anyway, the salary cap is currently a dead item and the strike seems to have settled. Yet the moral of the story remains true. People are exhibiting a tendency to rely more on regulation and less on themselves.

Reliance on self made America great. The government is nothing more than individuals acting as a group to defend themselves from forces that would overwhelm the rights of a single individual. When we turn to government and ask it make decisions for us we are abusing the concepts and principles upon which America is based. Similarly, any government that attempts to regulate my behavior is overstepping it's bounds. I have my rights and my freedom and the only thing the government should do is protect me from others who may abuse their rights. Anything else is un-American.


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