Socialism and the National Football League

I love football, particularly pro ball. I try and love college football just as much, but can’t for some reason. But the NFL? No question about it. What’s very interesting is that the NFL has a lesson to teach us about economics. In particular, about how socialism will fail every time. In the NFL, owners of the various franchises have gotten together to make rules in the name of what’s called “parity”. Parity is, essentially, an effort to equalize the outcome to some degree. Usually, it doesn’t work. Parity would mean that you would have dynasty teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Dallas Cowboys of the 1970’s, or the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980’s, or the Cowboys of the 1990’s. What did parity bring us? The New England Patriots of the 2000’s.

One of the efforts to bring about parity was the salary cap. Teams could only spend so much money on players total, which meant that to get a superstar at a high dollar amount, they would have to cut salaries or cut players. Remember that in the NFL, money doesn’t equal wealth. Talent does. The idea was to make the talent equal, or as President Obama put it, “to spread the wealth around.”

The result was that you still had dominant teams. Some teams were better at working the salary cap. Others had a better idea of who to take a group of b-list talent and make them into an a-list team. They made more of what they could do because it was their nature to do so. Parity was, in essence, a myth that made the owners feel better about themselves.

However, something weird happened this year. Based on the contract with the player’s union, this year was a year without a salary cap. The result? Parity.

Yesterday, the last undefeated team lost. That’s the earliest it’s happened since the 1970’s. What’s more, the last undefeated team was the Kansas City Chiefs, who sucked royally last year. Many of the perennial powerhouses are suffering without the cap, while many of the teams who you can usually count on to bring up the rear of their divisions have made surprising surges. Most of the teams have a win, and most of them have a loss. In fact, a significant number are either one game above .500 or one game below .500.

Parity finally arrived in the NFL, and it didn’t arrive on the back of wealth redistribution called a salary cap, but under unbridled competition. Teams were able to compete for talent, or wealth, and the result was that mixing of wealth were everyone gets some. Competition works, no matter what some will tell you, and it can make everyone wealthy.

Now, some will argue that this is a far from perfect comparison. Frankly, I’ll be the first to admit it. However, it is more evidence to go along with the collapse of most communist countries that believed is spreading the wealth around. What’s more, the NFL is a private organization that actually does have the right to do what it wants since owners are part of the process and teams are actually franchises of the NFL brand. It’s still interesting to see how it works and to see that all their efforts at parity seemed to have failed while the one year of unbridled competition that was supposed to produce dominant teams just hasn’t worked the way they feared.

But maybe it only amuses me.


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