Monday, October 29, 2007

Taxpayer-financed sports riots?

The case for taxpayer-financed support for the construction of professional sports stadiums is made along the lines that the presence of these stadiums creates economic benefits for the community at large. Never mind that such "economic benefits" comes at the price of denying wealth's producers with the benefits of their hard work—that kind of thinking is typically just so much noise when it comes to government-subsidized stadiums.

Yet there's another aspect to this debacle that is worth noting. When the teams that play in these stadiums actually win their big games, their fans rain outright destruction upon the population. Take for example the all too typical reports on Major League Baseball's World Series "celebrations" in Boston.

Police in riot gear cleared several large crowds gathered around Fenway Park early Monday after the Red Sox won their second World Series title in four years.

Police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said 37 arrests were made in the city, mostly for disorderly conduct. No serious injuries were reported.

An unruly crowd flipped a pickup truck to its side near Fenway Park and at least one car fire was reported. Young people sprayed each other with beer and some climbed street signs or utility poles. [Source: AP]
Let's get this right: the home teams win, so let's set a car on fire and mill about like a deranged alcohol-soaked mob. I'm sorry, but this creates about as much economic benefit as smashing a window. And worse, this is a broken window that is shattered because government theft makes it possible to do so. Rome had its bread and circuses to keep its citizens' minds off their troubles, and it seems so do we.


Anonymous said...

"The case for taxpayer-financed support for the construction of professional sports stadiums is made along the lines that the presence of these stadiums creates economic benefits for the community at large."

The economic ignorance of the people who make these arguments is staggering. Haven't they ever read Bastiat and his explanation of the seen and the unseen. Fine, you confiscate a couple hundred million dollars to build a stadium. But that's money taken from other people who would have spent it on productive pursuits of their choosing. All that is going on is the redistribution of wealth. The American public is in essence subsidizing *Billionaire* sports teams owners. Its corporate welfare plain and simple all done in the name of altruism.

Now of course the essential argument against such stadiums is that the confiscation of wealth is immoral because it violates the rights of individuals. But the corporate welfare and "bread and circuses" aspects make the socialized sports phenomenon repulsive.

John Kim

Rob Reynolds said...

I agree with you that it is wrong to use so-called "public" funds to build ballparks and stadia. I also agree that it is inexcusably wrong to riot in reaction to sporting event outcomes. I do however take issue with the contempt you seem to hold for professional sports per se, by referring to them as "bread and circuses" designed to "keep citizens' mind's [sic] off their troubles."

While it is true that sports offer people entertainment, they also offer something more. I quote Thomas Bowden, from an October 26, 2001 article published in the Allentown Morning Call:

"The essential value of spectator sports lies in their capacity to illustrate, in a dramatic way, the process of human goal-achievement. They do this by making the process shorter, simpler, and more visually exciting than it is in daily life--and by giving us heroes to admire."

I agree with Mr. Bowden; sports offer us the opportunity to celebrate goal-directed action in a very straightforward way, (usually) without all the politics and complication connected to other facets of life.

So while you are proper to indict the confiscation of wealth and destruction of property, I argue that you are missing the value of professional sports if you view them as merely "bread and circuses" to distract the masses.

Nicholas Provenzo said...

I agree with Thomas Bowden's representation of the value of sports. Nevertheless, the negative impact of the mixed economy in sports cannot be negated. Sports do become "bread and circuses" when funds coerced from taxpayers are used to support them.

In the subdivision where I live, the local public high school has what only can be described as a state of the art athletic facility. This facility is for the exclusive use of public school students and is paid for by the sundry taxes levied upon the larger population. I am at an utter loss to understand why I have to pay for this facility. Leave aside whether the public schools themselves are just or unjust. Why are the athletic pursuits of public high school students allowed to rise to the level of a moral claim on the taxpayer's pocketbook?

My view is seeing an individual or a team perform incredible feats of athletic prowess is diminished when that achievement comes at the price of organized theft.

Grant said...

Fenway park was built in 1912. It was co-owned at the time by the publisher of the Boston Globe, a big league manager, and a New York real estate tycoon.

Hold off until February before you make this criticism again. The chances of the Super Bowl being won by a town with unruly fans AND a publicly funded stadium is much greater.

Jacob Zeise said...

A few years back there was a referendum in Green Bay (my hometown) to levy an additional .5% sales tax to pay for renovations on Lambeau field. Sadly, it passed by a narrow margin. This "temporary" measure will never go away - and we didn't even get real cheerleaders. I am a Packer fan, but this aspect of the team repulses me. The next time somebody says that the Packer franchise is great because the people of Green Bay own it, tell them that it is actually the other way around.