*Conservatives want less government intervention and argue that decreasing regulations will lead to a better economy because companies will be free to expand and hire people.
Professional sports offer great insight into this perspective because they are the few businesses in which the United States government does not highly regulate their actions. Major League Baseball has an official exemption from Congress to engage in cartel-like behavior; meaning they can artificially restrict trade, while the other major team sports in North America have similar allowances.
Professional sports leagues are in the unique position to be able to expand anywhere they would like and initiate the growth of their industry and create jobs unlike any other industry. McDonald’s can allow a new franchise in any location but will face the inherent competition of eating at home and the probable competition of other restaurant options. The NFL has no such worries. There are no backyard football games that are as entertaining as their product and no other professional football leagues in the United States competing for the public’s attention.
And with such an advantageous position what do sports leagues typically choose with regards to expansion; do they continue to expand into new markets? Of course not. None of the four major team sports leagues contain more than 32 franchises – less than one per state. This despite the fact that all of the leagues are worth billions. Instead, and to their credit, professional sports leagues rarely over expand. They make the business decision to expand only when they know a market will support their product.
Furthermore even when they are not expanding, strong businesses will attempt to minimize their costs with existing workers. This is the how the NFL comes to lockout officials; this is how the NBA locked out players; and this is why the NHL is currently locking out players. The problem is always containing costs even when it is other owners driving those costs higher.
The moral of the story is that when left to their own devices business men are only going to do what is most profitable for them. (This is true even when there is a great capacity for loss as is the case in professional sports leagues.) It is unrealistic to ask successful businessmen and women to ignore their profit motive and I do not advocate doing so.
Conceding this point, I believe, is the best argument for widespread regulation of business, the best argument against supply side economics, and the best argument in favor of socialism in general. Businesses are going to take care of themselves. Sometimes that will mean hiring more people and if so great, but when it doesn’t then business will and should lay people off. In either case the government should be watching ensure that no single company or group of companies grows too large so that it can paralyze an industry by minimizing costs.
Businesses (especially when there is little regulation – as shown by professional sports leagues) do a great job of looking out for number 1. Government needs to be active to look out for the rest of us.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.