Is High School Football a Public Good?
By Jim Fedako
Posted on 12/21/2006
Jim Fedako, a former professional cyclist who lives in Lewis Center, OH, is a member of the Olentangy Local School District and maintains a blog.
The problem with the concept of public goods is that it misdirects the debate. In modern society, every action I take has a perceived positive or a perceived negative external effect on other members of society, and most of the time there are perceived positive and negative external effects occurring simultaneously. When I mow my lawn, one neighbor perceives the noise as a negative — reducing calm and tranquility — while another neighbor perceives my well-kept lawn as a benefit — invoking calm and tranquility.
I use the qualifier “perceive” because the whole public goods argument for coerced funding of football teams is based on the perception of the observer. The parents of the football player, the player himself, as well as local high school football fans, perceive the team and games as a positive for the community. Some say that it benefits the kids, while others say it strengthens the community. Both views see tax-funded sports, football in particular, as a winner for the community.
Yet the parent struggling to make ends meet each month, the retiree living on an inflation-robbed pension, the lover of freedom, etc., see their ever-increasing tax bill as a negative. For the parent, a child’s dental appointment goes wanting for the sake of the football team; for the retiree, the higher tax bill comes at the cost of a colder house in the winter; for lovers of freedom, additional money lifted from their wallets is another slap in the face by collectivists.
This is (imho) an excellent indictment of “public skools” and their “teams”.
When everyone is forced by threat of violence, and that’s what taxes are, people have to scrimp on things they would rather do. The fact that they get the short end of the stick doesn’t make it any less painful. Like Basat’s “broken glass” fallacy, where everyone can see the beneficial economic activity in repairing a broken window, few if any see the thing that were precluded.
High School Football also creates a peer pressure. Don’t dare gripe about having to pay for it because those who want it will dump on you.
The essence of a free marketplace is that two people can make an exchange because they each perceive that they are better off after the exchange.
In the example of High School Football, where I am forced to exchange my money for the “benefit” of the team, is of little comfort if I don’t have enough food for my children to eat. It doesn’t matter if it is pennies. Let the High School Football team “tin cup” around the community and beg for funds. The alternative is there are armed thugs (the tax collectors, as bad as in the movie Robin Hood) will rob you a gun point for them. Suppose that the High School Football tax is what I need to send my child to art class, pay my magazine subscription, or contribute to my favorite charity. It really does NOT matter what I choose to do with what I would pay in the High School Football tax, it’s MY choice. Not yours!
Here in NuJerzee, we are driving people out of the state with socialism and its taxes. I’m sure that when I become a senior citizen I’ll be leaving as well. And it won’t be the weather that drives me away, it’ll will be socialism, its taxes, and its rules.