If you’ve been craving a blog that combines the excitement of the sporting world with the principles that define the Austrian school of economics, then today is your lucky day. The erudite and talented writer S.M. Olivia, a columnist for Saturday Down South, an SEC football website, and contributor to LewRockwell.com and Reason Magazine, launched the blog Man, Economy, and Sport this week. Of course, if you followed us on Twitter and Facebook, you would have already been aware of this news.
Interest in the ideals of liberty and the Austrian school of economics is increasing rapidly across college campuses thanks to the Presidential campaigns of Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012. It is a brilliant move by Mr. Olivia to bring together two areas where the youth of this country are very passionate, liberty and sports. Very few, if any, have made the attempt to use free market principles to analyze the sports world. The site will be a great way to introduce others to the principles of the Austrian school and for those familiar with free market economics to expand their knowledge base when reading S.M. Olivia evaluations of modern sports.
On September 6th Mr. Olivia posted a blog titled, The Value of Labor Freedom. In the post he points out that processes in professional sports such as drafts, restricted free agency, and franchise tags treat players similar to intellectual property. The owners are able relinquish their claim on the property (players) at any time, but players are not afforded the same rights. This is an excellent point by the author and an opinion that is not shared by many in the media. The players, by agreeing to these labor agreements, are harming their chances of earning their maximum income and are driving capital away from the players, towards the owners and sponsors.
Shockingly, the author follows this scathing review of professional sports by praising the authoritarian NCAA as a bastion of labor freedom. It is probably not surprising to those who have read my previous articles that the sanction obsessed NCAA, is not an example of an organization that endorses due process or believes in the fair, ethical treatment of its members. The NCAA restricts freedom; they do not allow students to benefit from the opportunities that an infusion of liberty would create. Here is the excerpt from S.M. Olivia’s blog post:
Ironically, the one segment of the sports market that does value labor freedom is the NCAA, which forbids player salaries of any kind. A school is free to make a scholarship offer to any player it wants, and a player is free to attend any school that will have him. And if a player wants to leave a program, he’s also free to do so. Most athletes will never attain that degree of labor freedom in the professional ranks.
NCAA players are not afforded the same rights, when transferring to a different collegiate program, as head coaches, athletic directors, or administrators. The latter are granted more freedom when they exercise their right to maximize their salary, by finding a better opportunity at another school. It is true that NCAA players are allowed to leave a school, but not until one year after they sign their letter of intent. After one year, if they do decide to leave and join another Division I program, they are not allowed to participate in games for one year. In contrast, coaches can leave without notice, and participate immediately. We do not have to look very far to find an example. Todd Graham, the current head coach at Arizona State University and the former head coach at the University of Pittsburgh, left his players high and dry after being on the job for less than one year.
The author continues his defense of the NCAA:
Yet the NCAA is rarely lauded for its labor freedom. Instead it’s condemned for failing to classify athletes as “employees” and pay them traditional salaries. The athletes don’t seem to mind as much as these outside critics. Otherwise you’d see widespread athlete strikes. But college athletes understand their unsalaried NCAA service is temporary–much like a professional internship–and the labor freedom and other amenities provided by the experience are more than a fair economic exchange. The select few who rise to the professional ranks learn soon enough that they are expected to take their salaries and comply unquestionably with the bureaucratic restrictions imposed upon them.
Mr. Olivia goes on to condemn those who disagree with the NCAA’s exploitation of players. It is surprising that a believer in Austrian economics such as S.M. Olivia would not be a proponent of increased freedom in collegiate athletics. These students deserve the opportunity to earn wages based on their free market value. Not only would it be moral to pay athletes, it would also provide an excellent education in free market economics that would be much more valuable than any piece of paper they receive upon graduation.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for the contributions that S.M. Olivia has provided the liberty movement. It is exciting that he has chosen this venture that will combine two areas that I am very passionate about, sports and liberty. I look forward to reading Mr. Olivia’s free market sports blog and I also plan to share my opinions when I agree and disagree with his conclusions.