My Secret Love Affair with Capitalism

I’ve hinted at this in an earlier post, but I’ve never made the explicit jump into economics.  Whether a particular American likes it or not, America is primarily possesses a maket-based economy.  The consumer plays a vital role in the market-based economy.  For example, in such a way as to keep a business “ethical,” the consumer has the option of not purchasing via boycott.  This will either put the “unethical” party out of business or pressure them to change their practice.  I mention these extremely basic principles to eventually point to one of my favorite topics: Major League Baseball.

Now, where I would criticize capitalism is that it is very common that once the public is aware of “unethical” behavior, say, on a corporate level, the damage has been done.  If Walmart moves into town and is doing something unethical, it is very likely that the public will not be informed of this until the small businesses have already been obliterated – if the public finds out at all.  And even if the public found out before the “damage was done,” so to speak, they may not desire to fork over the extra cash to pay for something domestic and/or from a small business when cheap imported goods are so readily available.  The same will go for the agricultural industry.  Thanks to shoving innumerable cows into inhumane stalls that are far too small for their bodies and injecting cows with hormones while feeding them God-knows-what, the impoverished family is much closer to affording beef.  There are more humane/ethical options with regard to purchasing/eating beef (though some might thing there are no grounds for consuming meat at all), but those aren’t exactly options when the steroid beef is but a small fraction of the price.  I believe there is a solution to this problem, but I’m not going to get into that now.  Instead, I will let my mention of “steroid” two sentences ago segue into my main point regarding baseball.

After the 2000 season, Alex Rodriguez, a free agent, signed to the Texas Rangers for a record $252 million 10 year contract.  Eventually he was traded to the New York Yankees and was eventually signed to the Yanks for $275 million (2008-2018).  I did the math just now, and accounting for leap years (2008, 2012, 2016) A-Rod makes $.79 a second.  Every second, awake or asleep, playing baseball or cheating on his wife (now ex-wife), etc., the man makes $.79.  “That’s despicable!” some might cry out.  But this is where my love affair with capitalism actually takes place.

You see, the consumer may find out the salaries of these athletes before they even set foot on the field.  Whatever is unethical about the salaries of athletes is already quite visible to the consumer.  The consumer can choose to boycott baseball.  I may consider it the best sport in the world, but I’m not talking about food, shelter, or clothing.  I’m talking about recreation.  Though I would consider recreation essential to living, baseball itself is not.  Who’s to say they shouldn’t be making so much?  WE pay their paychecks! As I’ve said before, we can choose to turn off the television.  We can choose not to buy their products.  It’s not as if taxes are being distributed from the federal government to these players.  We, in our greed, are in fact jealous at A-Rod makes more in a day than the average American will make in a year (in under three hours he makes more than the average person will make in a year, globally).  In this way capitalism shows, at least in baseball, that the sickness is not in the system itself, but the people in the system – even and maybe even especially the consumer – are responsible for this sickness.

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About Elijah

My name is Elijah and I am a proud Angeleño-Glaswegian. I serve as Minister of Queen's Park Govanhill Parish Church. My other interests include life in active community, writing, performing and partaking of music, collecting vinyl records, hiking/outdoors, urban exploration, Celtic FC and the Detroit Tigers.

5 responses to “My Secret Love Affair with Capitalism”

  1. Matthew Holtmeier says :

    I do my part!! I don’t watch baseball!!

    But on a serious note: Bellingham, WA has a strong ‘buy local’ movement, and bankrupted a business that took over everyone’s favorite coffee shop through a shady business deal. It was rad, and it worked. No one went to the new place, and it just didn’t make any money. Unfortunately, the old coffee shop couldn’t find the space, equipment, money, to restart their business, so they were out of luck too (until recently, when they opened up a shop at the ‘Public Market’).

    Unfortunately, widespread apathy/ideologies/desire makes this impossible on a larger level. Especially in terms of something like baseball, which is an apathy/ideology/desire producing machine.

    Imagine the great things that could be done with a ‘professional sports’ tax (I suppose income tax still affects these folks). And I’m sure some of the athletes do do great things with their money, but when it is up to the individual…

  2. Elijah says :

    Matt,

    Thanks for the boycott/buy local story. I don’t know if I would agree that there should be a professional sports tax, though I do generally support higher taxes (somewhere between proportional and progressive, but most certainly not fixed taxes) for the wealthy. It would be great if we saw more of this income going to good things, but there’s nothing compelling them to and I believe that wealth tends to desensitize the wealthy (instead of making them more empathetic).

    Still the Tigers are king: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/152975-detroit-tigers-back-auto-industry

  3. Mark says :

    Elijah-
    Thank you for this, because I’ve actually been meaning to mention something about this… how your love of the diamond goes against some of your criticism of capitalism.
    “Who’s to say they shouldn’t be making so much? WE pay their paychecks!” — This seems no different than the CEO salaries and bankers bonuses that many progressively-minded folk balk at (though I can’t say definitively that you have same view, but I would think maybe you do). Shareholders or depositors, or pensioners can all withdraw their money from Goldman-Sachs if they feel the management is making too much money, even when they themselves are losing money, right? And actually you could make some tax arguments against baseball as local and state governments quite often subsidize the building of stadiums and such to encourage owners to keep the teams in their cities, right?

    p.s. I also don’t understand the Walmart critique about consumers not knowing something until too late. Walmart’s business practice has been the same for ages…what is it that people don’t know? You’re saying that it’s not until the huge 50,000sq. ft. all-purpose store opens up and is doing great business before people realize it may affect small retailers? Or is it more specific to issues like health benefits and scheduling hours that people don’t know about? Just curious, as you know I am a fan of Walmart (the business itself…ironically, I never shop there even though it is very close by).

  4. Elijah says :

    Mark,

    First off, my love for the diamond isn’t enhanced by the greediness that has followed. I don’t think it’s right, which is why I don’t actually contribute to the viewer ratings nor buy any sports memorabilia.

    As for the 1-1 correlation between what I said about baseball and what you say about CEO salaries, I simply don’t see it.

    What I do see – which is why I brought up Walmart (which has nothing to do with Walmart itself – I could’ve said “generic gorcery store” and still got my point accross) – is that any time a baseball player gets a contract it is all over the media. I don’t see the same attention (or interest) paid to CEO bonuses outside of the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, or something like that. Also, I believe that people are ignorant much of the time with regard to things like that because human need/greed will often blind us to unethical behavior.

    My post was mainly pointing out that I am not a staunch anti-capitalist by default – I believe that capitalism is based on some brilliant principles. I want to use this example as a way for people who might be staunch anti-capitalists to open up their eyes to a world of consumerism/capitalism. Once again, it had nothing to do with Walmart, I was just using an example – and many people aren’t aware of the effects of buying non-locally simply because much of America is losing any sense of communal responsibility and any sense of agrarianism.

  5. Mark says :

    A few things I’d like to respond to:

    I totally get that your post was a “I’m not anti-capitalist” one hundred percent (which I knew already). I do absolutely see a 1-1 connection with CEO pay though. And unless you were under a rock, the outrage from the public was everywhere – local newspapers, checkout lines, my church… you couldn’t turn your head without some blog posting about it. Congress brought CEO’s in to testify, and Obama even made pay packages a huge part of bailout plans. With all respect to you maybe being caught up in going to Scotland, it was everywhere.

    It appears that maybe you are arguing from the “people need someone (gov’t) to look out for them since business will try to take advantage of them” stance. I think it’s plain from posts I’ve done that I disagree and think our system can take care of itself marginally well, and that it is usually gov’t interaction that gunks things up.

    I see also that you weren’t harping on Walmart, and while I can see the strength in local community agrarianism (here) I also imagine that the marginal benefit of mass production currently outweighs the cost, but as you said you didn’t want to get into that now, so I look forward to your future post on that later.

    And finally as an aside – going back to people being ignorant to unethical behavior – I think it is interesting that you imply their “greed” keeps them ignorant of businesses greed. So, to be devils advocate, why should we protect them? Is their sin less than the CEO’s?

    ADDED: Sorry I had to go, so this is sort of top of the head.

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