Football is a Socialist Game

The NFL Draft attempts to create a level playing field.

Conservatives often try to write off a socioeconomic “level playing field” as idealistic or economically unsound.

This is, of course, untrue. Study after study shows that wealth inequality can actually hinder economic growth, as a poor blue collar consumer base can lead to a weaker economy as a whole.

But what economic conservatives often forget is that the importance of a level playing field for all can be seen in action with America’s most popular sport: football.

The NFL Draft

Although we can easily make the case that football is the epitome of capitalism and tribalism, one element of football— the NFL draft — points to the sheer obviousness of a level playing field in economics.

Every year, the NFL Draft is biased towards the teams with the most losses. The worst-performing teams are given the top picks in the draft, whereas the best-performing teams are given the lowest picks. In 2017, the #1 pick will go to the Cleveland Browns (who went 1–15 last season) and the #32 pick will go to the Pats (who went 14–2 and won the Super Bowl).

But here’s the thing: never will you hear a football diehard exclaim,

¨Creating a level playing field by helping out the weak teams is unfair to the strong teams!¨
¨The NFL shouldn’t give free handouts to the Browns! They should pick themselves up by their own bootstraps!¨
¨The Browns should have just worked harder — it’s their own fault!¨

Nobody says that because it’s simply not true. No matter how hard the Browns had tried, they had a zero percent chance of making the playoffs. They were simply not blessed with the better players (read: economic resources) that the Patriots had.

If the NFL Draft weren’t biased towards the worst performing teams, there would be no “social mobility” in the NFL, and the Browns would never have a shot at making the playoffs — ever.

And the thing is, conservatives would agree with this. But when it comes to economics, they flip the script entirely.

In Economics

Like in the NFL, we must bias our resources towards those with the least economically. This is a concept known as equity — helping out those who need it the most to ensure equal opportunity for all.

Equity is what makes football a fair game. We love football because we know that each team has a fighting chance to win, at least in the long run. We know that biasing resources in favor of the Browns and giving the Pats the last pick is fair, equitable, and just.

The same is true in economics. If the poor are given the same opportunities — the same resources —as the rich, they will inherently have a greater chance of socioeconomic success. This is shown statistically with the graphic below, generated by the OECD: as wealth inequality grows (the x-axis), social mobility shrinks (the y-axis).

The higher the Gini Coefficient, the lower the Social Mobility.

In layman’s terms, when money is distributed unequally, it’s significantly more difficult for the poor to ascend the economic ladder. This is why the United States has much worse social mobility than Denmark: it’s not that the American poor are somehow lazier than the Danish poor; they simply aren’t given the same economic opportunities. Lack of resources (not lack of work ethic) leads to social immobility.

Therefore, we need to bias resources in favor of the poor in the same way that the NFL biases the draft in favor of the Browns. On the flip side, if we refuse to give certain economic advantages to the poor — increased welfare, universal health care, living wages, affordable access to high quality education — and implement a “flat tax,” we will create a cycle of indefinite “winning seasons” for the rich and “losing seasons” for the poor.

Instead, we should look towards the Nordic Model of social democracy. By allocating resources to those who need it most and biasing aid towards the poor with a “welfare state,” we inch closer and closer to equality of opportunity. We reach a fairer game.

And there are perfectly reasonable political ways to do that. For instance, we can

  • Increase taxes on the wealthy; decrease taxes for the poor and middle class
  • Implement a Single Payer health care system
  • Make college affordable for all with tuition-free public college education
  • Make the minimum wage a living wage and tie it to inflation
  • Make housing, food, clothing, and other human rights affordable for the poor
  • Create living wage jobs in infrastructure and green energy
  • Build economic power and mental health resources — not jails — for low income communities

Like the NFL, we must bias our resource allocation in favor of the poor. Only then can we achieve a truly fair game.