Football and Capitalism: The Rules Make the Game
Consider this analogy: free-market capitalism is constituted by government laws in the same way that sports are constituted by their rules. When we watch football, for instance, we usually see it as a freewheeling game with exciting runs and daring passes. But in reality, football is a highly circumscribed and regulated activity. It is only made possible of a large numbers of rules and regulations that cover everything ranging from the size of the field and the ball, to the number of downs, how scoring occurs, how tackling and blocking must take place, what constitutes a legal play, and so on. And without referees to interpret and enforce these rules, football as we know it would descend into chaos. The defining nature of these rules is shown by the fact that there are different kinds of football, depending on the rules. In Canada, for instance, the field is much larger, teams have one more player, and there are only three downs. In Arena League football, the clock rarely stops, the fields and goal posts are much smaller, and substitutions are very limited. The rules make the game.
Just as rules can create different kinds of football, government laws can create different kinds of capitalism and market relations. This clearly shows how market economies are actually political constructions – with their basic institutional arrangements being developed and managed by government rules. In some European countries, for instance, the government has not granted to firms the broad property rights that corporations have in the United States. This means, among other things, that large businesses are not free to simply move facilities from one region of the country to another. Because these relocations can dramatically alter the economic fortunes of entire communities, businesses must apply to the government for permission to move. In addition, in many other Western countries, government laws give much more power to unions in their relationships with businesses – thus altering the basic nature of the labor market. In some places, for instance, unions are actually mandated by law. These kind of market relations are no more or less “natural” than those we have in the United States. There is no one natural form of market relations – just as there is no one “natural” form of football. This is simply an illusion that business interests and conservatives like to foster. Capitalism itself can take on different forms depending on the government rules that form it.
TheophileEscargot: Since the petit bourgeois whining about taxes and big government is ignored now, I doubt it would make much difference if they changed their minds and decided big government was a good thing after all.
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