Thomas Sowell wrote a series of columns recently seeking to deconstruct the Left’s confusion over “fairness.” Their ideal, as many have noted, seems to be a world in which everyone scores equally in the economic game of life. Disparities in wealth are, to this group, evidence of an unjust society. That creating such uniformity would ensure only an equality of misery seems never to occur to these people.
Perhaps, the world of sports and how it treats rewards might enlighten them. I recently visited Clemson where the faculty has been engaged for some years in exploring “sports economics.” They discussed one interesting point — that human athletic talent (like most attributes) obeys a general centralizing tendencies (many people perform near some mean) but that the tails of such a distribution extends far from this norm. A slight gain in ability may make all the difference in competitive sports — a little greater speed, greater balance, ability to catch an object and the host of other skills that go into the superb, as opposed to the merely good, athelete. And those differences can make a major difference in the win/loose record of teams, which translates into major differences in team profits. Thus, it is not surprising that great efforts go into finding these unique individuals and signing them up. The results? Ever more exciting games (made even more so, of course, by rules that seek to ensure that each game is “exciting” and “enjoyable”) and exploding salaries for superstars (and greater profits for the owners, too). You pay your money and you enjoys the result!
But the skills that make for a great manager or entrepreneur or recovery specialist and, the other complex tasks of the modern CEO, are also dispersed in complex ways across the population. Doesn’t it make sense to spend time also in seeking out those unique individuals and seeking to sign them up, too? Sports are important, but so is wealth creation and innovation. Paying high salaries is a low price for a more competitive, faster growing economy. Egalitarians should perhaps watch more football.