When discussing something as complex as economics, it is sometimes helpful to focus on a single incident or example to help us to understand the larger picture; current plans to move a commercial sports team (Atlanta Braves) from its present, adequate facility in the city, to the suburbs, is such an example.
First off, let’s understand that such sports, and their billion-dollar stadiums, do nothing to help our economy, because they are part of the circulatory economy, which creates no wealth: instead, it just moves around whatever money exists at the time.
In a perfect, closed, circular economy, such as might have existed out in the early West in some isolated town, a farmer paid the doctor $1, which the doctor gave to the general store for food, which the store gave back to the farmer for more produce to sell. That dollar went round and round, and the economy remained level.
But when the doctor had to import drugs from a distant city, the dollars he paid left the community and impoverished it. If the physician had to borrow money from the bank in order to pay for the imports, the negative impact on the local economy was even worse. To stay solvent, or to prosper, the little town had to sell something to that city that would bring back in more dollars than it had sent out.
So, there are two major parts to any nation’s economy: the circular, internal part, and the external trade with others; at the base of each is the production of things (not services), upon which all economies ultimately depend. Our economy is tanking because we consume far more than we produce, purchasing much of what we need or want from other nations without selling them at least an equal amount of our produce.
Production of goods (e.g., wheat, coal, beef, steel, ships, tractors, computers, aircraft, etc, etc.), for export and/or domestic consumption is the foundation for any successful economy, and our “foundation” is frayed, decayed and falling apart.
Once an economy is solidly established on production of things, it can tolerate frivolous expenditures such as entertainment, spas, dog groomers, and commercial sports. Again, professional sports do nothing to build or sustain a healthy economy: in fact, they drain resources that could be used to everyone’s benefit.
The proposal to move the Atlanta Braves a few miles (to where the owners expect to increase ticket revenue) will waste an estimated billion dollars; much of which is paid out of taxes that could be used, instead, for the public good. But sports fans are fundamentally an emotional lot, frequently given to primitive, violent mob riots, and they tend to mindlessly support more and more of what has been called, “the opiate of the masses.”
There is something primeval in man, which is drawn to spectacles of combat in whatever form presented. Most competitive sports are “combat” in some form or another. One team opposes another on the field; when ours triumphs, we are superior and relish the feeling (e.g., “We’re No. 1!”).
That has almost always been so: there is significant evidence that early societies (e.g., Aztecs, and Mayans) enjoyed sports in which the losing team was actually sacrificed to some stone god; and Roman emperors well understood the power of violent sport’s spectacle to divert the population’s attention from corrupt government and impending national destruction.
Not only should the good Georgians put the kibosh on the current proposed profit-motivated relocation of a mercenary sports business, but it is, I believe, past time for the rest of us to open our eyes and minds to the reality that barbaric, professional sports are a waste of national resources that we can no longer tolerate.
Can anyone honestly support a policy that pays a gladiator millions more than a farmer that produces a crop, which not only satisfies a vital need here at home, but also brings in much-needed funds for foreign sales?
And who can justify spending borrowed billions on monumental sports arenas when that money could be better used to pay off our debts, build schools, hospitals, factories and to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure?
The answer, disappointingly, seems to be, “most of us.”
J.G. Nash lives in Marietta.