How Ayn Rand is wrecking football

Paul Ryan's beloved Packers were robbed last night -- because the owners are putting the "moochers" in their place

Topics: Football, Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, NFL,

If you want to know whom to blame for the surreal officiating fiasco that robbed Paul Ryan’s favorite football team of a win last night, the answer is Paul Ryan’s favorite political thinker.  As improbable as it sounds, Ayn Rand’s lunatic brand of Marxism turned on its head is to a significant extent responsible for Lingerie Football League castoffs refereeing America’s most popular and profitable sport (with predictably catastrophic consequences).

To understand why, it’s first necessary to understand what sort of numbers we’re talking about here.  NFL owners chose to lock out the sport’s referees because they’re trying to squeeze an extra $4,000 in revenues per game  out of their cozy little $9 billion per year cartel arrangement. Now, to a normal human being $4,000 is real money, but NFL owners are not normal human beings.

They are people like William Clay Ford, who has made two masterful investments in his life, the second of which was to buy the Detroit Lions in 1963 for $4.5 million. The Lions — one of the NFL’s least valuable franchises — are estimated to be worth $855 million today.  (Ford’s first key investment decision was to be born the grandson of Henry Ford.)

Ford is one of 18 billionaire NFL owners. It’s hard to grasp what that means, but put it this way: If a billionaire lost $4,000 in his couch cushions, it wouldn’t be worth it to him to dig around for the money.  To a billionaire, $4,000 is, in economic terms, literally nothing. It’s a rounding error on the balance sheet of one of the many people he pays to keep track of such details. It adds no “marginal utility,” as economists say, to his already grotesque plentitude.

But $4,000 per game adds up, you say. A penny saved is a penny earned. Waste not, want not.  Wrong. To a billionaire, $62,000 per year (which is what Ford and his ilk stand to lose if they get no concessions at all from the employees they’re locking out) is again literally nothing. It’s like a quarter to an ordinary person.  Would you stop to pick up a quarter lying on the sidewalk? Probably not if you were in a hurry. That’s how William Clay Ford feels about a $62,000 bill.



The thing is, this fight isn’t really about $62,000 per year.  Lots of people are denouncing the owners for being “greedy,” but we football fans would be far better off if the owners’ current behavior were being motivated primarily by greed.

First of all, if this fight were actually about the money, it would have ended long ago. Continuing the lockout is sheer idiocy from a dollars-and-cents perspective, as the owners are doing serious damage to the quality of their immensely valuable investments because of a fight over what is, for them, not even pocket change.

Second, greed has limits. “Principle,” however, does not – which brings us back to the true villain of this debacle, crazy old Ayn Rand. The guiding principle of Rand’s thought has been summed up well by Jonathan Chait:

She believed that the principle of trade governed all human relationships — that in a free market one earned money only by creating value for others. Hence, one’s value to society could be measured by his income. History largely consisted of “looters and moochers” stealing from society’s productive elements. In essence, Rand advocated an inverted Marxism. In the Marxist analysis, workers produce all value, and capitalists merely leech off their labor. Rand posited the opposite.

This, of course, is the wacky idea that has spread like an ideological infection through American political life, and that is embraced most fervently by the super-rich Lords of Capital who own baubles like NFL franchises and the contemporary Republican Party.

Ungrateful “moochers” like NFL referees – mere laborers who, unlike the captains of industry who deign to pay their wages, have failed to climb to the top of our ruthlessly meritocratic social pyramid — need to be shown their place.  Although locking the refs out and replacing them with utterly incompetent substitutes is a nonsensical decision from an economic perspective, there’s a higher principle to be vindicated here, which is that the Heroic Businessman is responsible for everything good about America, and the lesser orders had better not forget it.

That, at the deepest ideological and psychological level, is why the NFL owners are insisting on doing their best to wreck the sport, in much the same way that their political lapdogs, like the Rand-worshiping Ryan, are dedicated to wrecking the nation.

Update: Speaking of wacky ideas and the politics of free association, Ryan tried this morning to connect the fact that union-busting owners are using scab labor with Obama’s policies: ”And you know what, it reminds me of President Obama and the economy,” [Ryan] contended. “If you can’t get it right, it is time to get out. I half think these refs work part-time for the Obama administration in the Budget Office. They see the national debt clock staring them in the face. They see a debt crisis, and they just ignore and pretend it didn’t even happen. They are trying to pick the winners and losers, and they don’t even do that very well.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>