Government Subsidized Baseball Players?

June 4, 2014 12:43PM

If you watched baseball this past week, you witnessed some of the wealthiest people in the world getting paid to play a game. Some critics might say that it is a waste of money to pay these men such exorbitant salaries. Yet, fans might counter with the argument that this is the free market at work. Unfortunately, the game is not entirely a free market utopia. The market for baseball—and professional sports in general—has been distorted by stadium subsidies. Cobb County, a suburb of Atlanta, is considering giving the Braves a massive handout of $368 million for their new ballpark set to open in 2017. This year, the Braves will spend over $107 million just on player salaries. It’s certainly not out of need that this handout is coming their way. If Cobb County chooses not to give the Braves a subsidy, one of three things will happen: the Braves would build a stadium that cost substantially less than $672 million; they would sign a new lease for their current (and not even 20-year-old) home, Turner Field; or the least likely, the Braves would build a $672 million stadium and cut player salaries. If the Braves did the latter they would have a harder time competing with other teams that get government subsidies. Governments sell these subsidies to voters by claiming that the “investment” will create millions in tax revenue and economic activity. Claims of economic impact are dubious at best. Why should the government be using tax dollars to back private enterprises anyway? Local governments don’t realize that in the process of subsidizing professional sports venues, they are indirectly subsidizing player salaries on the backs of taxpayers, regardless of whether those taxpayers even watch the sport. When wealthy sports owners get stadium subsidies, they save tons of money, which in turn allows them to pay their players more than their true value. In effect, the government is taking money from someone making $12 an hour and giving it someone who makes millions of dollars a year. This is just another example of government meddling in the private markets, creating benefits for the well connected at the expense of the middle class. – J.R. Walker III Enjoy the Beacon blog? Help us keep it going with a tax-deductible gift.