One of the great privileges of blogging is being able to share wisdom from other sources. Colin Cowherd is my favorite sports commentator, for his insight and ability to connect sports to more important issues. Listening to his cast on the Fox Sports app on my iPad, I was impressed with how he segued from explaining why the knee injury to Zion Williamson is good for him to why our country is the greatest. Zion plays basketball at Duke University, one of the highest profile college B-ball programs, and is considered a “generational” player, which means he is damn good. I consulted some lists of top male college basketball players, and all of the top ones were from years ago, when they played more than one season before turning pro. But this isn’t going to be primarily about Zion.
Anyway, Zion apparently injured his knee when his Nike shoe came apart while he was running, thus ending his season. How could Colin say this was good for him, good for the fans, and for NBA basketball? Before I get to that, there is a fascinating context to his contention. He said that years ago when he was in Mexico, he met a Saudi Arabian who had emigrated to the United States, and set up a plastic surgery practice in Beverly Hills. This surgeon was world class, lived in 7 or 8 other countries before settling here, could have set up his practice anywhere in the world, in theory, but chose our country. Why? He told Colin that for people like him, who are extremely good at their profession, the United States is by far the best place in the world, because there are no artificial barriers to becoming as successful as your competency allows. He had traveled the world, and was kind of a student of opportunity and barriers to opportunity. Here there are no institutional, political, or religious bodies or regulations which restrict a person’s mobility or ability to enjoy the fruits of their labor, nor corrupt officials who have to be bribed as a matter of course in doing business. While there are always pockets of corruption anywhere, here it is the exception rather than the rule. This is why so many world class professionals–especially in sports and entertainment–who could live anywhere, move here.Am I saying we are perfect, or that there is no injustice here, or that nothing stops anyone who strives for material success? No, we are far from perfect, there is plenty of injustice between individuals or within some organizations, and there’s lots of things that make material success difficult. Still, we are the Mecca of the world for achievers and freedom. Why? What we have is the rule of law, that makes true, virtuous capitalism possible. Capitalism can be virtuous. You might say that inequality under capitalism is proof that it is not virtuous, but inequality of material blessings will always exist, always has, everywhere that inequality of intelligence and ability exists, which is everywhere, at all times. Some people are born into better circumstances than others, and those born into more difficult circumstances will find the going harder. So what? Who declared that everyone must have equality of circumstances and outcomes? Some idiots I guess, but no one with real sense. Inequality is greatest under Communism.
Zion will benefit financially if he leaves college for the NBA, and will also benefit from striking a massive shoe endorsement deal from some company. He was wearing a Nike signature shoe when it imploded and he injured his knee. Nike competitors like Adidas and Underarmor will try to sign him, but Nike MUST sign him, even as their competitors bid up the price. Zion will get a much better deal now than before his shoe broke down, because Nike needs to show that was a fluke.
I want to close by clarifying my main point, that capitalism can be virtuous under the rule of law, and therefore it is more virtuous here than most other places. When I think of other countries where I might want to live, given the scenery, weather, friendliness of the people, Mexico and Italy come to mind. Both are sort of capitalist and sort of democracies. I say “sort of”, because though they have a structure of laws and justice, corruption reigns. In the United States, if you want to start a business, the legal procedures for acquiring land or buildings, hiring and firing employees, obtaining permits or professional licenses, copyright and patent protection, contract enforcement and the other niceties and necessities of business are written and generally honestly enforced. In the two countries I mentioned and many more, if not most, corruption and bribery is the norm. Business people have to run a gauntlet of corrupt government officials, criminal organizations and dishonest unions to bribe for everything I previously mentioned as necessary for business. That’s what I mean by artificial barriers. Laws that are not suitably enforced, or replaced by coercion, are not laws at all.
While the United States attracts superstar professionals, we also seem to nurture superstar complainers and victims. Therefore, some will read my blog and will see only the things that are wrong here, as if perfection is the alternative. No you idiots, real oppression is the alternative.