How the Left Is ‘Tanking’ the Citizenry

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The National Hockey League held its draft lottery on Tuesday. Teams with the worst regular season records (i.e., points) have an increased chance of obtaining the top draft picks. That is, in descending order, the unsuccessful teams receive more lottery balls than do other, more successful teams.

In the event, the New Jersey Devils “won” the top selection, while some teams leapt over lesser teams to obtain top picks, like the Chicago Blackhawks, which got the third overall pick despite having just missed the playoffs. (In full disclosure, my Detroit Red Wings finished with the fourth-worst record in the league and, nevertheless, will now draft sixth.) Such inequities in the lottery have led to continued and expanded calls to alter or abolish this system.

In other major professional sports leagues, such as the National Basketball Association, the lottery is similarly employed. By contrast, Major League Baseball and the National Football League eschew the lottery and simply have the worst teams select in the order of their futility, with the worst picking first and continuing on down (or up) to that year’s champion.

The goal of the pro sports draft is to help level out the talent among the teams. The term often used is competitive “parity.” Especially given the fact that every season only one team can be crowned champion—the ultimate zero-sum contest—the concern is quite real that a routinely untalented and, ergo, rarely competitive team will fold to the detriment of its owners and the entire league.

Yet by rewarding failure in allotting draft positions, an unforeseen new danger to the leagues occurred, one that the NHL and NBA implemented the lottery system to prevent—“tanking.”   

Tanking occurs when a front office does everything in its power to lose games so it can garner a higher draft position. This is not an illogical decision given the draft systems in all four sports. The short-term is sacrificed for the sake of the long-term health of the franchise.

Nonetheless, tanking inverts the franchise’s front office’s normally assumed goal of trying to win every game; thus cheating the team’s loyal, paying fans and impairing its players’ opportunities to perform at their best for personal and financial reasons. The draft lottery, then, was viewed as a way to reduce, if not to preclude, tanking, because it would add uncertainty to the draft process by introducing the element of chance. In sum, a team could lose the most games but still wind up without an optimal draft choice.

While it is difficult to discern whether a team deliberately “tanked,” the effect of haplessly rewarding drafts by chance is also patently unfortunate for fans. In all four sports, any given losing team has large swaths of fans who root for their team to lose, so as to obtain a higher draft pick. The only difference is, in the NHL and NBA, these fans want their teams to lose to acquire a higher possibility of obtaining top draft picks, whereas in MLB and the NFL their losing teams’ fans are rooting with certainty that in losing their team will acquire top draft positions.

Regardless of their degree of certitude, these fans are all rooting for the same thing—and it’s not victory. This leads sports purists (including the players) to decry the perverse spectacle of fans rooting for their teams to lose; and it spurs a continuing, heated debate between those fans supporting and those fans opposing tanking.

All well and good or otherwise, you say, but what does this have to do with politics?

As a compassionate people, Americans have consented to and created a social safety net. The goal of this social safety net is to help people who cannot help themselves, be it permanently or temporarily. At its best, in cases where there is no permanent disability, our social safety net provides recipients with the means and incentives to retain and further personal control over their own lives and decisions until they can rebound from their difficult times and return to the dignity of self-reliance. Unlike the seasons played by the four sports leagues, the American economy is not a zero-sum game; hence, many kinds of individual success stories are possible, indeed probable.

At its worst, however, the social safety net becomes a snare for people who should be able to be productive citizens, entrapping them in a soul-crushing cycle of governmental dependency.

For a free republic built upon self-government, governmental dependence of able-bodied people degrades and debases them by sapping their desire and capacity for autonomy. This capacity for personal autonomy is the very foundation of self-government and, because the social safety net is tantalizingly proffered as a lifetime entitlement rather than as a short-term aid, the relationship between the citizen and the state becomes inverted. As self-reliance devolves into state reliance, citizens squander their sovereignty over their no longer servant government.

So what kind of American would possibly advocate an insidious dependence upon government? Those on the Left.

Tragically, in a case of political Stockholm Syndrome, it is our fellow Americans who are dependent upon the state for ever more “free” benefits who vote for the leftist politicians who, along with their bureaucratic cohorts, perpetuate this inhumane system. But how can the Left successfully entice sovereign citizens to tramp the road to serfdom?

The Left’s message is incessant, simple and repulsive: everyone is a victim of America’s “zero-sum” economy.

Put more bluntly, everyone except the rich is an economic loser who needs government support for his pursuit of happiness. Listen to the Left sing the praise of “democratic socialism,” and the calls for a guaranteed income—essentially welfare for all. The Left needs to convince more Americans they are economic “losers” in order to obtain the power to implement their “equality of misery” agenda. Or, in other words, consider the Left’s economic message as tanking the citizenry so they can pick your pocket.

Better to root for and implement humane policies that recognize you cannot empower another by making him dependent.

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Photo credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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