A Tiresome Liberal Fallacy
I am worn out by a way of reasoning that some liberals cannot seem to avoid. A week or so ago, there was an article in the Columbus Dispatch concerning the fact that the Ohio State University Athletic Department is bringing in over a hundred million dollars a year. This was claimed to be a terrible misallocation of our financial resources given how much poverty, homelessness, etc. there is. Let's suppose that the Ohio State Athletic Department were to shut down in 2008 and therefore would sell no tickets to games, accept no donations, and sell no clothing or other things that contain OSU logos. How much of the something like $107,000,000 saved by Buckeye fans do you think would be given to charities that help out the poor and homeless people in Ohio and elsewhere. I suggest that very little of this money would find its way to a hungry or homeless person.
My first encounter with this sort of fuzzy headed liberal thinking (I am a liberal but try not to be fuzzy headed) was in connection with military spending. The idea was that if we reduced military spending, our government would be able to help those in poverty who needed it. Not surprisingly, this sort of reasoning can be found today. One J.R. Mooneyham writes
The less money nations spend on their militaries [sic] and intelligence and security measures, the more they have for education, medicine, and other social needs-- or alternatively, the lower the tax burden on average citizens can be; thus is nourished greater peace and prosperity for a people, while making war is discouraged.The part of this passage that interests me (the rest is incoherent) is the bit that occurs before the dashes where we have the argument in pristine form -- the less we spend on the military the more we have for social purposes. This is certainly true but the moment we cut back on military expenditures conservatives will instantly call for tax reductions.
If the country elects a liberal Democratic President and a Democratic Congress then there is a chance that money spent on the Iraq War may be diverted to help with social measures. However, that would take better judgment by the public than it has shown in the last two elections.
Ironically, money contributed by the public to the OSU Athletic Department and tax money that supports the military serves social ends. Ohio State's Athletic Department supports 20 women's sports teams. That, in itself, is a worthy consequence of the public's buying tickets to Ohio State's football and basketball games. Another is that it brings children of families that cannot afford to support their children's college educations to campuses. In many cases the kids aren't all that interested in school, as opposed to playing their sports, but any learning that does go on is a good thing for the society. One valuable aspect of university sports programs is that they are meritocracies -- it is how well you play, not how much money your family has or what your race or ethnicity is, that determines whether or not you can participate in sports.
The military is another meritocracy. We should not be spending a cent on the Iraq war but money spent on the military in general does lead to minorities, including women, getting opportunities for meaningful careers that they otherwise might not have given the level of prejudice against minorities we have in the private sector. Moreover, a great deal of our military spending on equipment goes to American businesses (I would assume) which hire American workers. I haven't "fact-checked" this last claim but if it is not true, we would be at the mercy of other countries who might decide not to make us any more weapons. The French disapprove of the Iraq War (as do I) and might decide to stop selling us any more Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft were we to be using that airplane. That would put the Bush administration in a mell of a hess.