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Roid Rage

Alas, Representatives Davis and Waxman did not read my earlier post and they are actually going ahead with hearings.  Does Congress have the right to use subpoena power to force employees from professional baseball teams to testify under oath about their drug habits?  Of course they do, as the New York Times reports:

The panel’s Republican chairman, Representative Tom Davis of
Virginia, also suggested that a failure by team owners to cooperate in
the investigation by the House Government Reform Committee could
threaten the sport’s 83-year-old antitrust exemption, as well as a
variety of federal tax breaks.

"They not only enjoy antitrust
exemptions, they also enjoy a lot of tax exemptions," Davis said on
NBC’s "Meet the Press," adding that the committee would be ready to
issue contempt citations against the subpoenaed players if they failed
to show up for the hearing on Thursday, which could result in jail

Invoking the antitrust exemption is a two-fer.  First, it’s a threat.  Second, it’s a justification.  You doubt the right of Congress to force these players to testify?  But what about the antitrust exemption?  Congress helped establish baseball as we know it via the antitrust exemption.  That gives them the right to hold hearings.  I hear this argument from friends and talk-show hosts.

By this logic, the fact that the street in front of my house is paved using public funds gives government the right to look into my bank account, chat with my daughter about my parenting skills and use my house as a temporary office.  After all, the government has contributed to my prosperity.  That entitles them to…to…to what? 

I understand the argument, but it’s a lousy argument.  It’s the same argument that says that because government gives pharmaceutical companies patent protection or because taxpayers funded fundamental drug research that pharmaceutical companies use, government then has the right to tell those companies what to charge.  I see the logic.  You can certainly make an argument that pharmaceutical companies "owe" taxpayers something for contributing to their profits.  But the real questions is whether draining the profits from pharmaceutical companies via price controls makes taxpayers better off.  The real question is whether it is good for baseball or good for its fans or good for our rights as private citizens in the face of a powerful state for Congress to hold these hearings.

And don’t forget, by the same logic that baseball’s antitrust exemption gives Congress the right to fiddle with baseball, your dog owns your house.