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Offensive Interference

Below are two letters that I sent on October 3rd to the New York Times:

Congress announced that it will hold hearings into the fact that professional football players suffer a greater-than-average number of long-lasting head injuries (“Congress to Hold Hearing on N.F.L. Head Injuries,” Oct. 3).

I don’t know what’s less surprising: the fact that muscular men who choose careers of ferociously butting heads with other muscular men are found to have lots of head injuries, or the fact that “news” of these injuries is immediately exploited by politicians as an opportunity to grandstand and threaten to extend the reach of their power.

Donald J. Boudreaux


Why will Congress hold hearings into the unsurprising fact that professional football players suffer an unusually large number of head injuries (“Congress to Hold Hearing on N.F.L. Head Injuries,” Oct. 3)?

One reason is the opportunity to grandstand before television cameras.  Another reason is suggested by the work of a Nobel laureate economist who today celebrates his 90th birthday: James Buchanan.  Buchanan (along with Gordon Tullock) developed the theory of rent-seeking that explains that resources are wasted when interest groups lobby for government privileges.  An extension of this theory by Northwestern University’s Fred McChesney – called “rent extraction” – explains that politically organized groups will also pay, if they must, to avoid costly government regulation.

My bet is that Congress’s self-righteous showboating is at bottom a theatrical threat to extract such payments — such “rents” — from the N.F.L.

Donald J. Boudreaux


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