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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Blackmailing the NFL


If you want a good example of the real purpose of the regulated economy, watch the Patriots-Giants game tonight. It will be broadcast on both NBC and CBS, compliments of the strong-arm tactics of government officials who use economic regulations to threaten and blackmail people in the private sector into obeying political orders.

The NFL planned to broadcast the game on its NFL Network, which reaches less than half the country. Under principles of private property, that’s the right of the NFL. The NFL, not the federal government, owns the broadcast rights to its games.

However, lots of fans were upset because they weren’t going to get to watch the game. And lots of them didn’t want to fork over the money to subscribe to DirectTV or Dish Network or go to a sports bar. No doubt many of them felt that they have a “right” to watch the game. It’s just part and parcel of the socialist mindset that has come to characterize so many Americans.

So, that’s where the blackmailers came in. U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Spector, who are members of the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the NFL warning that the NFL was “exercising its substantial market power to the detriment of consumers.” The blackmailers advised the NFL the Congress might just have to reexamine the exemption from antitrust laws that the Congress has given to the NFL.

Exemption? What? Why does anyone get exempt from a law that applies to everyone else? Why shouldn’t a law apply to everyone? And if bigness is an inherently bad thing, then why should anyone, including the NFL, be exempt it from it?

The fact is that antitrust laws are as a big crock as every other economic regulation. Contrary to what the political blackmailers claim, the free market is the best regulator of the size of businesses. Those businesses that satisfy consumers, such as the NFL, do well and get big. Those businesses that don’t satisfy consumers get small and maybe even go out of business. You don’t need government to enact laws against big business.

Of course, from the standpoint of government officials, the beauty of the regulated society is that the regulations can be used to ensure that businessmen toe the official line. If they get out of line, there are always rules and regulations that can be enforced against them. Just ask Joseph Nacchio, the former CEO at Qwest, who was criminally prosecuted for violating silly economic regulations after refusing to comply with federal orders to break the law by ratting on his customers. The NFL’s Patriots-Giants game is just the latest example of regulatory tyranny.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.