In his recent essay,Jeremy Lin and the Political Economy of Superstars, at Project Syndicate, Professor Rogoff takes his starting point by sharing his thoughts on the astounding rise of the seemingly indefatigable wunderkind, Mr. Jeremy Lin, in the NBA. His essay is part gushing fan letter and part Cassandra, tarted up for the occasion. This rather swiftly evolves into a long meditation on the ‘inflated’ nature of the salaries of demonstrably delinquent sports stars. But the question that nags at Professor Rogoff is the why of the tolerance of Americans toward those inflated salaries for athletes, contrasted with the lack of tolerance for the salaries of the leaders in business, who manage to escape Professor Rogoff’s careful scrutiny of questionable personal and financial conduct. The delinquent NBA players whom he takes as his subject remain an almost denatured abstract argumentative quantity, yet he plays on the vaguely remembered misconduct of various professional athletes his readers supply. It is clearly obvious that the good professor expresses a glaring and troubling class bias.
The professional athlete must in a proscribed time period produce results i.e. points to win the game. How simple can it be to fathom that existential reality? Results are of the utmost importance, they rule the lives of the players. The entertainment value that professional sport offers and delivers is seeing the very best and most productive players compete against each other. Can any witness to the events of the last four years and even in the last twelve years honestly express any admiration for the leaders of American Capital? Some names occur: Ken Lay, Angelo Mozilo, Lloyd Blankfein,Robert Rubin, to name but a few of the stalwart capitalists and utterly failed leaders of the virtuous class that Professor Rogoff backhandedly defends: in his attempt to council his fellow citizens on the dangers of the political power wielded by the professional sports franchises.
A quotation from the essay is instructive:
“Yet many of these same fans would almost surely argue that CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, whose median compensation is around $10 million, are ridiculously overpaid. If a star basketball player reacts a split-second faster than his competitors, no one has a problem with his earning more for every game than five factory workers do in a year. But if, say, a financial trader or a corporate executive is paid a fortune for being a shade faster than competitors, the public suspects that he or she is undeserving or, worse, a thief.”
Capitalism and it’s leaders failed and continue to fail the Commonwealth, the Republic. What more is there to say except that our writer has limited, even myopic perception. Professor Rogoff is a bit tardy, although he manages to sound a more reasonable, less hysterical tone than David Brooks, who offered his usual bloated, cliché ridden political moralizing in the New York Times of February 16, 2012, as The Jeremy Lin Problem. Our problem, at this historical moment, is not the inflated salaries of sports stars, but the continuing malfeasance and acquiescence of government, and the complicity of bankrupt public intellectuals, in the face of the pathology of Robber Capital, no matter how attractively garnished is the repast set before us.