A US District Court judge recently ruled that the NCAA can not prohibit student athletes from receiving remuneration that goes beyond scholarships and related costs. The ruling was based on the argument that the NCAA was violating antitrust laws (trust = a small group of individuals conspiring to limit options of its customers or members). That such antitrust pronouncements emanated from a federal court (itself a monopoly) is no less ludicrous than if the KKK were to condemn the racism of the Aryan Brotherhood. Perhaps the people should file an antitrust lawsuit against the Federal Government. The executive, judicial, and legislative branches regularly conspire in trust-like behavior in order to deprive us of our rights. If we were permitted to choose from whom we will rely on for governance (without imaginary border constraints), then, and only then, could we live freely.

Apropos voluntary governance; the NCAA is a non-geographically constrained, self-governing, voluntary organization whose existence is based on the concept that those with common goals and interests can better achieve those goals through cooperation. In many respects the NCAA operates like any government. It has a legislative body that passes “laws” that its members must adhere to, it has a dispute resolution process (judiciary), and it has a chief executive (president). There is, however, one crucial difference; it relies on voluntary membership and voluntary dues payments. It cannot force schools to join merely because other member colleges happen to be nearby. All schools voluntarily join and in so doing agree to abide by its rules. Also, unlike state governments, it has competition (NAIA, NCCAA, USCAA, etc) in its metaphorical backyard. But unlike state governments, they cannot and do not use violence to inhibit such competition. Somehow this crazy, anarchical voluntary system has worked for over one hundred years! Imagine that, anarchy does work!

Or rather it works until the top gang (the Federal Government) decides it has a say concerning what the serfs do on its “turf”. You see the Crips, err, I mean the Feds decided monopolies/trusts are bad and must be stopped (even though monopolies cannot exist in a free market – only in one that suffers state interference). In order to stop them they pass “laws” that they interpret to arrive at whatever outcome supports their ideological stance du jour. Today’s seems to be “fairness.” It is only “fair” after all to allow student players to be paid. Only a troglodyte would oppose fairness. The substance of this conflict is the usual sort of economic interventionism (e.g. minimum wage, worker’s “rights”, etc) one can expect of the state. The actors may change but the narrative is always the same: Party A and Party B came to a mutually agreeable relationship, however Party C thinks that Party B is too stupid or weak to know what is best for them.

Whether students should be paid or not is irrelevant. This is not a moral issue; there is no right or wrong answer because there is no rights violation. All relationships are voluntary (NCAA, schools, students). The only ones that get to decide what is best are the students and the schools. If a school wants to pay an athlete, then they must weigh the costs and benefits of leaving the NCAA. If enough students demanded pay, then the rules would change. The fact that the rules have not changed (other than this recent external one) suggests that the vast majority values the free education and experience more than they value the other things they could be doing. In other words, if someone offers you $10 for something that you value only at $5, then it is ill advised to demand $50.

Although this issue is often cast under an egalitarian light, this ruling will result in a rather perversely inegalitarian outcome. The 1% (of athletes) will attract the lion’s share of money to themselves leaving that much less for others. On the margins fewer athletic scholarships will be given, thus harming those most in need. To paraphrase H.L. Menken, “[the student athletes] know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”