May 1, 2013

Why Handicapping and Egalitarianism are Upsetting

“You play to win the game”, a famous quote by Herm Edwards the retired NFL coach. Is life not also a game? Are individuals not meant to compete to strive to be better than, and beat our counterparts? The reading about egalitarianism seems to indicate that liberals and particularly those following some kind of ethical agenda would rather participate on a level playing field. This prompts the question as to what equality in this sense actually entails. Individuals are inherently born onto different playing fields and thus do not experience the same life chances and cannot possibly compete in life equally. Individuals are born with and or into different body types, cognitive and physical capabilities, geographical regions, religions, wealthy or poor families, or areas with political strife. It is therefore impossible, inconceivable, and uncompassionate to level the playing field of life for all.
“Mankind, is uniquely characterized by a high degree of variety, diversity, differentiation; in short, inequality. An egalitarian society can only hope to achieve its goals by totalitarian methods of coercion; and, even here, we all believe and hope the human spirit of individual man will rise up and thwart any such attempts to achieve an ant-heap world” (Rothbard)
One sport, golf, attempts to level the playing field for players of all abilities to participate. In no other sport is there a system that allows beginners and experts to compete against each other on the same day under the same playing conditions. The handicap system allows a beginner player to compare himself to an experienced player by effectively decreasing the beginners’ score and effectively increasing the score of the experienced player. In theory if both golfers perform to their ability on a given day then they should shoot the same effective score. The problem is that this system hardly ever performs the way it is intended. One player might perform extraordinarily well on the day the two players compete. Life’s bounces might favor one player over another on that day. Perhaps individuals will find a way to take advantage of the system to increase their chances of winning. Ultimately one player will discover a way to gain advantage through the system so that he can win without actually improving his ability to play the game. Ultimately neither competitor will be better off in the long run. This is the result of interference with competition.
            When in sport or life has there ever existed a competition in which one party was handicapped simply to allow the other could compete? What is the purpose of competition if not to discover the better participant? The redistribution of wealth through government policies seems to mimic a handicapping system in which the force attempts to level the playing field. Strokes are collected from the wealthy via taxation and government force and redistributed arbitrarily. Is this a form of compassion, to disadvantage one in order to give advantage to another? Neither party will benefit in the long run. Handicapping, and the redistribution of wealth is a form of pity. Only through uninhibited competition and the free market process is there compassion. You play to win the game, and the real winner is only discovered through competition free of oppressive interference. 

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