Friday, August 26, 2011

Free Market Failures : Sort of

I, like most humans, get bored from time to time. I get bored writing columns about sports, I get bored watching particular television shows or reading news columns. Then every once in a while, a little spark stimulates my mind and that boredom goes away. For me, that spark was Top Gear. As I watched these nutjobs guys ride across Africa in their £1500 cars, I honestly thought, if this can be done with higher taxes please raise mine. Then it got me thinking, does the free market fail us. Please note future news broadcasters, this is my political waiver. This has nothing to honestly do with politics or whether or not a free market is good or not. That is up for colleges and or the New York Times to debate. I will simply express my opinions on things that are free markets in themselves, and why they have failed us.

Top Gear:
Top Gear is produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation, as many know it as the BBC. The BBC is funded by this fee applied to all British residence with a television. There are different rates such as black and white or colour.Now whether you watch the television or not, you still have to pay the annual tax. So this funds shows like Top Gear, the Inbetweeners and the Weakest Link. The Americans have recently copied this programme with one on the world war II History channel. Now the budget for the British show must be massive, because they buy all these cars and then trash them. The show is such a hit that when they travel the world they are often greeted by some political ambassador. The show is now on for its 9th year and 17th (series, the British ones are smaller than our regular season).

So what does this great show have anything to do with Free Markets. Well, the BBC is far from a free market. Shows are given money from the British tax payers and are rarely dependent on rankings. The advertisement sure adds some, but the BBC still funds the show. It was also born as a concept not in a Free Market. Shows are allowed to fail for a lot longer on the BBC before they are taken off.  In America's Free Market television we have the reverse effect! We have shows on that cost very little and are shoved down our throat.

Why you should be angry
Of the top 10 shows in America by rating, only two are written, and its actually the same show twice!(NCIS). American Idol, The Voice, and the NFL all come in front of Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother and The Office. American's are watching the cheapest shows! How is this possible? Well lets assume that a tv channel is a Business (unlike the BBC). In order to raise profits you need to do two things, 1 get more customers(which is somewhat already capped) or lower costs. The TV companies have lowered cost by getting rid of writers (or in our Top Gear case, giving a lot of money to blow things up). Even MTV has bought into this. This is truly why you should be angry. The Jersey Shore has more reasons (the fifth one is finishing production) than Arrested Development! Sure what my blog is saying is that if we had the BBC, Arrested Development would still be around. But the sad part is, the Jersey Shore is unlikely to go away soon. People watch a bunch of drunk idiots get in fights. How much does that cost? It costs one really good film editor and few lawyers to fight off potential lawsuits. Anyone with a home camcorder could do this [disclaimer:: do not attempt]. Other than that, it costs MTV nothing! Think about all the money they are saving from props, to filming time to actors to writers and all the things that go into quality television. The advertising  pushes us to shows like this, the TV companies like to save money. The BBC on the other hand, would rather send a bunch of blokes to America to race cars, who cares how much it cost!

I read a great article over at grantland (linked here) by Malcolmn Gladwell that said sports are not a Business.Despite me agreeing, they do have a market and it is free. This is another free market that is failing us.

Baseball :  I don't think I say this enough on this blog. I hate the Yankees, here, I'll say it again, I hate the Yankees.However, the Yankee's do not hate their Free Market. The Yankees have been to the World Series 40 times, more than any other team in history. They have won 26 27 World Series, again more than any other team. The Yankees have been to double the amount of World Series than the second place team (the LA Dodgers) and have won nearly there times more than the second place team (St.Louis Cardinals).They have spent more money than any other team.So sure we cant blame them for spending all that cash because they do get wins. Now not too long ago, the MLB decided to have some profit sharing, where teams like the Yankees, the Red Soxs and the Phillies would pay a lot of money to beat up on the poor teams. Think of it this way, its like building your neighbour a house, to only watch it burn to the ground so your house is the nicest looking on the block. Baseball is partially a free market. Teams share profits, and there is a draft system so that some teams can pick good players for sucking for so long. However, as Ron Swanson once said, Capitalism separates the rich from the stupid. But in sports, we dont want that. To me, and I believe most sports fan, the fun of going to a game is that any team can win! On a day to day basis, over 162 games, sure any team can win any day. But not every team really has the chance of making the play-offs. There has been a recent argument going around sports, that a team has to suck (and be poor) for 10 years in order to make a run at a championship for two years. Then of course their players will be bought off of Free Agency. That is probably where free markets fail! A team is given a lot of sucky players for losing its good player because it wasnt rich enough to buy the good player. And a poor team, cant risk signing a long term contract because if the player is a bust, they lost a good portion of money. Sure sabermetrics helped the A's ... for a while. Since the book Moneyball(Micheal Lewis 2003) came out, the A's have only made the playoffs once, losing to the Twins in a straight sweep.That is the thing about Free Markets, once your intellectual intelligence leaves you, the teams that can afford it, buy it. Before starting the season, without even playing a game, the Yankees had a 11/2 odds of winning the World Series. When sports are predictable, the season is not as fun.

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