Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Junior Seau and the 'Evils' of Capitalism

One of the more frequent criticisms I hear from people who do not like capitalism as an economic model is that capitalism allows people to greedily profit from suffering, misery and tragedy. 

Case in point:  Several days ago, former NFL linebacker, Junior Seau - a certain Hall of Famer and one of the more popular players of the past 20 years - committed suicide in his California home. 

If you go on eBay today you can find hundreds of Seau jerseys, football cards and bobbleheads for sale at far higher prices than when he was alive a week ago.  You can also find a much larger amount of these items than you would normally see on eBay during football's offseason.  Finally, you will notice that many of these items have multiple bids and rising prices.

How, some of you might ask, can someone so ghoulishly capitalize on the suicide of another human being?  Isn't this a time when we should set aside greed, show some restraint and respect and avoid the temptation to make money off of the rising demand for a dead man's jersey?  Doesn't this interaction of supply and demand prove that capitalists are heartless and that capitalism itself needs more regulations by the government?

Well, no, it does not.  In fact the capitalists are doing us all a favor.

First, by offering up jerseys and other items on the marketplace, capitalists who have Seau items are serving their fellowman. 

Fans of Seau have a much stronger desire to own something about Seau at this time.  One could argue that it will help them remember him, honor his memory or help bring about closure now that he is gone.  Shouldn't fans have the right to use their money and pay whatever price they want to pay in order to have something to connect with their hero?

The people selling Seau jerseys - self-interested as they may be - are simply parting with their private property at a price that others are willing to pay.  At these higher prices the sellers are now in a position to earn more profit - which enhances their purchasing power, which makes whomever they buy things from better off, which makes the employees of the stores they will shop at better off and so on.

If the only reason people are selling Seau items is to profit, so be it.  They are not forcing anyone to buy and they are not stealing from Seau's family.  Some sellers might actually feel good about serving Seau's fans with their items - a bonus on top of the profit earned.

So, if you ever find yourself thinking that people are horrible to sell trinkets and other items after death and disasters have taken place, stop and ask yourself who is actually being harmed by any of this.  If your only conclusion is that it "feels" wrong then this is a good place to start thinking, rather than feeling so that you avoid inviting government in to help decide when it is moral to buy and sell things.

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