Socialism 101

As Hank would tell us if he hadn’t been gagged by Bud Selig, socialism is an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources. You know this is true because that’s what it says in Wikipedia. From this definition, we can see that baseball is not a socialist enterprise, since we don’t have public ownership of baseball teams. All major league baseball teams are privately owned.

But, here’s a surprise: baseball is a little bit socialistic. One part of socialism is cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources. Baseball has that. As written in the Yankee Stadium bond prospectus, the Kommissar (er, I mean Commissioner) of baseball has the power to take actions he deems to be in the best interests of baseball, even if these decisions are not in the best interests of the Yankees. These decisions include the length of the season, the scheduling of games, the teams that the Yankees play against, the league where the Yankees play, and of course the sharing of revenues.

This brand of socialism pretty much goes with the territory. Baseball is a cooperative enterprise. The Yankees are trying to defeat their opponents on the field, but they’re not engaged in a capitalist struggle to drive their opponents out of business. The Yankees’ business success depends on there being other interesting teams to play against. No one is going to show up at Yankee Stadium just to watch the team take batting practice (at least, not at those prices).

Baseball has always had revenue sharing, as Pete Toms noted in a recent post. Revenue sharing used to take the form of splitting a game’s gate receipts with the visiting team.

Now, baseball shares revenue in different ways, and in total the Yankees probably retain a smaller share of certain revenues than it would have received under the old system of splitting gate receipts. This may upset Hank Steinbrenner, but he can console himself with the knowledge that baseball’s socialism ends with that business about cooperative management. When it comes to the issue of private ownership, baseball remains firmly capitalistic. The value of the Yankees, which has grown about 16,000% since Hank’s father purchased the team, remains securely in private hands.

You might say that Hank Steinbrenner is the happiest of socialists: a rich one.  You might also say that rich capitalists can brag about their achievements, but rich socialists should keep their traps shut.  By definition, a rich socialist got rich through cooperative effort, which in Hank’s case means that he didn’t get rich in a vacuum.  The teams that receive the Yankees’ revenue sharing contribute to the Yankees’ success.

Baseball has no more determined an opponent of its revenue sharing system than yours truly.  See here and here and here, as examples.  But my opposition is limited to which teams gets the revenue sharing money, and what these teams are supposed to do with the money.  I have no problem with the Yankees’ being required to pay money out.  That’s just the kind of good, old fashioned socialism that made this game our national pastime.

18 thoughts on “Socialism 101

  1. I don't know whether or not Hank actually knows what socialism is (most people who throw it out there don't), but he used it 'cause it's a buzzword that gets people's attentions and makes them upset (if they're dumb enough to fall for it.)

  2. Meanwhile the proletariat is still denied any rights in the matter, while their labor (money) is used to fund the revenue stream.

    It's a good point, but I think you and McCarthy are both missing something. Baseball is a non-essential revenue stream. It doesn't produce anything except for those who are directly involved in it.

    The idea of socialism is to produce items of need for the common good. While I'm the biggest baseball fan around, if the game disappeared, life would go on. Tractor production, used for mass production of food, would greatly hurt society if disappeared.

    Socialism is designed to benefit the masses, and not the bourgeois. Just as religion is the opiate of the masses, so is baseball for the American proletariat. The more we want, the more it costs. The more it costs, the more we spend. Its a one-way flow of resources, with only perceived value being return.

    And the perception of that value is what causes the wheels to turn. Nothing else.

  3. I'm sure old Hank was more than happy with all the money New York City put out for various projects associated with the new stadium. That ain't socialism. No siree, Bob.

  4. It benefits me – I get to see a team I care about on MLB.com almost every night of the year – except for those days when the wanna be monopolist Murdoch has the Yankees on Fox, but my local affiliate decides to show the Royals instead.

    Larry – you just explained some things without meaning too – all of a sudden, I LIKE the fact that revenue sharing money is going to teams that don't use it or don't know how to use it. Look what happened when the Rays got money – the Yankees stayed home. Dang – the last thing I want is a level playing field. I wanna see the Bronx Globetrotters (I mean, Yankees) playing the Generals 100+ games a year. If a flawed sharing system guarantees that, hey – I might have to quit whining for teams to use their welfare money wisely.

  5. The taxpayers of the city and state of New York built Hank and Hal a shiny new stadium. Is that socialism? (And don't say "the Yankees paid for it themselves"; that falacious argument was disproven long ago).

  6. Yep. Agreed. I'm working on a secret plan to reform revenue sharing, which I'll try to post here before Selig slaps a gag order on me. But hint: it's designed (at least in part) to reward success, not failure.