Goodgovernment 2

Golf Can Tell Us Much About The Free Market

After watching “The Masters” recently, I realized how much professional golf is like the free market.

Think about it. Golfers compete in one of the only major sports that does not use a socialistic design to ensure outcomes. There are no salaries, just winnings. You cannot guarantee outcomes in golf, only opportunities. The pay in pro golf is in direct proportion to a player’s willingness to practice, prepare, and compete. Win or make cuts and you earn; miss cuts and you find a new profession or become a teaching pro. A golfer can decide not to play in a particular tournament or to play in every one, but the decision and consequence belongs to the golfer. No team plane takes golfers to tournaments; no team hotel rooms and meals are arranged and paid for; no team trainer wakes the golfer up and tells him where to be and when.

Golf is the ultimate in personal responsibility. And you can probably already tell golfers are my favorite athletes.

Many people believe pro golfers were born with a silver spoon and have not really “worked” to earn their economic status. They just walk around and hit a ball, they say. And they had to be rich to learn the sport in the first place.

The critics are wrong, though. It’s kind of the way many on the Left believe most high-earners and achievers somehow found their success on the backs of others rather than through schooling, dedication, sacrifice, discipline, talent, and time.

If you want proof the Left is wrong on golf, look at Arnie and Tiger. They’re arguably two of the best players in the history of the game. They’re certainly two of the biggest earners. Both were raised in working class families, not posh neighborhoods. They took advantage of their opportunities. They proved that, in this country, you have the opportunity to do and be just about anything if you are willing to put in the work and take the risk.

You know what else? Pro golfers, The Masters, the PGA, and other professional golf organizations are the biggest contributors to charity in all of professional sports. It isn’t even close. More evidence that private enterprise and private citizens can do valuable and measurable things without government assistance.

Finally, I like pro golfers because they understand the sport is based on self-enforced rules. They depend on each other’s personal character and devotion to honor the game. The sport does not need referees, just the occasional rules official to clarify a rule. Players even call penalties on themselves. Without a commitment to respect the rules of the game, the sport would never have lasted through the centuries.

If only we could govern the nation in such a limited way.

Golf is a beautiful example of an efficient, free-market system. The players respect the game, they respect the players who came before them, and they respect the amateurs and fans who keep the sport healthy. They wear their shirts tucked in, their hats on straight, and they shake hands with their competitors at the conclusion of the match—win, lose, or draw. America’s children (and more than a few adults) could learn a lot from the game of golf.

Jon L. Pritchett (@tobaccoroadguy) is president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the state’s non-partisan, free-market think tank. Prior to joining MCPP, Jon was senior vice president of the John Locke Foundation. He also worked as an investment banker, executive, and entrepreneur over a 28-year career in private business. His opinions have been published in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the Washington Examiner, The Federalist, the Foundation for Economic Education, and many local newspapers.