Government as “Referee”?

I guess I have seen all of it now. President Obama plans to bring the heavy hand of the Entity Formerly Known as the U.S. Department of “Justice” into the college football mix. Egged on by Sen. Orrin Hatch, Obama promises to see whether the Bowl Championship Series that determines the Division-I football national champions each year is, well, legal:

In the letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch, obtained by The Associated Press, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the Justice Department is reviewing Hatch’s request and other materials to determine whether to open an investigation into whether the BCS violates antitrust laws.

“Importantly, and in addition, the administration also is exploring other options that might be available to address concerns with the college football postseason,” Weich wrote, including asking the Federal Trade Commission to review the legality of the BCS under consumer protection laws.

Several lawmakers and many critics want the BCS to switch to a playoff system, rather than the ratings system it uses to determine the teams that play in the championship game.

“The administration shares your belief that the current lack of a college football national championship playoff with respect to the highest division of college football … raises important questions affecting millions of fans, colleges and universities, players and other interested parties,” Weich wrote.

Hatch is miffed because the University of Utah in 2008 went unbeaten but was unable to play for the national championship because Florida and Oklahoma were chosen by the BCS point system to be in that one. Now, I have serious doubts that Utah could have beaten Florida that year in any venue, but nonetheless I myself would prefer a playoff.

However, using federal law as a hammer to pound in this nail not only is overkill, but it demonstrates the very arrogance of Washington and the Obama administration, which apparently believes that all of the world is the domain of the president. Now, I am not going to fall into the argument that there are more “pressing matters” for the government to consider, given the state of the economy.

In fact, I might be willing to say that if the president were to “concentrate” on trivial matters like who plays whom for the college football championship, perhaps the economy might recover more quickly. Who knows?

My larger point is that there seems to be nothing that Washington does not claim to own. Yes, economists are fond of saying that government is supposed to be a “referee” in the economy, but this is ridiculous. Enough!

About William L. Anderson 48 Articles

Affiliation: Frostburg State University

William L. Anderson is an author and an associate professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland. He is also an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy as well as for the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Alabama.

Anderson was formerly a professor of economics at North Greenville College in Tigerville, South Carolina.

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