Government Is Like a Bad Football Fan

Governments play armchair quarterbacks but on the field
September 5, 2018 Updated: September 6, 2018

My father was a gentle man—except on Sunday afternoons, when the Dallas Cowboys were on television. He would sit in his recliner. Even from the kickoff, he would start yelling at the players.

“Run to the left! No, you dummy! Oh, see? He took you down because you weren’t looking.”

It happened on nearly every play.

“Dumb Staubach, why are you running the ball so much? You need to pass against this defense!”

“Awww, dumb Dorsett, you did it again! You ran right into the iron defense instead of around it.”

When his team scored a touchdown, he would say: “That’s the right way to do it! That’s what I’ve been saying!”

This would go on for three hours. As a child, I started to develop abiding sympathy for the players. I hoped they couldn’t hear my father yelling at them. After all, he wasn’t playing the game. He would have died after one play. Instead, he was sitting in a comfortable chair. They, on the other hand, were getting beat up, crashed into, bashed, and exhausted, all while being yelled at by fans.

What’s more, my father was only denouncing or praising them for things the players had already done. The players, on the other hand, had to make decisions about an uncertain future. They had skin in the game. He was just sitting there without having to bear any consequences for his lounge-chair coaching.

I sometimes wished some magical voice would appear and say, “Okay, Dr. Tucker, you are obviously very smart, to the point of high expertise. It’s 4th and 10. Please call the next play and bear total responsibility for the results.” I wonder how he would have reacted. Most likely, he would have said, “No way. That’s the coach’s job, not mine.”

Or maybe a voice would say, “Hey, why don’t you try being a quarterback on the next play?”

No Skin in the Game

Government is exactly behaving like a pathological sports fan, a person with no real skill or skin in the game who pretends to know all and is empowered to enforce the decisions. My father had the humility to know it was not his job to either play or coach; he was just doing what fans do.

It’s the same with music or book critics: They are neither singing nor writing but delighting themselves in having vast opinions about both.

There’s nothing wrong with that, even if it can be annoying. What’s objectionable is when such people are given the power to actually dictate the results, like most governments.

Think how much government does this. This tendency touches everything in life these days. That worker is underpaid. That lightbulb uses too much energy. You can’t transfer that much money at once. That toilet tank uses too much water. That gasoline should include a healthy dose of corn in it. That milk is hereby banned because it is raw. You can’t import or sell that many things from that country.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a prekindergarten teacher training session in Brooklyn, in this file photo. Mayor De Blasio is a strong proponent of regulation. (Petr Svab/Epoch Times)

And so on for millions and billions of items, services, actions, and words. Government presumes the right to manage everything, even though it isn’t actually doing the things it is demanding control over. It isn’t paying workers in private firms. It isn’t making light bulbs. It isn’t seeking to make a profit while trying to persuade consumers to buy things.

Actually, government has no money of its own. It takes its money from people who create wealth. Then, it presumes that it knows better how to do things than the people from whom it extracts the wealth.

Fans will be fans. Peanut galleries will always be with us. It’s entertainment, and a major reason why we actually like sports, music, and books. Everyone is a critic. That’s all fine.

But let’s not forget the profound difference between those who do and those who pretend to do, nor the difference between those whose wealth rests on creativity and human volition and those who bully others to get their way.

Jeffrey Tucker is editorial director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of five books, including “Right-Wing Collectivism: The Other Threat to Liberty.” This article was first published on

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.