As the Olympics close in Brazil, it is interesting to reflect on the games and the politics involved. As a libertarian, I would like to share my opinions, with the realization that some libertarians simply despise the Olympic games.
From a libertarian standpoint, there are obviously several things to not like about the Olympics. The first thing is that much of it is funded through the taxpayers (i.e., through the threat of force).
It was especially hard to watch the Olympics take place in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil because it is a third-world country. The government is spending billions of dollars while millions of Brazilians live in poverty, perhaps some on the brink of starvation.
Every country has its poverty, but it is especially bad in Brazil. Even in comparison to China, it just seems far worse. We know there is poverty in China, especially in the rural parts. The state controls almost everything in China, yet leaves parts of the market economy to somewhat function. Still, China has well over a billion people and the overall poverty is not quite as grinding as in a place like Brazil.
As a libertarian, I don’t think taxpayers anywhere should have to pay for the Olympics. There is no reason it could not be 100% funded (including the facilities) through voluntary donations. There are plenty of corporations and rich individuals who would contribute, perhaps for a little advertisement.
There are other political elements that are disappointing as well. It was probably a corrupt process that led to Rio being the host city in the first place. And then we nearly saw the entire Russian team banned because some were using banned substances.
In addition to the host city (and country) having to seize taxpayer funds in order to host the events, it is also well-known that governments pay huge sums in order to train their athletes.
This article discusses the economics of it, and also points out that the United States is one of the few countries that does not have its government subsidizing the Olympians. Yet, the U.S. collected the most medals, despite China having a population about four times as great.
This is a great economic example of where voluntarism works better than the use of force. There is no denying that the Chinese now, and the Soviets in the past, have had some great success at winning Olympic medals. But at what expense?
The Chinese (and others) are trying to train tens of thousands of athletes in the hopes that a few of them will win medals. Is it for national pride? Is it for prestige? Meanwhile, the ones who don’t make it get cut with nothing to show for it, all of a sudden finding themselves looking for work with few skills outside of their specialized sport. And this is all funded at the expense of the general population, most of whom are living in poverty. Talk about a misallocation of resources.
From this perspective, I actually do cheer for the Americans. I also understand that people generally will cheer for those whom they identify with. If you live in Topeka Kansas, you are more likely to cheer for someone from Topeka than someone from Los Angeles. You are definitely more likely to cheer for that person than someone from South Korea.
Unfortunately, I also don’t find it that appealing watching NBC when everything is revolved around the greatness of the Americans. Many of these sports are individual events, and I see nothing wrong with acknowledging individual greatness, even if the person is from another country.
I know some Americans will disagree with me on this, but I did not at all care for Lilly King, one of the American swimmers. She was obnoxious and rude and kept going after the Russian swimmer for supposedly not being clean. Of course, the story is far more complicated than that. I was actually cheering against King because I found her too obnoxious.
I know some libertarians find the whole Olympic games objectionable, but I personally enjoy watching the sports and the competition. I also enjoy watching the generally good sportsmanship, especially between individuals from different countries.
When Michael Phelps was getting ready to swim one of his races, the media was blowing up the story about one of his competitors stretching (and sort of taunting) in front of Phelps before the race, as Phelps sat there with an angry look. But when the race was over, they congratulated each other. And overall, I found more competitors were humble and gracious at the end, as opposed to not.
I will continue to enjoy the Olympics in the future, despite the political elements. Let’s just try to convince the world to stop stealing from poor people (or any people) in order to fund these games. It can be done voluntarily.