I don't follow baseball. I haven't since the strike they had in the 1990s. It's not a personal protest. It's just that I lost interest. But that doesn't change the reality that we can still learn a few things from what is happening in the Major Leagues. Take one of the league's biggest stars, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols.
The man is a stud. He can smack a ball farther than most anybody in the world. He also just turned down a contract worth over $200 million because he thinks he's worth more than that.
Stop right now and gauge your reaction to that statement. What was it? Did the word "greed" pop into your head? If so, have you paused to consider why it did? Matthew Sullivan provides a possible answer that is worth considering:
It has taken many years, but that is how politicians have helped frame our thought. They've used the same faulty logic to create/play the class warfare card. And why not? It's been unbelievably effective. How else could you explain that roughly half of the population doesn't pay federal income taxes and yet we still hear people crying that the "rich" aren't paying their "fair" share? Those "greedy" rich that want to keep all of our money. Not their money, the people's money.
While class warfare chastises the greedy earners, it preys on something much worse. It is a little thing called envy ? wanting what others have, instead of what you can provide yourself. If greed motivates you to provide for yourself ? to excess depending on who you ask ? envy encourages you to take what others work for, further strengthening the destructive attitude of entitlement that many Americans can't get themselves out from under.
Sullivan asks the provocative question what we are worth. That's a loaded question, but here's what he means: I probably wouldn't be worth $10 to a baseball team. I provide no service that they place in high demand. Therefore, the contract I would be able to get from any professional baseball team would be quite small. Pujols has a service that - as time will probably prove - is worth well over $200 million to them. If they have the demand for it, Pujols has the supply of it, and he wants to get what he's worth by playing the market, what is it to me?
After all, do I lose money because Pujols makes more? No. So what makes him greedy? In fact, is it not those of us who bemoan his worth that are the greedy ones? Envying his skill, his gifts, his wealth? Sullivan addresses the man who complains about Pujols' contract this way:
We need to liberate our mindset from the envious shackles our ambitious politicians have bred and exploited in us.
To his corporation, he might be worth $60K. He**, he could be killing it for them and be worth $200K, making him fortunate enough to be in the second-highest tax bracket.
But what if he believed his value to be $60K and his employer only offered him $55K?
Would he be greedy for turning them down? That is how you should look at Pujols's situation. In relative, not absolute, terms. It is the only way we as a society will be able to move beyond class warfare. Not enviously trying to put ourselves in other people's shoes, but applying a comparable situation from our own world.
While no one is underpaid, there are many who fail to command the full freight for their services. However, this isn't the work of corporate conspirators intent on keeping the helpless middle class down. If someone isn't capturing their full demand curve, the fault lies squarely on their own shoulders for not putting themselves out in the open marketplace and allowing employers to compete for their services.
That is exactly what Pujols is doing. And that is how his worth will be determined, on the free market.