David R. Henderson  

Hire Locally

Forgetting How to Drive in the... Larry Summers and asset prices...

I have an idea and I wonder what various commenters think about it.

I was looking on line for a small town in Washington state and found out that one of its most famous citizens is a professional baseball player. But he didn't play for the Seattle Mariners. He played for the Boston Red Sox.

How wasteful, I thought, when he could have played locally. So here's my idea:

Major league baseballs teams, indeed all professional sports teams, should hire locally. That would save on transportation costs and would also create jobs locally.

Am I wrong? As Bryan likes to say, show your work.

Comments and Sharing

CATEGORIES: International Trade

COMMENTS (23 to date)
Don Boudreaux writes:


The locavores and other buy-local folk should applaud your idea. But to ensure louder applause, you can go one step further - namely, propose that the Mariners play against only local baseball teams. I'm sure that some of the colleges in Wash. state would be willing to play the Mariners (at the right price, of course); ditto for semi-pro clubs in Wash. state. All this traveling by teams to and fro across the continent is so harmful to the environment and damaging to local economies.

Njnnja writes:

I don't care about transportation costs or creating jobs, but the proposal would have made the world an immeasurably better place by avoiding this.

Brian writes:

That's how the NBA used to work. Teams had the right to draft players who played at colleges within a 50-mile radius. That's how the Philadelphia Warriors got their hands on Wilt Chamberlain. Since he played at Kansas, which was outside any NBA team's territory, the Warriors argued that they had the rights since he grew up in Philly. It's also why Bill Bradley ended up playing for the New York Knicks.

The argument against it, I suppose, is that such an approach is anti-competitive and would reduce the quality of the competition. Areas that are particularly strong with high-school talent in a sport would tend to always dominate. In basketball, this would be places like LA, NYC, Chicago, and Philly. In football, it would be NFL teams in SEC territory, etc. Right now, the worst teams get to draft the best players. With a territorial draft, this likely wouldn't happen.

Daublin writes:

Two problems leap to my mind.

1. It sounds unpleasant for the player, to be forced or strongly encouraged to clip their wings, stay home, and play in the small leagues. There's a principle here that needs to be applied widely or it will die out, bit by bit. Let people be free unless there is an extremely strong and obvious reason not to.

2. Wages are a cost, for the people paying them. Wouldn't you rather Boston shell out money for your local hero, than you pay the cost? If Bostonians are that gullible, then let them pay it.

There's also the broader question that I'm iffy about public spending on sports at all. I much prefer to see local entertainent arise more organically, based on what the locals actually like and what the local businesses are able to provide. When there's public sponsorship of sports, things shift more toward who is most influential in the government. I'd rather have fewer big public soulless monuments, and more rip-roaring folk dances, and to heck if my locale is on TV or not.

Matt Moore writes:

In the middle ages, invading armies would often besiege cities, forcing them to buy and hire locally, until they were all so wealthy they couldn't be bothered to fight anymore.

Oliver Sherouse writes:

It really depends on the nature of the job, doesn't it? If a baseball player is as effective on the Red Sox as the Mariners, maybe. But it's very possible that his skills are something the Red Sox need more than the Mariners, and that he's exceeding the cost of moving by better baseballing. It's not likely in this case, since the value of baseball is everywhere and in all cases negative, but the point remains.

JHanley writes:

As an alum of Oregon, I was once perusing a discussion board after the Ducks had beaten either UCLA (or maybe it was USC). A fan of the SoCal team griped that Oregon's roster was loaded with California players, and if they were limited to Oregon players they'd never win.

So he might be a fan of your idea.

I won't take up your challenge, though, since you put in that sticky requirement about showing my work.

Floccina writes:

Works for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Ricardo writes:

@Don -- as usual your reductio ad verum is insightful!

@Brian -- the USFL did the same thing. So that's two examples one might look to for precedence.

Public schools, of course, go the opposite way: they buy locally. As a result, some schools are consistently good while others are consistently bad. I've long thought that high schools should hold annual drafts, so that the worst high school last year got its first pick of middle school students, the next worst high school got the second pick, and so on. Over time this would be a great equalizer. We would have true parity, just as we see in the NFL.

john hare writes:

The suggestion makes no sense to me in the current operating environment. Teams routinely fly coast to coast for games. A player from anywhere is as close to the action as any other. The only expense for the player is the move, and for young people without a mortgage that would have to move anyway to be a player, virtually no difference. Homesickness is probably the heaviest cost for a distant move, and plane tickets and telephones are just not that expensive.

The second objection is the infringement on the freedom to deal with the ones you choose to. The draft might be objectionable, but not free market dealing.

LD Bottorff writes:

Are you serious? Or are you just giving us a chance to rip on the "buy local" philosophy.

Here in Louisville, we make cars and trucks. I think we should only buy steel made in Kentucky from iron ore mined in Kentucky smelted with coal mined in Kentucky. We should make the seats from plastic made in Kentucky using oil from Kentucky oil wells. Same for the tires. All electrical components should be from materials mined in Kentucky - we would have to discover copper but wouldn't it be nice to have one more industry here in Kentucky?

In the end, perhaps we could improve our economy even more by only permitting the residents of this state to purchase cars made in this state. Perhaps our economy would improve exponentially more by constricting our supply chain to the local county. Yes, we would have to move a steel mill into town, but think of the benefits! Why should the people in Carroll County have the good steel mill jobs?

I think Matt Moore called it right. When a city is besieged, and the residents are forced to buy locally, eventually their economy becomes so good that the people think they've died and gone to heaven. And they're half right!

Chris G. writes:

But the MLB has an extensive farm system. Would players have to stay at the AA or AAA level? Who has rights if a AAA team was closer to some players college or hometown than a big league team?

Paul Bogle writes:

Fans in Florida, Texas and California endorse this message.

I'd settle for teams organizing their farm systems as close as possible to the region they play their home games in, something many teams have moved toward over the last few decades.

In my private life I feel no strong compulsion to be a locavore. I'm happy to choose the best combination of quality and price available to me in the things I buy. I'm also very happy to root for great players who don the uniforms of my favorite sports teams while mostly oblivious to where they grew-up.

JayT writes:

For what it's worth, this is also essentially how the MLB used to work before the draft. However, it wasn't due to any rule, but rather teams just didn't have the capital to spend on scouting players across the country, so they would just rely on local tryouts.

Phil writes:

The Canadian Football League has a quota of how many US players are allowed on each team

There are a lot example of sports teams doing their marketing around players that grew up in relative proximity to the team

RPLong writes:

Suppose the player was a catcher. Suppose the Mariners already had several good first- and second-string catchers on the team. Wouldn't it be an even bigger waste if he had joined the Mariners in that case?

Seth Green writes:

I get your point, David, but I might flip this and say: baseball teams are a good metaphor for why specialization in the economy is important. The Sox might have needed a power hitter, or whatever, at that point more than the Mariners. We get better baseball by allowing that. So we might get better phones by allowing foreign born engineers to emigrate more easily.

In general, I think people are more persuaded by comparisons with things they evaluate positively than they are by criticism of their habits or beliefs.

Guest of the Scotts writes:

Good (trap) question. Too bad most hipster locavores don't pay attention to sports. And lord knows they will never show their work.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Seth Green,
I wanted you to flip it. It was, as “Guest of the Scotts” and LD Bottorff correctly noted, a “trap” question. I wanted to see if people could see how absurd my proposal is and then, by extension, how absurd people’s proposals for limiting international trade are. What I didn’t expect was how many people would think it’s not an absurd proposal.

khodge writes:

I have, from time to time, more or less wondered the same thing. Local teams should hire from local universities; local universities should draft from local high schools. The pools should be adequate to produce top-quality teams and the entire community would have an interest in the entire process: vertical integration.

From a different perspective: Many years ago I read a short story in which the inter planetary teams, when the teams were sold, stayed on the planet while the populations of the planets got moved. The story dealt the loyalties that had to be adjusted so that they would accept the team of their new planet.

John Fembup writes:

As I recall, the Rochester Royals moved to Cincinnati in 1957, and a lot of people speculated part of the reason was that the territorial draft guaranteed them Oscar Robertson (it later guaranteed them Jerry Lucas). The Royals eventually moved to Kansas City - and then to Sacramento.

All NBA teams are free to draft locally if they choose.

But a requirement to employ local talent is a completely different thing and I can't see how it makes more sense for sports than it does for, say, actuaries.

David R. Henderson writes:

@John Fembup,
But a requirement to employ local talent is a completely different thing and I can't see how it makes more sense for sports than it does for, say, actuaries.

lemmy caution writes:

Professional sports drafts are not exactly libertarian. If the player was able to pick where they played, it would be more likely that they would choose to play for the local team that they grew up supporting.

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