- Wilt Chamberlain, 25 Cents, and a Lesson in Economics - October 1, 2012
— Barack Obama
Much of today’s policy discussions focus on the intention of the policy and are absent other important aspects such as giving consideration as to whether the policy being contemplated is within the scope of powers allowed by the Constitution or analyzing how the policy fits in with the concept of liberty and freedom.
In regards to the latter, political philosopher Robert Nozick, through the concept represented in the phrase he coined, Liberty Upsets Patterns, illustrated that certain policy objectives, such as those that have a goal of equalization of wealth and income, are inherently incompatible with liberty and lead to continual intrusion from government.
In an example that featured basketball star Wilt Chamberlain, Nozick showed how individuals going about their everyday lives making purchases and other activities upset the favored distribution patterns sought by the social engineers. In the illustration, the reader chooses a current distribution pattern. Let’s assume that everyone starts with the same amount of wealth and that this pattern is the social engineer’s preferred pattern.
Wilt Chamberlain then negotiates a contract where each fan that comes to watch him play will deposit 25 cents in a box that is specifically designated for him. By the end of the season one million people watched him play and Wilt collects $250,000. This activity creates an income and wealth disparity that clashes with the preferred pattern of equality. To “correct” the pattern resulting from the voluntary transactions, the government has to take action or to use Obama’s words; they must structure government systems to pool resources and hence facilitate redistribution of Chamberlain’s income. Further, this is not the end of the intrusion. After the redistribution occurs, the pattern will yet again be upset and require more government intervention when the next fan walks through the turnstile and deposits a quarter into the box designated for Chamberlain.
The concept expressed by the phrase Liberty Upsets Patterns clearly shows that individual freedom to enter into transactions becomes sand in the gears of the social engineer’s plans which then leads to the government taking continual action to either restrict freedom or to use other means, all in an effort to achieve their preferred pattern.
Those who introduce such policies and those who are proponents of the same need to understand that inherent within their efforts is the continual meddling and use of force on others within society. This activity is incompatible with a free and harmonious society.