Musings on Capitalism

Musings on Capitalism

I was listening to the Lowe Post (NBA podcast) today and the main topic was the new CBA agreement and what it means for the league.  For the non-NBA (or sports fan), the CBA stands for Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is the governing agreement used between players and owners. It details how the revenue is split, scheduling, and all the nitty-gritty details on how the NBA will function for the next several years.  Zach Lowe and his guest Brian Windhorst were debating the biggest features of the deal and one of the major things they focused on was how the new CBA would affect star players.

Essentially, the NBA wants to dissuade super teams (for the non-sports fan, a super team is the Golden State Warriors) from forming and gives incentive for star players to stay in their “home” city rather than joining an already loaded team. For example, Kevin Durant left X millions on the table that he could have earned by staying in OKC to go play with GSW /Steph Curry and already a great team. So the NBA built-in clauses to where star players could earn so much more money by staying, it would almost be insane to leave. To paraphrase their argument, in the old days it would be hard to leave 30 million on the table if you left, but now that becomes 70 million.

Listening to this, a thought popped in my head that related to how my morning unfolded.  While getting ready, I took a look at my closet and was trying to decide what to wear when I had an epiphany. I have enough. Standing in my closet, I was overwhelmed by my options. If you know me, and if you haven’t taken a wild guess from my writings, I’m not rich. According to Obama, I am poor (hurtful Barack) by our standard of living in a capitalist society. Yet I stood there this morning and thought I have enough. I am enough. I don’t necessarily need any more shit. I have a lot already.

Back to Durant, the gist of the podcast was that no one in their right mind would turn down potentially 70 million dollars to leave “home”. Thus, premier stars stuck in less than great situations (Paul George, Boogie Cousins) would be less inclined to leave because of the money they would leave on the table. This had me thinking about the power of money and how it has enveloped our minds in a capitalist society. What we don’t do in this society is teach people to have a relationship with money and to fully develop an understanding of money and how it plays in our lives.

Money is good, money is important, but we don’t teach people to have a healthy relationship with it. We are taught to chase the carrot for every dollar you can get, often at the expense of our own personal happiness.  We teach kids that capitalism is our economic system, but in reality, it is a mentality. Most of our life, we look as money as a sign of success and it operates as the main force driving how we spend our time, what we dedicate our energies too, how we structure our life basically. It's how we frame how we look at people and judge them. If a kid goes to school and majors in Philosophy or English you think it’s a terrible investment. Someone who wants to teach, we say there’s no money in it, or some other negative comment to dissuade them from teaching.  How many lawyers or doctors are walking around doing something they don’t love simply for the paycheck? We chase and covet money as we think it’s a sign of happiness, but it often becomes a handcuff.

Bringing it back to the NBA, we see veterans who play their whole career maxing out their earning potential, but playing on bad or non-winning situations for years, but there last 2,3 season we give them a pass when they chase rings (David West) and take less money. The star player or any player who leaves money on the table while in their prime is critiqued and questioned.  Capitalism is good in theory, but unless we teach kids how to be happy in this society then it is inherently flawed. You can have a healthy relationship with money without worshipping it or being hamstrung in your decisions.  What tends to happen is generation after generation becomes addicted to chasing money and never being satisfied with what they have. That’s why every holiday malls and stores become overrun with people running over one another looking for the best deals on shit they rarely need (I’m guilty of doing this as well). We are addicted to shit and acquiring shit and look at that as the triumph of our lives, the ability to acquire “x” amount of stuff at any given time. Health, personal happiness, those are things we don’t prioritize as much. It’s a race to get as much as possible.

One of my favorite Simpsons episodes is when Bart and Lisa go to Kamp Krusty, a ratchet summer camp sponsored by Krusty the Clown. After some time at camp, the campers revolt and overtake the camp from the counselors. Krusty is called in to mediate the situation. Upon getting there, Bart asks Krusty why he would sign off on such a terrible camp, Through tears, Krusty cries “They drove a dump truck full of money to my house, I’m not made of stone!”. That’s capitalism (and the NBA CBA) in a nutshell. They drive a dump truck full of money to player X house when it's contract time and dare him to walk away.

Obviously, it’s not that simple, but it is amazing to see or hear people discuss how crazy a multi- millionaire is crazy to pass up x amount of money. Yes, the owners have so much more wealth and I understand that. But think about it, if X superstar player who usually has made upwards of 100 million by the time his contract has expired, not even taking into account endorsements or other investments if he is unable to make it or be happy with that money, what type of society are we in? Same with most of society, if you are able to take care of your responsibilities and family and save a healthy amount, isn’t anything else excess? This isn’t to dissuade anyone from seeking a right and fair deal in regards to their industry or position, I strongly believe in being compensated fairly. But in capitalism at a certain point, we are taught to forgo happiness in pursuit of money. We don’t place happiness before the dollar.  That’s what Krusty did and many NBA players will be doing in the future.

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