Wilt Chamberlain is Overrated


For a little while now, I’ve been toiling around with why I don’t like Nozick’s example of Wilt Chamberlain’s 25 cent ticket premium for distributive justice.  Frankly, I think it comes down to that while basketball fans (or just the general public) did make a conscious (and therefore voluntary) choice to pay to watch the Wilt play; they are in fact paying the Lakers or the 76ers set ticket price.  Whatever the team pays Wilt as a part of their contract is of no consequence to those going to see him play. 

So I propose my own example of Nozick’s libertarian view on what is just.

To keep with a sports theme, let’s move the unit of analysis from the fans to the teams themselves.  This is a bit tricky because sports leagues (I’m going to focus on the pros) have instituted a number of distributive justice type policies for competitive balance of which Nozick would frown upon for a just society: salary taxes, drafts for initial player acquistion, player-owner revenue sharing, and salary caps.

Instead, I’m going to look at the European football (I don’t want to hear about it) model and in particular the Premier League, which I feel Nozick would feel is an apt use of a just system. 

Clubs are free to negotiate with any player they wish, including those signed by other teams.  If a team wishes to sign a player under contract, they then have to negotiate a fee amount with the player’s club that would make that club willing to part with the player.  Teams are in charge of their own revenues, but there is one central source of revenue and that would be TV.  As the link shows, the Premier League TV revenue is split up in a few ways: 50% equal share, 25% based on appearances, and 25% based on team performance.  While Walzer would disagree with the idea of earning revenues based on appearances and team performance, I think Nozick would argue that it is the only way to split revenue and would probably even advocate each team sell their rights such as in La Liga.

I’m not saying this is a perfect example of Nozick’s Entitlement Theory, but I do think it helps explain it a little more than his example from Wilt Chamberlain.

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7 Responses to Wilt Chamberlain is Overrated

  1. Jordi says:

    So Nozick would say, if you have a just set of rules for parties to exchange, then whatever is the final inequality is ok since each party was expressing their liberty?

    You may want/need to take your exploration of Nozick beyond the reading in class. I was wondering myself how he decides what initial distribution of holdings is just or not. Hopefully he covers this in other parts of his book.

    • Cander says:

      Yes he’s very vague on that. I did find it amusing that he did not feel it warrented to go into further detail on the definitions of the principles of justice. I am planning on expanding this for my second paper. However, I have a feeling that I am going to end up applying Walzer’s complex equality more because i feel that his ideas seem to be a reason for the redistribution methods employed by many american leagues.

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