Thursday, November 15, 2007

Soccer, Football, and Limited Government

A commenter at Megan McCardle asks:
What's a football game without rules and referees?"

I assume he meant this as a rhetorical question...trouble is, I'm going to answer it anyways.
If by football you mean "soccer," the answer to the question is "American football." In other words, the more you eliminate rules, the more innovation you allow, and the more you can improve the product. People can still choose to play by the eliminated rules (hence the reason soccer is still insanely popular all over the world), but they can also choose to play by the reduced set of rules (hence the reason American football and rugby are increasing in global popularity).

If you don't believe me, then study the history of the evolution of Rugby, American, and Aussie Rules football- the most useful developments have rarely been about adding rules, but far more often about taking them away (until this ridiculous obsession with protecting the quarterbacks and eliminating end zone celebrations, which many think has made the game less enjoyable).

The best things in the evolution of American football from soccer (IMHO) have been:
1. The Rugby School's decision to eliminate the prohibition on touching the ball with one's hands
2. The Rugby School's elimination of the requirement that you can only score by kicking the ball over the end line, through the goal posts, replacing it with a rule that you can score by crossing the end line anywhere, as long as you control the ball OR by kicking the ball over and through the goal posts.
3. Elimination of the prohibition on the forward pass
4. Elimination of the prohibition on holding by offensive linemen.

As for the need for referees...libertarianism has no problem with having lots of referees; in actuality we have a bigger problem with limiting the number of people who can be referees in the first place.