Chris Lewis
Chris Lewis

Forced Funding vs Freedom

Former top Olympians, media commentators and the general public have been almost unanimous in labelling the performance of most New Zealand competitors at the 2000 Olympics as dreadful. Medal-wise, it has been New Zealand's worst Olympics since Mexico City in 1968, with most athletes performing well below their personal best. The two questions now being asked are, "What's wrong with New Zealand sport?" and, "What can be done about it?"

Leaving aside the answer to the first question, there are many who believe that the answer to the second is just a matter of funding - government funding. Just look at the Australians, they say, whose Olympic success has been attributed to a 20-year, $918 million investment to foster elite sports, while, by comparison, New Zealand has spent only $31 million developing its elite athletes over the last four years. The answer, then, appears to be self-evident - if we want to guarantee better results from our athletes in Athens in 2004, it's up to the government to provide that guarantee - right?

After all, whenever a problem arises that needs fixing - whether it be sport or any other problem of national concern - the most popular response is: "The government should do something." And more often than not, it does. Alas.

For instance, when tertiary students complain that they're finding it "impossible" to pay their own way - the government sets up a loans scheme. When the same students complain that they can't meet their interest payments - the government wipes their interest payments and politicians contemplate wiping the loans altogether. When musicians and playwrights complain that they're struggling to find an audience - it's suggested that the government should compel radio networks and television stations to give them free air time - which I'm sure it will.

So, when the Olympic performance of New Zealand's best athletes doesn't measure up to the public's expectations É well, it's no surprise to hear people once again say that the government should do something. What follows is a debate over who or what is more deserving of government assistance - athletes or artists, elite coaches or solo mothers, sport or education - and, if there are enough votes in it, more government money is thrown at the problem, The notion that whenever there's a problem the government will fix it is further reinforced, until the next so-called problem arises, and the whole unseemly process is repeated again. And on it goes.

Meanwhile, the question of what a proper government should or shouldn't do never arises. But it should, and here's why.

Imagine if each time money was needed to provide something that most people wanted, you heard someone say, "I know how we can get enough money, let's go out and rob a bank." In such an instance, it wouldn't be necessary to point out the immorality of such a suggestion, which would quickly be dismissed as a joke. Why is it, then, when one considers the fact that governments acquire their money the same way bank robbers do - by coercion - that most people are willing to not only tolerate government theft, but to actively encourage it? Even when you point out the immorality of taking money from some to pay for the unearned benefit of others, no matter who commits the crime, most people still believe that the government is exempt from condemnation!

Whatever way you look at it, theft, whether it's in the name of funding student education, sponsoring talented artists, or assisting athletes in their quest to win gold medals, is a violation of property rights and what should be sacrosanct in any decent society - the freedom to pursue our own dreams, goals and lives without interference from anybody, including the government.

It is individual freedom that is the one thing, due to our inherent nature as thinking, choosing beings, that any proper society should recognise as man's absolute right. To survive, freedom is what man requires above all else; it is his by right, and therefore what the government should do all in its power to protect. The right to my - and your - freedom does not come at anybody's expense, whereas a "free" education, "free" air time, and government assistance with the pursuit of gold medals does; each demands and necessitates an act of government theft. Such acts are moral crimes, they are direct attacks on what life requires - individual freedom - and why I am totally opposed to government funding of sport, Olympic or otherwise, or to any other government programmes or agencies that are funded with stolen money.

Can an athlete get to the top without stolen money?

I did. So did Jeremy Yates.

To anyone who holds freedom as sacred, the most urgent problem facing this country is the vile anti-individual philosophies of collectivism and statism that have given rise to this relentless onslaught of the government's violation of individual rights, which includes the proliferation of intrusive, politically correct, government agencies charged with the "responsibility" of fixing all our problems.

Whether it's a gap-closing, egalitarian, envy-motivated tax regime that punishes ambition and success - while rewarding sloth and failure - or a state education system that encourages mediocrity and participation - while discouraging excellence and competition - the insidious effect is the same: it sends an implicit message that to stand out from the masses by rising above them, or earning more than them, or doing better than them, is bad, but to remain as part of an anonymous throng is good. It is why the best New Zealanders are leaving the country in droves, and why our best and most talented athletes, with few exceptions, have had the passion to excel knocked out of them since they were children. It is not only what's wrong with New Zealand sport, but also what's wrong with New Zealand.

If ever there were a problem that desperately needs fixing, this is it - and I say that the government really should do something. It should get out of the economy and out of our lives as soon as possible. What would soon follow is such a massive flourishing of the gold medal-winning character virtues - virtues of independence, ambition, determination, self-reliance and pride - that New Zealanders would soon lead the world in the most important race of all - the race of life.

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