"New Jersey Nets"

"New Jersey Nets" by jonf on flickr. (The Nets are the team sold by Ratner to the Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov)

The careful, cautious Malcolm Gladwell takes a look at the NBA lockout.  And even he is disgusted (and his view expands from there):

One of the great forgotten facts about the United States is that not very long ago the wealthy weren’t all that wealthy. Up until the 1960s, the gap between rich and poor in the United States was relatively narrow. In fact, in that era marginal tax rates in the highest income bracket were in excess of 90 percent. For every dollar you made above $250,000, you gave the government 90 cents. Today — with good reason — we regard tax rates that high as punitive and economically self-defeating. It is worth noting, though, that in the social and political commentary of the 1950s and 1960s there is scant evidence of wealthy people complaining about their situation. They paid their taxes and went about their business. Perhaps they saw the logic of the government’s policy: There was a huge debt from World War II to be paid off, and interstates, public universities, and other public infrastructure projects to be built for the children of the baby boom. Or perhaps they were simply bashful. Wealth, after all, is as often the gift of good fortune as it is of design. For whatever reason, the wealthy of that era could have pushed for a world that more closely conformed to their self-interest and they chose not to. Today the wealthy have no such qualms. We have moved from a country of relative economic equality to a place where the gap between rich and poor is exceeded by only Singapore and Hong Kong. The rich have gone from being grateful for what they have to pushing for everything they can get. They have mastered the arts of whining and predation, without regard to logic or shame. In the end, this is the lesson of the NBA lockout. A man buys a basketball team as insurance on a real estate project, flips the franchise to a Russian billionaire when he wins the deal, and then — as both parties happily count their winnings — what lesson are we asked to draw? The players are greedy.

It’s true that many wealthy people might be hyper-competitive, somewhat myopic, bullies, but they are frequently surrounded by highly-paid, cool-headed advisors who can see through hype and b.s. – so they must know what’s really going to happen to the world if we keep hurtling down our current path.  And yet the acquisition keeps on happening as if there’s no tomorrow (!).