Bring on the Competition

Are you competitive? Of course you are. So am I.

I remember hot summer days, strutting onto the tennis court with my brothers and dad. Each of us slipped into our routine: twirling racquets, checking the net, stretching, sizing each other up, talking noise about a thunderous serve or someone’s weak backhand or who won last. Then we do battle—pretty evenly matched so all the more fun, though mom couldn’t always tell. After the shots were made and the sweating and cussing ended, there was a winner; I wanted to beat these guys at their best.

But, c’mon, competition isn’t primarily about beating someone else. I can thrash my nine-year-old on the court, yet this would be pathetic—like some Will Farrell comedy bit. Beating someone else is not necessarily the end of all human competition, but isn’t it amazing how confused our educators and government are about how and why we compete?

Life is about living. It’s about accomplishment. The glory of “I did it!” comes way before and above “I beat you.” In tennis or any sport, yes, ultimately, it’s about sweet victory, but the achievement of many other values comes first: fitness, agility, stroke mechanics, mental toughness, strategy, and many more.

Good competition helps bring this out, but we know that to achieve anything, we must first bring it on ourselves. This is true in any human endeavor whether it’s sports, the arts, business, politics, or even romance. This is why we revere great and dignified champions. We gladly pay to watch a Martina Navratilova swing her racquet or a Michael Jordan dunk a basketball or a Yo-Yo Ma play the cello because they have accomplished so many private victories, countless hours of dedicated love—a love of their craft, a love of living that inspires and moves us.

Being human means the capacity for rational thought and passion, which means the ability to create values that support our life. The values that support life are limitless really, but before anyone played the cello or dunked a ball, someone first created basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. Unless we create them or create ways of finding them, we starve and freeze. None of these things is given to us nor is any method of gaining them except our capacity to think.

That’s the key. We don’t compete for limited natural resources like animals do. We don’t scrap over a dead carcass like a pack of wolves. Even our brutish ancestors couldn’t compete that way.

Instead, they had to learn to use their minds, and it’s no different today except that we’re the beneficiaries of centuries of thinking, learning, innovating, collaborating, producing—or at least we can be. We’ve been preceded by intellectual and creative geniuses who’ve occasionally arrived on the scene to discover and produce better ideas, methods, and products that catapult us into a whole new world of expanded values that support an even better human life.

So competition is actually a consequence of some individual somewhere creating a value. If there is no value, there is no competition. Without human thought and action, there are no values—none a human would want, anyway. Even the contemplation of a sunrise is made possible by human achievement. Appreciation of nature’s beauty is fairly recent—unheard of before time-saving inventions. We each become, to the degree of our own ability and interests, creators and traders of value.

Unbelievably, there are still convoluted socioeconomic theories that evade these basic facts about human nature. Many economists preach a barbaric view: that wealth already exists, so you compete by ganging up and seizing whatever you can get by force. Euphemisms like social justice ignore the fact that goods and services must first be produced before they can be distributed or redistributed. It is socialism, so thoroughly accepted in the culture, which characterizes human relationships as dog-eat-dog. Given this view, they want to be part of the biggest pack of dogs.

And most teachers spread this crippling disease of egalitarianism, the idea that we should have equal outcomes. When we don’t allow failure, we deprive people of the most valuable life skill: learning from mistakes and feedback. Think of the classrooms where everyone gets an A or ball fields where they don’t keep score or homes of helicopter parents where disappointment isn’t an option; pain is to be avoided at all costs. Think of the cynicism bred by an education establishment that indoctrinates kids into believing that competition is evil and that learning consists of someone else giving you a high grade.

Unfortunately, most of our political leaders are at best confused about competition, and many of them covet being head snarling dog. When we hear Obama tossing up a word salad like “UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? It’s the post office that’s always having problems,”while arguing for government-run healthcare, claiming that such coercion will “bring greater competition, choice, savings and inefficiencies [sic] into our healthcare system”it’s clear that he has no clue about the nature and 
role of competition.

Perhaps worse are Republicans, so-called defenders of the free market who chant incessantly for more incentives—handouts for their cronies or their own version of social engineering. Actual capitalism, a market free from coercion or fraud, has all the incentives you need or want. The idea of forced competition is an immoral contradiction. Having Bush say “I have abandoned my free-market principles to save the free market” is as juvenile as thrashing my nine-year-old on the court and calling it competition.

The callow myth of  the cut-throat capitalist is perpetuated by those who want to control you. “People cannot live freely together without lying, cheating, and backstabbing,” the statists claim, “so they need to be ruled.” Ruled by whom? By them? So they can decide what competition means—the urgency to acquire political power so they won’t have to compete or produce?

We take for granted the wonderful results of competition. Everywhere people are free, they want to achieve and the culture won’t stand for complacency—it breeds innovation, which is required for any improvement. We see excellence in business where consumers get more, better quality, lower costs, and more alternatives; the most efficient and innovative businesses are rewarded with higher profits that either get reinvested in even better ideas or consumed in joy. We see actual diversity in both products and ideas. Contrary to the myth, with intense competition, we see humanity, benevolence, and caring. And the freedom to achieve and compete allows individuals to

pursue their passions.

So bring on more competition. Bring on a new generation of leaders who acknowledge and celebrate the beauty of competition, since it ultimately derives from an individual’s love of their life. Bring on new entrepreneurs whose vision won’t be stifled by bumbling bureaucrats. Bring on new citizens who pledge allegiance not just to the flag, but to the idea of freedom. Bring it on!

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