There is a good chance I may be voting for Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr in November, this doesn’t mean he’s perfect. As a long time rasslin’ fan, Barr’s analogy here is simply awful. From his recent piece in The Huffington Post:
“In the wake of the (Chris Benoit) tragedy, the head of the WWE, Vince McMahon, and its other leaders looked internally to recognize these problems and address them. Although in the two years before Benoit’s death, dozens of wrestlers had been suspended, gone to rehab, or been dismissed under the WWE’s recently adopted “Wellness Program,” the WWE strengthened its drug policy further, re-emphasizing that its policy wasn’t merely a document, but the internal laws of the company that would be enforced.
McMahon didn’t wait for Congress to pass a law or parade his wrestlers in front of congressional committee hearings; he took the lead and assumed responsibility over the health and welfare of the individuals who work for the WWE.
As part of the WWE Wellness Program, wrestlers go through regular drug testing and even cardiovascular testing. The latter identified a previously unknown heart condition for the wrestler “MVP” and he was treated for Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. The government’s War on Drugs wouldn’t have done that.
Sadly, the long standing War on Drugs also did not save the life of Chris Benoit and his family. The truth is, only Chris could have saved himself through personal responsibility. However, the efforts of Vince McMahon are making progress in preventing other tragedies and harm.
The WWE is taking responsibility for its talent and giving its participants the resources that they need, through rehabilitation, testing and even anonymous help lines, to deal with any possible problems.”
In response to Barr, writes pro wrestling afficionado and expert-of-sorts, The Left Conservative’s Dylan Hales:
“WWE wrestlers aren’t really employees. They are independent contractors who are locked in to extremely tight agreements that are very one sided. Barr foolishly claims that wrestlers unhappy about health exams (and drug tests) are free to leave and go work elsewhere. That simply isn’t true. While the company will occasionally grant quick releases to disgruntled talent, it is rare and usually comes only after the wrestlers marketability has been demolished via a literal on-air character assassination of some sort. To make matters worse there is at best one other company in the United States that can offer some degree of economic comfortability, and it suffers from most of the same problems that the WWE does.
On top of all that, the only sort of medical treatment the WWE gives it’s “employees” at all is “wellness related”. Wrestlers pay for all their own medical bills, their rooms on the road, and most of their travel costs. There are no retirement funds or pensions for wrestlers. In fact aside from the “wellness program”, the only “benefit” that the WWE offers to its contractors is a free, all expenses paid trip…to drug rehab. Vince offered this beauty up in the wake of the Benoit tragedy and it is open to anyone who has ever worked for his company. That may be an example of Vince feeling guilty about past sins, but it’s not an example of his benevolence as an entrepreneur.
The truth is that there is a worthwhile point to be drawn from the WWE’s drug problems and the band-aid approach to healing them, but it has nothing to do with libertarian economics. In fact the WWE is an example of the twin dangers of corporate culture and monopoly capitalism. Vince gets away with what he gets away with because their are no competitors, there is no collective bargaining, and his business is a “con” that people cheerfully watch because it is “goofy”. The expendable nature of the performers is of little concern to a society brought up on mass media infotainment and this should really surprise no one.