Are Minnesotans doomed to hand over $400-$500 million to a man whose financial worth is twice that amount?

Tom Powers, sports columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, recently wrote about the prospects of a new taxpayer-paid stadium for the Wilf Vikings. The headline tells it all: “Like it or not, you will be paying for a new football stadium.”

I have to admit that Powers makes some good points, though he goes overboard in his assessment of stadium opponents. (We’d prefer to die? Really?)

To lay out (and perhaps elaborate upon) his argument:

1. NFL owners are a profit-seeking group.

2. They see the franchise owned by Zygi Wilf as undervalued, which depresses the value of their own franchises. (Think of it as living next door to a house in foreclosure.) They don’t like it.

3. Each owner knows that citizens across the country are sports-addled, and thus is willing to pit one city against the other. “If you don’t pay up,” they warn, “someone else will.” The owners will be happy to help relocate the team to another sucker city.

4. History is on the side of the NFL, and against good government and the poor. Sometimes teams bolt: Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis; Raiders from Oakland to LA and back to Oakland; Rams from Cleveland to LA to St. Louis, etc. Sometimes they are able to leverage the threat of a move into a taxpayer bailout. (Think: Just about any newish stadium you can think of.) Either way, taxpayers pick up the tab, and owners enjoy the profits.

5. Minnesota is not immune to NFL mania: A team in that league “is too much a part of the life and culture here” for one not to exist. (I suppose when the major university in your state won its last conference title during the Vietnam war, you satisfy your football jones where you can.)

6. Even if the Wilfs leave town, Minnesotans will still pay for an NFL stadium. “One year later, after Minnesota has gone dark during an NFL season, the politicians begin to stir as a great wail goes up from the masses. Clearly they’ll have to find a way to bring the NFL back.”

7. In that case, construction costs will have soared, so Minnesotans will not only be engaging in an inappropriate use of government power, they’ll end up paying even more. To paraphrase the old TV commercial for an oil filter: “You can misuse the taxing power now [cue up a faint echo of a cash register], or you can misuse government later” [CHA-CHING!]

Powers says that this is all inevitable, because “This is a capitalist society fueled by supply and demand.” It is at least partially capitalist. But perhaps he should have added, “and distorted by political intervention in what would otherwise be freely chosen decisions.”

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Read through the comments that accompany the article, and you’ll find a twisted logic. If you oppose having government take from a person of modest means to financially enrich a billionaire, and provide some psychic income to people who enjoy the NFL, you’re selfish. On the other hand, if you support that, you’re being civic minded.

No wonder government is broke–and broken.

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I notice from this article from TIME that only 7 percent of NFL fans have ever attended a game in person. If that’s the case, the location of the stadium isn’t that important anyway. This brings to mind the quip from Jerry Seinfeld that “you’re actually rooting for the clothes.”