Football Law: Changing the Rules of the Game | Learn Liberty

Football Law: Changing the Rules of the Game | Learn Liberty

If you’re like most Americans, you know
the basic rules of football. Touchdowns are worth six points. Field goals are worth three
points. But what would happen if they suddenly changed the rules? What if the value of a
field goal suddenly went from three points to five points?
We can make some guesses at some of the consequences of such a rule change. For example, game strategy
might change. “And they’re attempting another sixty-yard field goal.” “Fourth
and goal from the one-yard line, Don. But they’ll take the sure five.”
Draft picks and salaries might change. “For the first time in NFL history, a kicker was
taken in the first round of the draft.” But these sorts of rule changes are problematic
because there are likely to be major consequences that we simply cannot foresee when we implement
them. Changed incentives mean that players and coaches will develop responses that are
creative beyond our ability to imagine. The rule change itself, along with the unpredictable
nature of these responses, makes it much harder for teams to plan ahead for the long run.
And that it makes it harder to figure out how to win.
Will teams develop new defensive schemes for certain third-down plays where a field goal
might be an option on fourth down? And if so, what sort of offensive plays and players
might you want to draft? The more often rules are changed, and the more central those rules
are, the worse these problems will become. And when rules get changed once, it creates
fear that they will get changed again. And this compounds the feeling of uncertainty
that players and coaches have about the value of their skills and their game strategies.
In games, we expect the rules to apply equally to all and to be enforced fairly. We also
expect that they’ll have some permanence to them and not be subject to arbitrary changes.
And this isn’t just true in sports, like football. It’s true any time people interact.
Take the economy. Stable and predictable rules that apply equally to all are key aspects
of what we call the rule of law, which is essential to a well-functioning free market.
But in many respects, we don’t have that kind of free market in the US. Corporations
lobby for special regulations and exemptions that give them an unfair advantage over their
competitors. Lawmakers, bureaucrats create new rules all the time. So it’s hard for
people to keep up. And once you start changing the rules while
the game is being played, you create confusion about what the best strategies are. And you
make people less willing to play. The economic effects include making people
less likely to make long-term investments. And that will slow economic growth. You also
encourage more companies to seek their own favors from lawmakers looking to acquire wealth
just for themselves instead of by creating value for consumers.
This is why changing the rules of the games — whether it’s football or the economy
— has to be approached with great caution. The results are often unpredictable. And that
uncertainty undermines people’s ability to plan for the future and to take the strategies
that will win the game or create the wealth that improves the lives of all of us.

About the Author: Garret Beatty


  1. The primary rules of money have not changed in 5000 years. These rules are issuing money as debt and distributing it selectively. These fundamental rules are what have enabled the Issuers of money and their friends to control the direction of production and determine who the winners and losers are throughout history. I have created a money system that issues money for free and distributes it equally. This new system removes the unearned power from a handful of privileged class elites and puts it in the hands of all people equally. This system is called Numero Set and it has been functioning flawlessly for the past 5 years with over 250+ members.

  2. But what about the NFL kicker who wants to be as much a star are the QB? Only Nate Kaeding gets any praise as a kicker.

  3. I know this is like, super not the point but there have been a few kickers taken in the first round already. In fact Sebastian Janikowski is in the nfl right now and was taken in the first round of the 2000 draft.

  4. Rules of Football and rules of any system, can and should change as often as necessary to achieve the goals of the system.  The objectives of the football rules are not to be fair, but to achieve an outcome, for example make the game so enjoyable to watch that people will pay to watch it.  According to this guy they should never have allowed the rules to change to allow the forward pass.  Or what about the rule that added a shot clock in basketball.  In commerce it is the same.  A fishing community could change the rules about what fish can be caught as a result of changing fish populations.  To suggest that change is bad because change creates uncertainty is as wrong a notion as I have ever heard.

  5. As someone who does not like sports, I would very much encourage the officials to change the rules frequently.

  6. How many people are wary of using Bitcoin or starting a Bitcoin business simply because they are afraid of unexpected and arbitrary rule changes? 

  7. Participation in football is voluntary. If you don't like the rules, then don't play. Try that with the IRS next April and you'll quickly find out that "the consent of the governed" is a fairy tale for suckers.

  8. Do you know of any real world examples when a rule change in sports led to both predicable and unintended consequences? Requirements for additional padding in football might be an example.

  9. When basketball was invented, a ten foot goal was quite high, I think goals should be raised to 12 feet so that shorter guys can be a bigger part of the game.

  10. The NFL and NCAA institute rule changes every year. Quite literally every year. Most changes year to year are so minor only those who make it their business notice a change.

    (Pro Tip: Here are three separate years just the touchdown changed rules and only for points acquired: 1883 Four (4) Points, 1897 Five (5) Points, 1912 Six (6) Points)

    The argument presented is real weaksauce. This is the internet, don't attempt to teach while referencing things you know little about.

    Rule Updates for 2016
    NCAA Football Rules of the Game:

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