People Are Not Competitive

Did the title of this article catch your attention? This phrase surprised me when Bill Cooper, a freedom advocate in the Muskegon area, proclaimed it as truth when I had the opportunity to visit with him in summer 2016.

It was exceptionally stunning because Bill competes every day and exudes the spirit of one who loves to win. He said it again when describing the challenges business owners encounter as they try to stay on top of their game. They know that someone else is ready to eat into their market share, and competition forces them to be disciplined, prepared and constantly improving. 

Bill’s insight made me think about the options available to anyone facing stiff competition. I see three. The first is to put in the effort and preparation to improve daily, be the best and win fairly. That is the true competitive spirit. The second is cut corners and cheat. The last is to accept defeat.

Sports provide vivid examples here: Bobby Knight, the legendary (or infamous) college basketball coach, echoed Bill’s observation about our aversion to the discipline necessary to compete fairly. He said of athletes, “Many people have the will to win, but very few have the will to prepare.” In college athletics, being averse to the preparation necessary to compete manifests itself in recruiting violations, the use of performance enhancing drugs, and countless other ways teams and athletes cheat.

In business, people without the will to prepare or the integrity to compete fairly seek corporate welfare, plead for regulations that will create barriers for competitors, or, in the case of unions, extract compulsory dues.

An environment with public policy designed to give favors to some businesses but not others starves the market of the competitive forces that drive businesses to excel. The Mackinac Center doesn’t fault the businesses that take advantage of an unfair policy. Rather, we fault the policy itself; since their competitors will leverage an unfair policy, businesses that don’t use it would be at a disadvantage.

In the space of ideas, the Mackinac Center also competes every day, and Mackinac Center donors provide the will to prepare. We’re in this together for the long haul. A long-time donor recently said that he loves the Mackinac Center, “Because we’re, and I use the term we intentionally because I feel such a part of this, we’re relentless.”