Conning referees.

Conor Friedersdorf asks:

Does the presence of referees or umpires make it okay to benefit from what you know is a bad call, or even to actively mislead? Or does good sportsmanship demand more than technical adherence to the rules? Are athletes who feign being fouled doing something immoral?

I think there’s a surprisingly clear analogy to be drawn here between the way we should approach cheating in sports and tax avoidance. In the same way that the latter may be technically legal yet evidently contrary to the spirit of the law, just because you can get away with the former doesn’t mean that you should therefore do it. And in both cases, I think the reason why we wish to object to the action is that if it were practised by everyone, all hell would break loose. Sport would soon lack value and purpose if everyone tried to win by exploiting the law, rather than playing within it. Similarly, if instead of seeing tax as something to be paid, everyone does their best to locate loopholes, we could soon kiss farewell to society. Those that continue to cheat regardless simply free-ride on the rest of us, whilst we do our best to keep good things clean from their corrupting contributions.


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