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S.M. Oliva on How Austrian Economic Theory Explains the NHL Lockout


The fourth—and presumably final—sports lockout of the 2011-2013 biennium came to a quiet end on Sunday morning when the National Hockey League and its players union agreed to a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement (which is really an eight-year deal since either side can opt out in 2020). Like the previous NBA and NFL lockouts, the common NHL storyline is that league owners overplayed their "leverage" in trying to break their respective unions, eventually agreeing to new deals that seemingly could have been reached much earlier in the bargaining process.

There is, however, an economic explanation for the recent lockout mania that parallels Austrian business cycle theory, writes S.M. Oliva. The Austrian theory holds that government manipulation of interest rates leads to a period of malinvestment followed by liquidation—the boom-bust cycle. The sports business cycle operates along similar lines, only instead of a central bank manipulating the price of money, a league tries to control the price of labor through collective bargaining.