Tom Brady and The Reality of Living in a World of Trade-Offs
Religion & Liberty Online

Tom Brady and The Reality of Living in a World of Trade-Offs

Tom Brady was drafted by the New England Patriots in the unimpressive 6th round of the 2000 NFL draft out of the University of Michigan. No one predicted that the slow-footed, lumbering QB in this footage from pre-draft workouts that year would become one of the greatest players in the sport’s history.

But he did. Boy, did he!

I’m no fan of the Patriots and care little for Tom Brady himself, but the guy is a winner and fierce competitor. His statistics speak for themselves. The teams he’s captained for more than a decade have amassed a staggering amount of wins. His three Super Bowl rings put him in rarefied air when the conversation about where he ranks among Hall of Famers starts up. He’s got multi-million-dollar endorsement deals and a super model wife. According to the largely superficial standards of our modern world – dude’s getting it done!

And so as Brady entered this off-season’s contract negotiations, conventional wisdom said that the 35 year-old QB would be in line for yet another big pay-day. After all, these 1%-er, out-of-touch athletes are all money-obsessed jerks, no? Given the “spread the wealth” mentality that increasingly typifies America in 2013, we’ll probably need to get some congressional oversight to limit the salaries of the wealthy jocks parading around the field playing a kid’s game, right?

Even in the National Football League, life is a series of trade-offs.

From USA Today:

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has taken a steep discount on the going rate for elite NFL quarterbacks to help the team allocate money elsewhere and make at least one more title run in his career, according to a person familiar with the agreement.

There are certain economics realities – such as the fact that we live in a world of scarcity – and these realities dictate other unavoidable facts (i.e. trade-offs). The Patriots have financial constraints that do not allow them to throw money at every name on their roster that they’d ideally like to keep. Tom Brady, driven in this instance by something(s) more than money (of which he of course has a lot of already), and left alone to make his own decisions, weighed the options and went for less cash but another run at a Super Bowl title with the franchise and city that gave him his start (when no one else would).

I’m not claiming that Tom Brady should receive a Humanitarian of the Year award – truly, we don’t know what most of these athletes and entertainers are like in their personal lives – but this decision he’s made does raise a few of the good kind of eyebrows. Every political argument these days about levels of taxation and minimum wage and “fair share” and the pay of corporate CEO’s and what people “deserve” from their government in terms of entitlements is (slyly) couched in moral rhetoric by those advocating for increases in everything (except personal responsibility and fiscal restraint).

But this usage of moral rhetoric is entirely disingenuous, in my opinion. It’s always about getting more and more from other people. It’s about ignoring economic realities. It’s about vindictive “justice” with the coercive power of the government. It presupposes that the only thing that matters to people is more material wealth. It’s the very opposite of moral.

Mr. Brady was very likely NOT trying to make any of these (perhaps convoluted) points when he inked his new deal, but I was impressed by his decision and appreciate any opportunity to remind others of the wisdom of Milton Friedman:

I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.

Let people make their own decisions. Give talented people incentives to stay and they will.

R.J. Moeller

R.J. Moeller is a writer and podcast host for the American Enterprise Institute's "Values & Capitalism" project. He's also a regular contributor at and Originally from Chicago, he currently resides in Los Angeles, CA where he serves as a media consultant to nationally syndicated columnist and talk show host, Dennis Prager.