Let Them Cheat

Haven’t we learned anything from Grand Theft Auto? Cheating and stealing in the right context can be lots of fun.

I point this out in light of the report on Esports issued last week by the law firm Foley & Lardner. According to the firm’s press release: “When asked what poses a threat to esports’ legitimacy and growth, more than two-thirds of respondents (68%) pointed to cheating and match fixing.”

Why?

Think about it. This is an activity for people who are really good with computers, strategy, and, yes, hacking. Why would we want to hold them back? You wouldn’t tell Tom Brady that he’s not allowed to pass. You wouldn’t tell pitchers they can’t throw curveballs.

What would have happened to the career of James T. Kirk if he hadn’t hacked the Kobayashi Maru? (I know some of you have no idea what I’m talking about. I won’t explain because you’ll have more fun looking it up.)

The obvious solution to this problem — if it really is a problem — is to ignore it. The Esports audience will love imaginative cheating. There will be hacker superstars.

Of course the other interesting thing about this law firm report is that there is a law firm report. Esports have become big business and that means big law gets to play.

Some of you may be thinking that useless activity should not be generating huge amounts of money and that gaming is a waste of intellectual energy. In fact, this is a peek into the future of humanity. As technology takes all of our useful jobs, we’re going to need pointless activity to keep economies afloat.

I’m looking forward to competitive sleeping.

This is rich. I don’t hate rich people. It’s not their fault that they’ve been lucky in life. But I can understand why some not-so-rich people might be annoyed after reading a sentence like this that opens a Seventh Circuit ruling released last week: “Insurance executive Steven Menzies sold over $64 million in his company’s stock but did not report any capital gains on his 2006 federal income tax return.”

If you’re thinking that Menzies is the defendant in some sort of criminal action here, you’d be wrong. He’s the plaintiff and he’s suing the people who recommended the tax shelter that the Internal Revenue Service disapproved.

Give this a moment’s thought. A guy sells $64 million worth of stock, pays no taxes on his capital gains, and then gets mad because he’s penalized for not paying those taxes. Yeah, he may have a case, but this is not a sympathetic figure. Some of you — not all of you — may be thinking this guy deserved a penalty or two for thinking tax avoidance was a great idea even after being told that the IRS could challenge the scheme.

I know rich people do this sort of thing all the time (or at least I think I know that — it may be an unfair stereotype), but it’s worth noting because a lot of the political debate these days is about income inequality and that rich guys should be paying more. Billionaires are being reduced to tears.

I hate to see a billionaire cry as much as the next person, but you know those guys or their advisers are going to come up with schemes to avoid any kind of serious payment to the government. And they’ll sue if the schemes don’t work.

So instead of taxing the rich, let’s pay them.

These are people with very large egos who can’t get enough money. Why not use those traits? Offer lucrative bounties or more tax breaks to rich people who do good deeds — e.g. housing the homeless or opening tuition-free colleges or figuring out how to cut medical costs.

Then we all benefit and billionaires can smile.

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