Will Hutton doesn't quite grasp this FIFA thing, does he?


Not that this should be all that much of a surprise, that Will Hutton doesn't grasp the central reality of a matter. The thing that does surprise is the sheer number of things that Will Hutton doesn't grasp the central reality of. Take this from his latest, about FIFA:

Is the over-riding principle of our times that bad behaviour drives out good? The assertion of self-interest and the pursuit of profit, by fair means or foul, trumps everything. Great values are under assault. Whether nobility of purpose, behaving with integrity, looking out for others, accepting responsibility or just doing the right thing – all seem to be withering on the vine.

Emblematic of the age was the action of 133 leaders of world football associations tamely re-electing Sepp Blatter for a fifth term as president of Fifa.

It's no more emblematic of this age than of any other. The central assertion of economics is that incentives matter. So, if people can enrich themselves through bribery and cronyism, they will. The question is, if we do not desire that they do so, how do we design the incentives so that they do not do so?

Under different leadership, the published report could have triggered global action against corruption in football. Fifa’s governing processes should have been overhauled from top to bottom. There should be term limits on executives, transparency in the bidding process to host tournaments and proper checks and balances. None of this happened and the author of the inactivity has now been re-elected president. It is breathtaking hypocrisy and a global signal that bad behaviour pays off.

It isn't a matter of just having the right people in place. It's a matter of the incentives. Any private business that acted in this manner would be going bankrupt right about now: because that's what competition does, weeds out those who misbehave. Yes, even among those who run competitions that competition works.

If you really qwant to sort out FIFA then the answer is to start another competition between national football teams. And may the best cup win the match.