Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

NBA Membership vs. Club Ownership

Posted Apr 30, 2014 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, No Comments

The National Basketball Association Commissioner, Adam Sliver, did a couple of important things when he banned the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers from the Association for his taped racist remarks. Silver clearly stated that he was there for the players (and for the rest of us) by protecting human dignity from financial power. He also reminded us that ownership has it limits. More than that, he demonstrated that the rights of membership sometimes should override the rights of ownership. In the current conversation about the role of ownership in a viable economy, this may be a learning moment we should not pass by.

In Civilizing the Economy, I proposed that we switch from an economy based on property ownership to one based on civic membership. If I understand the Commissioner’s position correctly, he actually implemented this proposal. The Association told the owner that his ownership did not give him control of the Clippers, or the Association.   This is not something we hear often in our society.

There is a deeper question. Let me put the question this way? What community do you belong to that will protect your dignity? I think NBA basketball players and coaches now have an answer for that question. Do we? Is that even a good question for property owners? Isn’t our answer that all we need is for the government to protect our property, and we can take care of our own dignity? Or is this only the voice of white privilege? Since we are white and privileged, no one would threaten our dignity, unless someone revealed that our assumed dignity is based on the undignified treatment of others.

As Emmanuel Kant said, there is one thing that does not have a price: human dignity. In fact, some of the NBA players have enough money to buy dignity if it were for sale.   This isn’t about the distribution of income, but abut mutual respect. In the aftermath of this event, we will see if membership retains its control over ownership. If it does, we might learn more about the difference between an economics of property and a civic economics of provision.

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Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit for more information.

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