Muhammad Ali had a storied career as a boxer, activist in the "black is beautiful" movement and anti Viet Nam War protester. He inspired millions of people with his exploits inside and outside of the boxing ring.
Michael J. Fox brought great pleasure to millions of television viewers with his work on "Family Ties," and then "Spin City." He has also appeared in numerous movies, — who can ever forget the "Back to the Future" series? — to great critical and commercial acclaim. Then there is Christopher Reeves who has attained world renown for bringing Superman alive to us. His steely blue eyes, his red and blue uniform with the "S" on the chest, his cape, his deeds of derring-do, are a vital part of our culture.
In their past careers, these three men were stars. The entire nation, nay, virtually all of the civilized world, venerated them. Young people tried to emulate them in their own lives. Women would swoon whenever any of these three appeared.
Where are they now? Each, unfortunately, has been struck with a dread debilitation. Ali and Fox have contracted Parkinson’s disease, and Reeves has been victimized by a spinal chord injury. But there have been moral lapses as well. Ali, Fox and Reeves, along with many other professional athletes and stars of stage and screen, have been actively engaged in inciting theft. To wit: they have testified before congress, asking that money be allotted to the study and cure of these diseases and debilitations. If you don’t believe this characterization, ask yourself: where will these monies come from?
Are Ali, Fox and Reeves asking for voluntary contributions from willing charitable donors? Not a bit of it. Very much to the contrary, these funds will be demanded from taxpayers at the point of a gun. Yes, the purposes to which they will be put will be good ones. Who, after all, can oppose medical research, and support for the afflicted? But the road to hell is paved with good intentions; the devil is in the details. It does not suffice that the aims are good ones; the means must also be proper as well, and here they are not.
It cannot be denied that these celebrities have had great success in their booty seeking. They have already succeeded in raising vast sums of money not their own from politicians. And the indications are that there is more to come in future: yesterday, Michael J. Fox’s testimony before a Senate committee was greeted by applause, an all but unprecedented occurrence in those "hallowed" halls.
This attempt to garner money against the will of their owners stands in very sharp contrast indeed with their earlier careers that brought them fame in the first place. There, not a penny was mulcted from unwilling donors. Every penny earned by Ali in the boxing ring came from fans who voluntarily plunked their money down on the barrel head to see him fight. The boxers pummeled by him in the ring agreed to be there, and were paid for their own efforts. In the cases of Fox and Reeves, here was not a single solitary movie-goer or television watcher who was forced to pay for these benefits; all participated in commercial endeavors with these actors on a completely voluntary basis.
So I beseech these actors, athletes and other heroes of the culture: do not allow your names to be used in this nefarious manner. Return to your voluntary roots. Go back to the behavior which first made you famous: capitalist acts between consenting adults. Certainly, raise money to fight these debilitations! But do so in a civilized manner, not one befitting a thug. If you cease and desist from these evil acts, I personally promise to contribute to your charitable goals. Yes, there may at the end of the day be less money forthcoming for these noble purposes, but every penny of it will be legitimate.
Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professors of economics at Loyola College in New Orleans.