Regulators and Redskins

washington redskins

by Bentley Coffey, Patrick McLaughlin, & Robert Tollison

December 17, 2010

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We examine the correlation between federal government activity and the performance of the D.C. area's National Football League team, the Washington Redskins. We find a significantly positive, non-spurious, and robust correlation between the Redskins' winning percentage and the amount of federal government bureaucratic activity as measured by the number of pages in the Federal Register. Because the Redskins' performance is prototypically exogenous, we give this surprising result a causal interpretation. Drawing upon public choice theory and behavioral economics, we provide a plausible explanation for the causal mechanism: bureaucrats must make "logrolling" deals in order to expand their regulatory power, and a winning football team acts as a commonly shared source of joyous optimism to lubricate such negotiations. We do not find the same correlation when examining Congressional activity, which we attribute to legislator loyalty to their home state's team(s).

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