International Society for the Sociology of Sport International Conference
Taoyuan City, Taiwan
Reimagining Democracies and Sport – for whom does the pendulum swing?
I would like to extend my thanks to the members of the organising committee of the International Sports Sociology Association for extending the invitation to give this keynote address, a big xie xie to our hosts at the National Taiwan Sports University, and my greetings to colleagues old and new. This promises to be an exciting week of debate and discussion and it is a privilege to be able to be able to offer these opening remarks.
Before latching onto the wildly gyrating pendulum of global sport, I want to offer a personal reflection on the ways in which democracy and sport shift and change over time.
When I first set foot in this city in March of 1996, big sabres rattled across the Taiwan Strait. The Taiwanese were holding their first vote for president and the People´s Republic of China was not pleased. As tens of thousands of enthusiastic Taiwanese marched up and down and around the city, the People’s Liberation Army lobbed a few missiles in the direction of my new home, prompting Chairman Clinton to send two aircraft carrier battle groups down from their hijacked nest in Okinawa. Undeterred by mainland aggression, the Taiwanese voted to keep the Kumongtang in power, reasserting through the ballot box their increasingly dubious claim to be the representative government of all China.
Being in Taipei during the 1996 elections was personally instructive in a number of ways. In being faced with the prospect of war over the right to vote, I was introduced to politics in ways that had never been apparent to me in the United States. The streets of Taipei were alive with tens of thousands of marchers, full of colour and vibrancy that made a deep impression on my political consciousness. The presence of the Okinawan fleet was a keen reminder of the geopolitical importance of small islands caught in the teeth of continental superpowers.
Then as now, the rift between the two Chinas is particularly visible through the lens of international sport. The Taiwanese have not competed under their national flag since the 1970s and are the most populous country in the world not have formal representation at the United Nations. If we consider the first question posed by the conference organisers, Who are or should be considered members of the sport society?, the answer for 23 million Taiwanese is more complicated than for 24 million Australians.
In the intervening twenty years, much has changed economically and politically for both the ROC and the PRC, but their relative positions in the global sports arena have not shifted significantly.
You may be wondering why I was in Taiwan, dodging ballistic missiles and watching democratic experiments.
I spent much of my youth near the floodlights of Arlington Stadium, a 60s era baseball ground in suburban Dallas. In the early 1990s, cities in the USA began to offer staggering sums for professional teams to knock down old facilities as the anti-trust exemptions given to the USA’s major sports leagues allows teams to pick up sticks at the slightest hint of not extracting monopoly rents. In one of my first experiences of the complicated relationships between democracy and sport, a local ballot measure gave more than 130 million dollars and tax exemptions to an ownership group headed by a single-lettered son of a former director of the CIA.
Dubya entered into the majority ownership of the Texas Rangers, a mascot that refers to a state-sponsored terrorist organization charged with exterminating the indigenous population in a 19th century settler colony, with a loan from the Bin Laden family, and with his rehabilitated public profile, leveraged his position as owner of the Rangers to became the governor of Texas in 1994. Sickened by these developments (which have since deteriorated – the city just agreed to pay 1.6 billion to finance a newer baseball stadium and paid more than 600 million for the Dallas Cowboys stadium a decade ago), I left the US for Central America, eventually landing in Taiwan in a bout of youthful wanderlust, attracted by a job to teach in an English cram school. It was still the early days of the internet and there was not much information about the city or what it had to offer, so I put some things in a bag and headed off to Formosa.
Oddly enough for a Texan, I had always travelled with my football boots and learned that there was an active league in the city. I found my way to the training sessions of the Red Lions Football Club, a motley assortment of ex-pats and Taiwanese who played in the Taipei Businessman´s League. Taipei was much dirtier then and we frequently had to pick dead animals and medical waste off the pitch after the monsoon rains had flooded the nearby river. The league was comprised of ethno-national teams from Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Ireland and the British Isles. On-field tensions were as high as the humidity, making for a pungent and pugnacious Sunday morning kickabout. On one occasion we brawled with the team from Hong Kong who had brought twenty odd supporters along and I remember one of my teammates having his arms held behind him as he was repeatedly punched and kicked in the face.
To make a long story short, we battled through the league and the toxic mud, won enough to go on to the final which was played in the Zongshan Stadium in front of what must have been dozens of fans in a driving rain. The local media were out to cover the match, I scored a couple of goals, and we won the league. In the awards ceremony, I was handed a surprisingly heavy trophy with a Chinese inscription that I was told was for the league´s best player. I couldn’t read it, so took it on confidence that’s what it was.
Ten years later, I wrote a book about football stadiums in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro and put a relatively cryptic reference to this forgettable event in Taiwanese sporting history on the back cover.
So it is with great pleasure that I return to Taipei, nearly twenty years to the day from my modestly triumphant departure.
Now to our swinging pendulum…
“If we take the simple democratic view that what men (sic) are interested in is all that concerns us, then we are accepting the values that have been inculcated, often accidentally and often deliberately by vested interests. These values are often the only ones men (sic) have had any chance to develop. They are unconsciously acquired habits rather than choices.”
This is a quote from C.W. Mills that is on the splash page of the conference website under the heading Reimagining Democracies and Sport.
If we take the words that I have highlighted here and place them together, we come up with a formula that I would like to use to probe some key issues associated with sport and democracy in an age of tremendous political uncertainty.
If, as Mills suggests, citizens in democracies (and other political systems) are inculcated with a particular value system AND that value system is dominated by vested interests, then it follows that political habits are unconsciously acquired. That is, we are not fully conscious of our own actions and behaviours or how those inform the increasingly trans-local societies in which we live. This may be especially true for sport which is one of the most de-politicized realms of civic engagement and much like the Texas Rangers baseball team of the Bushes, is conditioned and controlled by vested interests.
As academics interested in the cultural and political manifestations of sport, we are called to question the unconscious habits that sustain our sporting practices. If we assume that sporting practice is inherently political, then a through examination of sporting practice will also reveal a great deal about our political consciousness, our political practices, and the tones and quality of our forms of governance.
I wish to explore these dynamics by interrogating some of the ways in which achievement sport is inherently undemocratic, before turning to some ways in which a progressive politics can emerge from the current political conjuncture in which populist governments are more likely than ever to use the deracinated politics of the sport industrial complex to consolidate their power.
I lived in Rio de Janeiro between 2009 and early 2015, a period in which the city underwent traumatic contortions to prepare itself for the World Cup and Summer Olympics. Having witnessed first hand the impacts upon geographic space and social relations in the city, I wish to bring you through a trajectory of the ways in which these events unfold in whichever city is unfortunate enough to have political leaders that pursue them.
The first decade of the 21st century was a time of great optimism in Brazil. With a stable currency, a booming economy, and the ascendency of a nominally progressive government headed by Lula, elite coalitions within the emergent BRIC nation pursued and captured the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. In 2007, FIFA handed the World Cup to Brazil without any competition, as a team headed by Ricardo Texeira and Jerome Valcke presented Sepp Blatter with a 300 page dossier in the Amazonian city of Manaus. That document was never seen by the Brazilian public, the aspirational promises contained within it stashed in Zurich. It was only a few months ago, after two years of digging in Switzerland that I was able to get my hands on it.
After being awarded the World Cup, a Brazilian delegation led by Lula was in Copenhagen to argue for the awarding of the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro. Again, a closed circle of elites, backed by the real-estate and construction industries, put together a bid that had no input from Brazilian civil society, no mechanisms for participation in the creation of the future Olympic City, and came with a guarantee from three levels of government that any and all cost overruns would be taken care of by the Brazilian taxpayer. There is an on going investigation into which IOC palms were greased prior to the 2009 vote, but in his emotive appeal, Lula claimed that the global financial crisis would only be a ripple in Brazil, and that it was Brazil’s, no, South America’s turn to host the world’s biggest party. The IOC made no mistake about its intentions to prise open a neo-colonialist market for the Olympic Movement and its business partners by calling the Rio Olympics “A New World”.
Once the World Cup and Olympic bids were accepted and the ink on the hosting contracts dried, Brazilian politicians at all three levels of government passed a series of laws that would allow FIFA and the IOC to do business there. These exceptional laws included tax exemptions for multi-national corporations, fast-track contracting procedures that did away with environmental impact studies, compulsory purchase orders that removed inconvenient neighbourhoods, and low interest loans for hotel and stadium construction, exemptions to municipal debt regulatory structures, and special powers for policing, including preventative arrests and the creation of a draconian anti-terrorism law.
These legal exceptions are the norm for mega-event hosts and similar measures were passed in Germany, South Africa, Sydney, Torino, Athens, Vancouver, and London - to only mention the recent democracies to host the Olympics and World Cup. These states of exception are the norm because the events themselves are abnormal, requiring extraordinarily rapid transformations of urban space within seven years to accommodate the gigantism of the spectacle and the feudal demands of the lords of the rings.
Once these laws of exception have been put into place, the wrecking balls begin to swing and cities are forever changed. Their pendular action sets off waves of creative destruction that inevitably result in white elephant structures, environmental degradation, gentrification, privatization, militarization, long term debt, and the consolidation of elite privilege and consumer sovereignty.
These are not accidental outcomes.
Let me be more explicit:
The vaudevillian pulling of a city or country out of an envelope sets off powerful forces that bring into reality the places and spaces that are contained within bid documents. These documents are technical assemblages complied by vested interests in local politics as well as the finance, construction, media, real-estate, security, and tourism industries. These documents have no broadly democratic input and have very little in the way of accountability mechanisms. The documents are an assemblage of ideas, desires, ideologies, and intentions, are full of promises to deliver generalized benefits for populations, but are low on reality checks.
Bid documents and the material transformations that result from them are, in many senses, pornographic as they intend to stimulate the desires of capital, of tourists, of the IOC and FIFA to reproduce their social worlds in a particular geographic space in a way that is familiar to them while hiding the violence implicit in the production and consumption of those spaces and places. Indeed, FIFA, the IOC, and their corporate partners only reproduce in certain kinds of spaces, within air conditioned boxes, with certain sightlines, with suites of privileges, with seasonal fruits presented to them in five star hotels. Cities and citizens endlessly construct these sporting landscapes with public resources across the globe, but they have weak voices, little agency. These pornographic geographies of global sport always come with the promise of bling and bliss but inevitably and intentionally result in wasted public resources, fleeting feel good moments for the few, and enduring hangovers for the many.
Thus it happens that a city and country has its laws and geography altered to attend to the demands of a small, opaquely governed group of Swiss-based sports executives who enter into a binding contract with a willing coalition of local politicians and their patterns in the industries that stand to benefit the most from the production, consumption, and destruction that the event itself calls into being. The convergence of these two rent-seeking coalitions, the local and the international, plays upon the civic and national consciousness of residents, local pride in hosting the world overtaking the common good of building a better city, a healthier society.
In Brazil, the euphoria that accompanied the arrival of the world’s biggest sporting events had dissipated even before the Germans hammered seven nails into the ideological coffin of the Pais de Futebol. Millions had already voiced their discontent at governmental spending priorities in 2013, a general recognition that the damage to Brazilian democracy had been done before that fateful semi-final. When the World Cup was over, the bills were coming due as a colossal corruption scandal unfolded and a real life House of Cards was playing out under increasingly desperate economic conditions.
The trials and tribulations of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil in the post-mega event era are, or should be, fairly well known to this audience. What we forget is that it was less than a year ago that the IOC, the Rio organizing committee, the federal government and the sports industry were clamouring about how many positive benefits were going to accrue to the city as a result of hosting the Olympics. The evidence to the contrary is there for all to see, as it always was. The business model of the mega-event is designed to take money from the public purse and transfer it to private interests while building iconic infrastructure that has little functional use in the daily lives of residents, who are quadruply taxed for the dubious honour of hosting.
Citizens, in democracies or not, must pay to build the venues, then they must pay to attend the events, then they must pay for maintenance and if they are wealthy, they can afford the higher ticket prices that result from the gentrification of fandom. Those who benefit most are a small cadre of elites involved in the event, and the international tourist class that sprites into town for a few days or a week on a holiday, collecting experiences, selfies, and social capital, before zipping back home without ever thinking of the consequences.
Within the operationalization of the mega-event, which is not so much an event as a process, the insidious cleverness of the business model comes more fully to light. The convergence of differential governance structures, one of sport and the other of society, creates a shell game of responsibility wherein no individual or autarchy or institution can be held to account for what is happening on the ground. If we take the Brazilian example of the World Cup as paradigmatic, local governments claimed that they were forced to spend money to build stadia that conformed to FIFA requirements, the organizing committee could claim that they were held hostage by state inefficiencies, and FIFA could claim that they were helpless to intervene in Brazilian political affairs. In the end, citizens have nowhere to turn, the games go on, the profits end up in Swiss accounts, and on to the next host.
The media, implicated in the production and consumption cycle of the spectacle, habitually repeat the question that allows for the event to proceed apace. I was recently asked to participate in a BBC program that was going to ask, again: is hosting the Olympic Games worth it?
I refuse to answer this question as it continues a monetized engagement with the impact of the mega-event when their reality should be explored in much more detail and texture, especially in regard to the role of sport in creating a more just and liveable world. While I think the BBC’s producers may have had good intentions, the framing of the debate around questions of worth does not allow for a questioning of the business model, but rather maintains a focus on a dichotomized economic calculus. On top of that, the question is facile: of course sports mega-events are “worth it”, for some.
Audiences have never been bigger, profits in the sports industry never higher. For those that have never lived in a city whose urban agenda has been hijacked by a mega-event, the burden of fandom is never felt directly, the political consequences of the spectacle are always borne by others. For global audiences, the World Cup and Olympics are biennial comets that flash across our screens, spasms of flag waving, beer drinking, and human interest stories. We may be inspired to do some more exercise, but the events also create sharp divisions between us and them, reifying the territorial boundaries of the nation-state and highlighting legal parameters of citizenship, while creating ever more consumerist subjectivities. In this particular political conjuncture we should ask ourselves if we need more fanaticos waving national flags and creating mutual antagonisms predicated upon narrowly defined categories.
What if we were to ask the BBC’s question differently: how do the Olympics and World Cup make a more just and liveable world? How does sport contribute to human solidarity, mutual understanding, and social justice? I think that in asking these questions, we are more likely to uncover the ways in which sport and politics are one and the same. By exploring answers to these questions we can reveal the mechanisms through which the sports industrial complex is embedded within our political lives and can find ways in which to use sport as a site of progressive political agency.
So, how do the Olympics and World Cup make a more just and liveable world?
One of the wonderful things about these events is that they are opportunities for people from all over the world – even if they don’t attend in person - to meet within a mutually intelligible set of practices, vocabularies, and histories. I still remember my experiences from the 1994 World Cup when I met Nigerians and Koreans, Argentinos and Bulgarians on the streets of Dallas, or from France 1998 when Iranians were consoling me on the streets of Lyon after they knocked us out of the tournament. On Copacabana Beach in 2014, Brazilians were introduced to the songs, chants, and passionate commitment of their fellow South Americans in a way that most had never seen. It was both revealing and instructive for them to see their hermanos latinos in action as Brazil has no identifiable national team culture.
For the athletes and teams, participating in the Olympics is always a special event, though this too has been changed by the superstar status accorded the Yanquis, and the hyper securitized and increasingly disciplined spaces in which the athletes must circulate.
Those who are fortunate and wealthy enough to travel to distant countries to participate as spectators and tourists inevitably come away from the World Cup and Olympics with a sense of deep satisfaction, even if their team loses. I did this myself in France, traveling around the country with friends as we went from city to city watching matches. However, as the stakes become ever higher for the cities and standardised processes of militarisation, privatisation, and corporatisation have taken hold – we can no longer afford to maintain a de-politicised position in regard to our fandom, our tourism, or our relationship to the games we love.
The strong affect and good feeling that surrounds the events extends to our ordinary sporting lives in many ways. Some of my closest friends are teammates from seasons past, and my life has been constantly marked by the rhythms and places of sport. Despite their personal importance and potential to bring people together in unique and important ways, I am no longer convinced that achievement sport makes a more just and liveable world.
The interminable corruption scandals, doping, gambling, and administrative chicanery that characterise global sport appear to have crept into our everyday politics. The naked use of sport as a site of political manipulation is nowhere stronger than in the USA where every game must be opened with a singing of the national anthem, and every helmet, backboard, and jersey must be slathered with the flag. The first memorial services for victims of 9/11 were held in Yankee Stadium, and during the W. Bush presidency NASCAR races and American Football games were increasingly used as sites to bang the drums of war. The NFL is a certified contractor with the Department of Defense and the game itself is a metaphor for Yanqui militarism.
To make matters worse, achievement sport is increasing its stranglehold over municipal budgets, bringing ever younger labourers into a globalised talent pipeline that has no safety nets, and uses public school systems as a subsidized pipeline for future professionals. The highest paid public employee in the majority of US states is either a basketball or American Football coach, while the gentrification of fandom has accelerated with the corporatization of stadium spaces financed with public money. The sports industrial complex is replete with histories of exploitation, sexual abuse, graft, corruption, and criminality. The Olympics and World Cup are platforms for increasing consumption of tvs, soft drinks, fast food, energy, concrete, glass, steel, and tourism. The more one looks the nastier it becomes – yet we are constantly watching, drawn by our unconscious to watch this century-long narrative unfold in yet another wave of creative destruction, or if you prefer, destructive creation.
If the core question of a politicized sporting life is “does this practice make for a more just and liveable world?” then it is clear that achievement sport at the highest level is something that needs a radical intervention. Conferences such as this are essential to providing a space for pushing forward this essential dialogue.
If we move away from achievement sport to ask “How does sport contribute to human solidarity, mutual understanding, and social justice?” then we may be able to find some ways to work our way out of the current conjuncture in which dangerously radical populism in a fake-news world may have found a serially replicable model in the post-truthiness of mega-event rhetoric.
Although it is human nature to play games, institutionalized achievement sport is a relatively new human endeavor. Whether or not the inventors and organizers of modern sport wished them to be so, their social positions and ideological frameworks, the places and spaces in which they played, their inclusions and exclusions, their diffusion patterns and institutional structures have always grounded sports in politics.
It is probably fair to say that everyone in this room cares deeply about sport. Personally, I have explored the world by following a ball, bouncing from country to county, city to city, always looking for and finding a game. The more I came to structure my life, my personal relationships, and experiences around the sports I play and watch, the more alienated I became from their most spectacular manifestations and the more important the grounded engagement with them became. I think it is possible to disassociate oneself from the sports industrial complex and to use sport as a tool for political activism. While a Saturday kickabout doesn’t need to happen while marching under a red star banner with fists raised, there should always be an awareness about the freedom that can be found within four lines, and the ways in which those same four lines can function as exclusionary boundaries. There can be no game without opposition, and trying and failing to convince mutually antagonistic groups that their common practice, their common space, their common passion was under threat was always one of the most frustrating elements of trying to organize football fans in Brazil. In a dark political era, finding ways to use sport as a vehicle for community engagement and basic human solidarity has never been more important.
Knowing that professional and high level achievement sport are inherently undemocratic and increase rather than decrease democratic institutions and practices, we need to be aware that we may be asking unconscious, habitual questions of them. We should, indeed, be asking whether or not we need them at all. What mutual benefit do they bring that we do not already have in other areas of life? Are their rewards equally distributed? How does sporting practice open space for social inclusion? If the answer is “I don’t know”, then something needs to change. Can we disrupt and rearticulate the oligarchic cabals that currently preside over global sport? Will we learn from the lessons of the 1930s when both Hitler and Mussolini latched onto the Olympics and World Cup to consolidate their political projects? What ends would an Paris 2024 Olympics serve a hypothetical Le Pen presidency?
These questions do not have easy answers and may require that we sacrifice, or at least examine closely, some of our most commonly held assumptions about sport. It may require that we never again watch the Olympics or World Cup, it may require that we have to work against sporting institutions in order to build something different. It may require that we stop the Olympics, end the World Cup, as they are no longer fit for purpose.
I would like to bring some of the points I have made above in answer to the principal questions posed by the conference organisers.
· What does, or should, constitute a minimum level of control over decision making by members for a sport system to be thought of as democratic?
I have argued that achievement sport is inherently undemocratic, especially at the highest levels. The monopolistic cabals of the IOC and FIFA, the NCAA and the Premier League are extraordinarily poor examples of using sport to advance democracy, transparent decision making, and accountability. While there have been incremental reforms, the underlying governance structures of these institutions are relics of 19th century paternalistic colonialism and should be torn down. They operate within a governance infrastructure of an age where sport did not mobilize billions of dollars across continents and had not yet emerged into a globalized sports industrial complex. As we have seen on innumerable occasions, those who have inserted themselves into sports governance structures have the ability to use these cosseted positions to their advantage, all the while claiming that sports are not political, that we should focus on the game. While of course not every sports official is corrupt, the systems within which good people try to do good work are so slavishly conditioned to maintain the status quo that whistle blowers are prosecuted and left unprotected, and good intentions that negatively impact the maximum extraction of monopoly rents are thwarted.
Part of the problem in answering this question is that sport is inherently hierarchical. It is so tied to the project of capitalist modernity that it may be impossible to have a system within which there is a broadly distributive system of decision making. However, at smaller scales, under more localized and regionalised conditions, there are models that work to increase solidarity among members even within an inherently competitive system.
I would argue that it doesn’t matter so much what we think about democracy or levels of collective engagement, but that we implement meaningful reforms through personal practice so that the benefits of sporting participation can extend beyond the immediacy of the sporting community. For instance, I grew up playing soccer in suburban Dallas, where every practice and every game had to be reached by car, where uniforms cost upwards of 200 dollars a year, boots were 100 dollars a season, and travel was the norm. This is an exclusionary form of sport that is predicated upon discriminatory urbanism. In order to make sport more inclusive in suburban Dallas, we would have to rethink our cities as well. In New York, where I now live, immigrant communities that have long used public parks as a site for sport and community building have started to retreat to other, more hidden spaces for fear of immigration raids on a Sunday afternoon. In order to guarantee their ability to build community through sport, we have to guarantee access to public space and freedom of movement and association. Thus, in order for sport to be more democratic, we have to have societies that are more democratic, which is to say that sport and society are always reflexive of each other, drawing attention yet again to sports’ inherently political nature.
The final question poised by the conference organizers is: How much participation is necessary for a sport to be democratic?
This is a question that I hope to find answers to throughout this conference as it has raised a host of others in my mind. For instance, “What kind of participation, under what conditions and to what end?” If practicing sport in public spaces leads to incarceration, then perhaps it is better not to do it. For many years in Brazil, capoeira was banned as authorities considered it to be too much of a threat to public order. This prohibition contained explicitly racist and classist overtones. We should consider the ways in which similarly discriminatory practices are reflective of broader institutional and societal ideologies.
Secondly, what do we mean by democratic and is this equally applicable in all contexts? If democracy means sheer numbers of participants as a percentage of the population, then it is clear that even within nominally democratic countries, there are radical inequalities. Can we look at sports participation and begin to analyse democratic deficiencies and begin to address the systemic inequalities as they are expressed through sport? If we consider the USA to be a democracy, then it is clear that within the country there are massively unequal expressions of democratic agency. Not coincidentally, the regions shown on this map closely correlate to voting patterns, education levels, school quality, public services, and other discriminatory practices.
Finally, would a redistributive authoritarian sport regime be acceptable if it took community considerations on board as part of the decision-making processes? I have just spent several weeks in the Peoples’ Republic of China which is levelling forests and diverting rivers to provide snow covered venues for the 2022 Olympic Games. The goal is to create a skiing industry northwest of Beijing so that the emerging consumer class from the capital can engage in mass tourism in the countryside. This is clearly a process that many Beijingers are excited about, but that the locals in Chongli have not had much say in, even though they have seen their real-estate values increase and will likely gain from the emergent service economy. Is this democratic? Millions of people might benefit from this developmental vectorisation that the Olympics are stimulating and surely 50% + 1 of the Chinese population is in favour of hosting the Games. This seems to fit many of our criteria for democracy, yet will we dare say that China is a democratic state?
As we prepare for a week of debate and scholarship, I look forward to hearing from you regarding these initial thoughts regarding democracy and sport, and applaud the conference organizers for positioning sport in an explicitly political context. As the political pendulum swings sharply to the right, what role will sports and sports scholarship play in mitigating the pernicious effects of a feckless populism predicated upon rigidly defined nationalist categories? Will we be able to turn away from exclusionary expressions of sport in order to create a less consumerist model that is predicated upon social justice and human solidarity? Can we continue along the same path of corporatization and spectacle that brings violence to the planet and communities, while consolidating benefits for the wealthy? How can we use the commonalities of sport practice to educate our students, our colleagues, our teammates, and those next to us in the stadium about the real politick of the sports industrial complex? Do we have the courage to lead by example? Can we afford not to?