Friday, April 20, 2012


Efforts to repeal the dwarf tossing ban in Florida have stalled. For those of you who have never attended a performance of the sport(?), the premise is fairly self-explanatory. Large, intimidating men hoist little people and throw them as far as they can. I suppose there are prizes or something. Actor Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent, Game of Thrones) spoke out against the practice when he gave his Golden Globe acceptance speech.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I find dwarf tossing objectionable. I must further admit that my objections are mostly aesthetic and incoherent. It's not the kind of thing I think of as "entertainment" properly defined (I'm more a fan of Werner Herzog, Lars von Trier, Akira Kurosawa and Lauren Faust), but I don't know if I can justify a ban of the practice on strictly economic grounds.

And then I pull out the EE playbook. Dinklage focused on a performer who had been severely injured as a result of a performance (ex post regret), so there's that, but I suspect that the more general moral outrage is in the presumption of coercion. The sport(again... ?) is suffused with overtones of bullying and coercion, even if it's plain as the nose not on Voldemort's face that all of the performers are there freely of their own volition. It might be the case that outside employment opportunities could be limited for people of short stature (a claim I'd have an extremely hard time swallowing--in my anecdotal experience, the best welder and the best DJ I've ever met were both under 4 feet tall, but that's kind of irrelevant), so perhaps there might be some presumption of BATNA disparity, but I think I'm willing to rest my hat on the theater of domination. As performance art (and again, people, I'm not at all sure how to describe this activity, so apologies for the linguistic flailing), it showcases dominance and subjugation. These practices run contrary to forager norms and even with the compliance of all parties, they still have the patina of immorality.

Or perhaps I'm wrong about all this. Maybe it's a matter of social status and workplace safety or something. Would a televised dwarf tossing event akin to American Gladiators be better? Do we just have to pay the performers more, provide some training, licensing and sanctioned safety gear? If we eliminate the BATNA disparity, does dwarf tossing become morally acceptable? If not, then are there any conditions under which it might be euvoluntary?


  1. I'm not sure it would become morally acceptable to me, but I agree this is probably more a case of "repugnance" driving legislative decisions than any euvoluntary concerns.

  2. Lauren Faust? Are you a fellow brony, Mike?


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?