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BP, Goldman Sachs, and Massey could learn a lot from ultimate frisbee

The BP oil spill is just the latest example of questionable corporate action that's prompted calls for stronger government regulation. Yet the more profound reform would come from absorbing the lessons of a game with no referees.

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BP's ruptured oil well. Goldman Sachs's financial risk-taking. Massey's mine explosion. With each new corporate calamity, we call for stronger government intervention.

But that's like seeing a basketball player throw a punch and demanding more vigilant referees. We shouldn't absolve athletes of responsibility, encouraging them to push the boundaries of acceptable conduct until they get caught.

Likewise, we shouldn't depend on government to make business act in the best interests of society. We need to cultivate in corporate executives respect for not just the letter but the spirit of the law.

The harm those companies caused is anything but a game. But let's inject a bit of levity into an otherwise dire set of circumstances and look to one game for guidance: ultimate frisbee. The fast-growing sport (with some 700 college teams in the US alone) is like soccer with aerial passing but without referees. Players are expected to call their own fouls – and do. Even at collegiate and world championships, players hand the Frisbee to the other team if they've had unnecessary contact with an opposing player or held the disc for longer than the allowed 10 seconds – whether or not someone else calls them on it.

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