Economic principles will out, and this column by Yahoo! Sports columnist Andy Behrens exhibits Smithian wisdom on the subject of trading between managers of fantasy football teams:

During the season, trades are really about need. If you’re an 0-2 team, you might reasonably prioritize a Week 3 win over anything, including the long-term value of someone like Lee Evans.

Don’t talk to me about competitive balance, either. None of us are trying to achieve that. In fact, the purpose of everything you do as a manager is to achieve competitive imbalance. You’re trying to win. Everyone should be trying to win. As long as all parties in a trade believe they’ve improved their chances, there’s not much left to consider.

Now this is as true of business and personal decisions as it is of decisions in the world of fantasy football. And the enemies of trade are those who aren’t involved in it but who see their best interests served by interfering with the private decisions of others:

You know what can actually ruin things? If one or two owners agitate for a veto by insulting another manager. That gets ugly quickly. The problem that most of angry owners have with lopsided trades is, in fact, that they didn’t make them. If you judge a trade to be one-sided yet not collusive, the most productive thing you can do is make similar offers to the victimized owner.

In leagues where owners have the opportunity to protest trades, though ? well, sometimes if a rival team makes a deal, self-interest compels you to protest. I’ve been involved in leagues where countless trades were agreed to ? most of them perfectly fair ? but none actually went through. Because everyone reflexively vetoes everything. Those were ruined leagues, yet every veto was ostensibly in the interest of preserving competitive balance. Which, of course, wasn’t anyone’s real objective.

In other words, over-regulation of the market for virtual ownership of football players’ statistics in a league of 10-12 people ruins the whole market, spreading unhappiness and fostering a mentality that equality of misery is the only achievable goal. But Behrens nails it with this key insight into why people trade (see the highlighted portion):

The impact of the trade is limited to the 12 people in your league, at least two of whom were presumably happy with it.

Trading promotes happiness among both parties involved, because each gives up something of lesser value to himself for something of greater value. In doing so, it promotes wealth growth, because the items involved in the trade are valued more highly by their owners than they were before. Even fantasy football leagues can have differing values to members, according to the trade policies within them.