Oh Dear

I wonder if Joanne and Darren Jones, found guilty this week of snaffling over £60,000 from a faulty cash machine, ever played Monopoly when they were young? For all the modern angst about violent computer games, this innocent-looking board game has probably had a more corrosive influence on western morals. For starters, Monopoly brazenly encourages players to plunder their savings and put every last penny into property. And just look where that\’s got us all: the Joneses were symbolic of our crazy age, owning three properties yet up to their gills in credit-card debt.

This comment about Monopoly would work rather better if our author were aware of the actual origins of the game.

In 1903, the Georgist Lizzie Magie applied for a patent on a game called The Landlord\’s Game with the object of showing that rents enriched property owners and impoverished tenants. She knew that some people would find it hard to understand the logic behind the idea, and she thought that if the rent problem and the Georgist solution to it were put into the concrete form of a game, it might be easier to demonstrate. She was granted the patent for the game in January 1904. The Landlord\’s Game became one of the first board games to use a "continuous path," without clearly defined start and end spaces on its board.[5] A copy of Magie\’s game, dating from 1903–1904, was discovered for the PBS series History Detectives. This copy featured property groups, organized by letters, later a major feature of Monopoly as published by Parker Brothers.[6]

It was, err, deliberately designed to expose the errors of an economy where everyone put their money into property. Deliberately designed to show how a land value tax would assuage such problems.

Far from brazenly encouraging, it is designed to show how everyone goes bankrupt except the monopolist if we do indeed all put all our money into property.

6 comments on “Oh Dear

  1. It also has a few harsh lessons for those who don’t win as they end up with nothing. This could be through bad strategy or even chance, going to jail for no other reason than landing on the wrong square or picking up an unexpected tax bill.

    Thinking about it as I type, a few more lessons than intended what with the desire of the current Government to lock people up for minor and petty offences and its record of levying “stealth taxes”.

  2. Don’t YOU start on LVT, Tim.

    It’s bad enough having to put up with it in just about every post from that Wadsworth guy.

    😉

  3. And just look where that’s got us all: the Joneses were symbolic of our crazy age, owning three properties yet up to their gills in credit-card debt.

    I’d also add that in Monopoly you need to pay 100% up front to buy a property, you cannot buy them on credit. True, you can mortgage the property once you’ve bought it, but you can’t run into debt buying it in the first place: you need to earn the money first. Perhaps not a bad lesson, after all?

  4. It might be more fun and educational to have a credit based monopoly game to show that falling house affordability is not really a “good thing” on the whole.

  5. ACO:

    Actually, whether “affordability” is rising or falling is neither a good nor bad thing from an economic viewpoint.

    The “good” or “bad” depends more on the particular reasons for the affordability trend
    and there are more than one such reason.

  6. “…a few more lessons than intended what with the desire of the current Government to lock people up for minor and petty offences and its record of levying “stealth taxes””

    The United Kingdom has been doing this for centuries. Why have you only just noticed?

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