Herbietown - Second Place in a Beauty Contest

Second Place in a Beauty Contest


I got schooled in Monopoly last night. (Actually I let my wife beat me, because she’s 39 weeks pregnant and it felt like the right thing to do.)

But it was fun.  So many memories came back to me. I played a lot of Monopoly as a kid.  Each new Community Chest card brought a fresh wave of nostalgia.  They also made me laugh, as the creator’s views of government and business shined through.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized: Monopoly is essentially a view of capitalism from the perspective of the 99%.

Think about it.  You don’t have to innovate to build a business, you don’t have to work hard, you don’t have to have any good ideas. You just have to buy up property, get a monopoly on something, and then rape anyone that happens on by.  That’s exactly how the 99% view the super-rich.

Plus, the world of Monopoly is filled with pitfalls.  There are doctor’s bills and school taxes and parking fines.  Everything costs.  When you’re down, they kick you.  There are even poor taxes.  That’s my favorite one.

I also love how the income tax has a cap on it, rather than a floor – pay 10% or $200.  The opposite of a progressive tax system.  In fact, you don’t even have to pay taxes, unless you land on that spot and get audited.  Exactly how a 99 percenter thinks a 1 percenter would view taxes.

And you get money – $200 – just for making it around the board.  What is that?  Welfare?  It’s amazing how quickly you fall into the rhythm of the game and that $200 feels like a birthright.

There are a few onerous restrictions placed on landholders, for instance when you get assessed for repairs on your buildings, but that’s just a 99 percenters view of the burdens of owning property. Like you don’t have to make maintenance or repairs unless you get caught.

The railroads and utilities somehow always seem to be making money, collecting their toll as you pass on through.  You can’t build on them, but the more you own, the more you can charge. Even the water and electric companies can merge and charge you 2.5x the going rate.

That is the essence of the game. Corner the market, jack up the prices, and screw the little guy.

I’m not sure when Free Parking turned into winning the lottery, but everyone I know plays that way. It’s exactly how a 99 percenter thinks people get rich.

I guess there’s a bit of strategy around when to build houses and hotels on your monopolies, but most people just go around buying everything they land on and building everything they can afford. The only real innovation possible in Monopoly is in the deal-making. Backroom deal making.  Backroom, cigar-chomping, money-grubbing, scheming, conniving, dealmaking.

Let’s face it, it’s not even really that fun to play Monopoly. It’s fun to win. It’s fun when you’re on top. But it’s demoralizing when you’re losing. Every roll of the dice is hazardous. Every Chance and Community Chest card is another tax, another person with their hand out. One false step and you end up bankrupt or in jail.

My childhood view of people in jail was based solely on this guy

And the cherry on top?  The final thing that makes Monopoly the game for 99 percenters?

You never, ever, trust the banker.