Monopoly Economics

The perennially popular board game Monopoly is a reasonable simulacrum of capitalism. At the beginning of the game, players move around a commons and try to privatize as much as they can. The player who privatizes the most invariably wins.

But Monopoly has two features currently lacking in American capitalism: all players start with the same amount of capital, and all receive $200 every time they circle the board. Absent these features, the game would lack fairness and excitement, and few would choose to play it.

Imagine, for example, a twenty-player version of Monopoly in which one player starts with half the property. The player with half the property would win almost every time, and other players would fold almost immediately. Yet that, in a nutshell, is U.S. capitalism today: the top 5 percent of the population owns more property than the remaining 95 percent.

Now imagine, if you will, a set of rules for capitalism closer to the actual rules for Monopoly. In this version, every player receives, not an equal amount of startup capital, but enough to choose among several decent careers. Every player also receives dividends once a year, and simple, affordable health insurance. This version of capitalism produces more happiness for more people without ruining the game in any way.

from Barnes, Peter. Capitalism 3.0. (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006). p. 102.

2 Responses to “Monopoly Economics”
  1. dem says:

    Again: Head

    I immediately thought of something like this for one of the Workers scenes as a way of discussing alternatives to capitalism as currently applied (somewhere in the E1. to E.3 range?) Qui, is this at all interesting to you?

    Love it. Simple, clear, but foundationally / conceptually sound. We all know Monopoly which makes it easy to use as a metaphor for more complex ideas and criticisms.

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