Friday, August 04, 2006

The proper lessons of Monopoly

The blog Cosmic Variance discusses the long-time favorite board game Monopoly and draws some negative implications for capitalism from the game. What I find interesting is that some of the positive implications for capitalism have been overlooked.

  • The government does not have to intervene in the economy. Winning a game of Monopoly is purely a matter of competetiveness. Skill, detailed knowledge of the economic worth of properties, the luck of the draw, the roll of the dice, and historical contingency (for example, getting possession of both Boardwalk and Park Place first) are the only ways to win. Aren't skill, knowledge, foresight, and the courage to seize opportunities while managing risk all traits to be encouraged in all economic classes?

    Here's what Monopoly would look like if government interventionism (aside from such minimal interventions as the jail or the luxury tax) is allowed. On every turn, a player would roll one die that represents his or her lobbying efforts with the city government. If the player rolls a 1, his or her lobbyists have successfully passed "rent-seeking" legislation and the player automatically wins, regardless of the state of play.

  • The flip side to this is that success in Monopoly comes from astutely managing ones assets. You won't be a success in Monopoly by spending the whole game on the Monopoly equivalent of welfare checks: endlessly circling the board doing nothing but picking up the $200 from "Go" each time.

  • Trade benefits both players. That's capitalism 101.

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