Monday, January 5, 2009
- Keynesian Monopoly
My eight year old daughter is the new queen of monopoly at my house. This past weekend she crushed both my wife and me in an epic battle for control of the Atlantic City real estate market. How did she do it? She triumphed through a clever combination of diligent savings, prudent investment, and landing on Free Parking not once but 5 times in a row. Not to take anything away from my daughter’s mightily won victory, but it’s fair to say that luck does play some small part in Monopoly, just as it does in real life.
My daughter is of the age now that I really enjoy doing most anything with her. She has such a great sense of humor that she can make almost anything fun. But you can see that you’re going to lose at Monopoly way before you mortgage Mediterranean Avenue and they actually close the coffin lid. So while we grown-ups waited for our inevitable demise, it occurred to us that the game doesn’t really reflect the pressures and challenges present in New Jersey's 21st century business community. So we came up with a few ways that we could modernize the 'Chance' and 'Community Chest' cards to make the game a little more accurate for the current business climate.
Personally I think it would be big fun to discreetly print these off on yellow and orange card stock, and mix them in with the normal cards. We considered doing so and then selling the new cards on eBay, but it’s almost certainly a copyright infringement. We weren’t looking to make trouble, just to have a little fun. So instead I leave that to the reader to try on their own. Also, you’ll probably notice that we only used the character with his pockets turned out. That’s because in the modern world anytime the government gets involved it’s always bad news for someone.
The first one we came up with is this:
The reality of dealing in beachfront property in New Jersey is that you only own it at the discretion of the local government. Thanks to Kelo vs. New London, politicians can seize your property any time they like and give it to someone else to develop for greater tax revenue. We tried to think of a way to work a bribe into the card so that it would more closely match he current ‘real life’ political environment, but it was too unwieldy. Instead we don’t give you the chance to be as dishonest as the next guy, and simply take your property.
Next is this one:
Inflation makes all prices rise, so the same effect can be achieved in the game by simply taking money away from everyone. This punishes anyone who has been saving cash, just like actual inflation. If you’re wondering how this is like real life, you won’t be this time next year.
Then came this:
New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the country and in my case, they are actually higher than my mortgage. People who have made the mistake of investing in real-estate are punished every year in New Jersey, but thanks to the poor performance of the union dominated school systems, no one seems to notice. No one can connect rising school costs with rising taxes, but we still find time for sex education in the grammar schools. Thanks NEA.
Both John McCain and Barak Obama wanted to spend taxpayer money to help out homeowners who couldn’t afford their mortgages. But those are the very people whose irresponsible behavior caused the whole real estate problem in the first place. Government wants to reward people who act badly and punish people who act prudently. Since everyone in Monopoly is on pretty much the same level morally, with this card we’re simply punishing the lucky, and rewarding the unlucky. If it turns out that you’re both people, then this card is exactly as effective as most government bailout plans.
Paging Barbara Boxer. There are no drug or oil companies to nationalize or industries to stick with a punitive windfall profits tax. Instead we’re just taking them away from you. If you want to believe that this will somehow ‘save the planet’ that’s fine with us. Whatever makes you feel better… but hand over the cards all the same.
Of course, government action isn’t bad news for everyone, and it is particularly good news for those who work for the government.
With this card you get a government job. Governments don’t actually produce anything they just shift it around. So you will get paid the next time someone else does something … like pass go. But there is something even better than a government job.
With a government pension, you get paid forever from someone else’s work, whether you do anything or not. For the reader who is thinking about adding these to their game: I think at least 2 of these cards should be printed out which would give at least one player the chance to ‘double dip’ and collect multiple pensions at once. Personally I would add one card to the deck for every player, and 1 extra so that it will reflect the true economics of the government pension scam. Thanks Sharpe James.
Then finally, when the game is so convoluted that no one can tell who gets what from what action anymore, we have this card:
This one hasn’t happened yet but you better believe it will happen soon. Some estimates put this as close as 3 years from now. Personally, I think it will take longer, but there is no way it could be more than 15 years from now. That’s when we ‘run out of line’ on the federal government’s mismanagement. As for New Jersey, it might turn out to be sooner, but I don’t really know. We’ve never seen such a large municipality declare bankruptcy before, but at the rate things are going we almost certainly will. And this card is a good reflection of what will happen (and who it will happen to) when that occurs.
Feel free to add these to your game. Thanks to monopoly you no longer need to live in New Jersey to have your rights taken away and to be made a serf. Now you can play along at home while we play along in real life. If we're all going to be Keynesians now, there is no reason our games shouldn't reflect that. And if you think these new cards make the game more arbitrary and random than it was before, or that it's unfair to simply take from some players and give to others then you can appreciate how things really are in New Jersey.
And where New Jersey goes, the country now seems to follow.
This has turned out to be my most frequently emailed post ever. There are a few more card suggestions in the comments section, and these have also come in as possible additions:
You can't screw up the housing business without involving the ESA. The endangered species act is arguably the single most abused legislation in American history. Animal rights zealots have used it to prevent development since it's inception. Now it's effect can be felt in Monopoly too.
And here is another that needs little by way of explanation: