I heard something this morning on the radio which tickled my funny bone, and then got me thinking. The program was "Wait, Wait -- Don't Tell Me" and they were spinning yarns for a contestant to pick out the real one from the two made-up news stories. The theme was about how the wealthy are different, and there was a tale of rich people, perhaps in some form of noblesse oblige, choosing to play the board games Life and Monopoly with $1,000 less in starting money than the rules call for.
Well, my imagination was off and running. (I was stuck in traffic.)
Look at what happens in the board game Monopoly. Everyone starts with the same amount of money, and each one earns the same salary ($200 for each pass around the board). And yet some become wealthy and most end up penniless. The rules and structures are designed to create that situation. Some of it is random, or at least appears to be: what happens to you depends in part on a throw of the dice. Assuming all the players are using the same dice, one assumes that much is due to "chance." There is even a deck of cards by that name, each of which produces a different turn outcome.
Imagine Monopoly if the rules were a little different: that some started the game with a bit more money, or an undeveloped property they already owned, or a block or neighborhood with single family houses on them. After all, we weren't all born the same year.
Or imagine that instead of all players receiving $200 each "year," some of us received $400 or $600, and others received only $80 or $150.
Or combine those two assumptions.
Or imagine that the amount each player receives begins at $80, and for some rises and for others does not.
Or assume that some of us receive nothing, since there is a finite amount of money in the game, and if the powerful players have it all tucked under their side of the board, it simply isn't available when you pass "GO."
Or assume that when you do go to buy a house, having assembled your 2- or 3-lot neighborhood, there aren't any available: the supply is fixed, and the existing players have bought them all up. You'll have to wait, and keep paying rent until they replace them with hotels. (Sounds like California under Prop 13, doesn't it? One of the lowest homeownership rates in the US, except among seniors, whose homeownership rate exceeds that of their counterparts in the rest of the country!)
Those who have explored this blog may know that the board game Monopoly was not created during the 1930s depression, but is a direct descendant of a turn-of-the-century board game called The Landlord's Game, which was created to teach the ideas of Henry George. Elizabeth Magie (later Phillips) patented it in 1904, and later versions in the 1920s. (See a modern rendering here.) I've also seen pictures of another board for the Landlord's Game, showing a community surrounding a lake; one advances around the board.
The game came with two sets of rules, one called the Landlord Rules, rather similar to the game we know today. The other set was called the Prosperity Rules. You might enjoy the recent article in Land & Liberty (pages 14 & 15). Don't miss the last couple of paragraphs.