Monopoly haters, unite! Board game teaches bad capitalism, says authors

Filed under: Work Life, Toys

MonopolyIn researching my previous article about The Game of Life, I came across this fascinating dissection of Monopoly from Benjamin Powell and David Skarbek, two writers for The Mises Institute. Ludwig von Mises was from what became known as The Austrian School of economics, which argued that capitalism is the best known system for allowing individuals to autonomously coordinate their economic activity. In short, said the Austrians, your choices are capitalism or dictatorship - pick one. The Austrian viewpoint dominates this article, which argues that the popular Parker Brothers game depicts an unrealistic version of capitalism. In reality, says Powell and Skarbek, the consumer is king, and can always take his business elsewhere. But Monopoly is a game ruled by capricious landlords who raise rents and bankrupt their fellow players without remorse. It's ironic, say the authors, that Cuba and the Soviet Union both at one time banned the game, as it depicts how things work more in a centrally regulated economy than in a capitalist one.

I've always hated Monopoly. Even when I've thought I loved Monopoly, I've ended up hating it by the end of the game. A typical monopoly session lasts an eternity, and always ends up with at least one person pissed off enough to throw something. I avoid playing it at all costs, and don't encourage my kids to haul it out of the closet; when we do, I insist on modifying the rules to make it less vicious. Powell and Skarbek have some great points, even if their "Capitalism! Capitalism! Rah rah rah!" cheerleading is over the top. The game turns life into a dice roll. It doesn't even make a show of encouraging any positive behaviors, such as compassion and charity. If you want to teach your kids about money, don't rely on Parker Brothers to do the job.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.