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Howard Barr: Changes for Monopoly to make it realistic

Posted: June 12, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: June 12, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Monopoly: that great childhood game in which we get to become Donald Trumps for an evening and crush the financial dickens out of our friends and family. Maybe it was too much Fox News or debates about conservative worldview economics with associates when it occurred to me there was something very sinister about the game.

Monopoly’s exact origins are lost, but it has been credited to Elizabeth Philips, who, in 1904, wanted to create a board game that would illustrate the dangers of real estate monopolies. After the Republican caused 1929 Great Depression, started in part by the crash of the Florida real estate market, the game took on renewed popularity as people had a lot more time on their collective hands.

But some things have always bothered me about the game, starting with the initial setup. After all, every good game is in reality a lesson about life.

We use poker and sports expressions every day about how to handle any given situation we will face and in dealings with others, and the very basis of the game is a warning about unregulated “free market” real estate-market capitalism. Hmm, sounds like a liberal bias from the get-go.

As the game is played, the scenarios vary; but basically, one of the following happens: One player wipes out the others fairly quickly and becomes “king,” or real estate cartels or syndicates establish from the remaining two or three players, and the game continues for hours as players create and change alliances to equalize or try crush a stronger financial player. Either a single monopoly or several smaller monopolies are created. Hmm, reminds me, I need to go grocery shopping.

In the current rules, each player gets an equal amount of cash to begin with. Say what? Despite our Founding Fathers’ assertion that we are all created equal, that’s hardly the case.

We are all not created financially equal, but then again, the Founding Fathers were referring to the legal system in which a poor man is equal to a rich man before the law. But still, common sense tells you that no one at any given moment is a financial equal to another.

If this is a game about life, shouldn’t the players really have unequal amounts? And how come every time a player passes “Go” he or she gets $200? Where does this money magically come from?

Are we teaching the kids that no matter what they do in life, some magical, divine money will plop into their laps if they just pass a benchmark called “Go?” We’ve all been past “Go” with no reward other than sweat on our brows and the occasional aching back.

So, back to the mysterious source of the $200. Is it a big government subsidy at taxpayer expense like the oil corporations currently get? After all, it can’t be unemployment insurance, as the unemployed actually have to pay into the program first, and it’s in the rules that every time you make it past “Go” a player gets the $200, so it must be a subsidy.

Then again, since it is a game, it could a mysterious third source of personal income from a undisclosed source, as if each player owned a farm or dry-cleaner store.

Still, there’s the financial equality of $200 again. I’m pretty sure the income of a farm and a dry cleaner wouldn’t be the same. This game in the current conservative vernacular is smacking of “socialism.” 

Apparently the game’s rules need some updating to reflect current reality a little better.

So for this weekend, play “Republican Conservative Free Market Rules” Monopoly. It’s fairly simple:

Player 1 gets $1,000, players 2 and 3 $200, everyone else $20. Get past “Go” and Player 1 gets $1,000, players 2 and 3 get $50, and everyone else gets $1.

Turn the “Chance” squares into “Private Health Care,” and buy each for $1,000. The first time a player lands on one, he or she pays $100. Add $50 every time someone else lands. When landing on “Community Chest,” alternate with the “Chance” and “Chest” cards. 

This way, every kid from the get-go gets a chance to fight for the current American financial dream and the perils that lie in wait on the way.

After they’re done, try an updated version of Battleship to reflect current USA-China superpower technology.

Player 2 gives all of his ships to Player 1, except the destroyer. Player 2 also has to show his board to Player 1.

Player 1, however, has to give all of his red pegs to Player 2. After all, they were made there.

Howard Barr is a Santa Clarita resident.


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