Monopoly, The Landlord’s Game

Two of my favorite pastimes are reading history and playing board games.  Let me share a little history of the world’s most popular board game:  Monopoly.  You probably had heard it became popular during the depression of the early 1930’s.  Why?  25% of people were out of work, with no money and time on their hands.  Monopoly offered a venue where each player could hold money in his hands, own property, which many people did not, build houses and hotels, which takes money to do, and win the game by becoming rich.  The object was not to have the most money but to have it all; to bankrupt not some but all of the other players.  For those who had nothing during the depression but family, it was a good escape, good entertainment.  But this was not the original intent of the game. 

In 1904, Elizabeth Magie invented a game called The Landlord’s Game.  She created it with the express purpose of showing the evils of capitalism and how it was going to destroy America.  At that time a few individuals: Rockefeller, Carnegie, railroad barons, and financiers had acquired unbelievable wealth compared with the average worker.  Unchecked capitalism was great for them, the few, but changing the character of the nation, possibly destroying the American idea of opportunity for the majority of others.  Monopolies in America were swallowing up the little man, putting him out of business, out of the game.  People responded politically with progressive movements asking the government for help.  Their voice was heard starting in the early 20th century resulting in anti-trust legislation and the present income tax that the United States has, starting in 1913.   It began as a way of taxing the rich to prevent them from having too much influence on politicians and therefore government: to prevent a plutocracy(government by the rich).

The Landlord’s Game changed over the thirty years since its creation.  It was not easy to play and had little artwork.  It evolved until a man named Charles Darrow in the early 1930’s added much of the present artwork as well as changed the name to Monopoly which he patented.  The rest is history.  Ironically, the game had evolved to embrace capitalism, winner takes all, the exact opposite of why it had originally been invented. Let’s look at some other history. 

During the 1950’s the middle class of America owned about 40% of the nation’s wealth.  The top 1% owned less than 10%.  Compare that to today where the top 1% own over 40% of our nation’s wealth.  The bottom 80% of Americans own less than 10%. What does that mean exactly, the country’s wealth?

The value of my house, car, and assets minus credit card debt, loans, etc. is my net worth.  Each family unit or individual’s value collectively add up to make the nation’s wealth.  The net worth of a few has risen dramatically while the net value for many others is going down.

Over the last 30 years the average worker is putting in longer hours, producing more, but not really making that much more.  The profit is going into the hands of the few.  What can we do?  Should we tax the rich more?

I think it is going to be hard to tax the elite rich more as they will find a way to shelter their money and avoid taxes.  I would probably do the same if I was a billionaire. 

Here are my naïve thoughts, but at least I am thinking about it because a change is going to be needed, hopefully sooner than later.  First, lower corporate taxes from the present 35% to 20%.  Canada just lowered theirs to 15%.  Try to encourage companies to reinvest in America, and invest in their workers:  raise the minimum wage.  It is currently about $7.50, but it should be about $10.00.  More money earned is money that can be spent to help drive the economy.  Next, raise the Medicare tax on everyone.  The vast majority of Americans will need Medicare, and the annual 1.45% of our income for payroll tax is not going to be sufficient to cover future costs of the program.  Everyone is in this together and all should contribute more, say 3.5%. 

The Lord willing, I will retire with my own home and a decent retirement.  Can I say the same for my kids?  I have my concerns.  Many Americans are going to work their whole life losing hope of actually owning their own home or having a necessary retirement.  They are forced to rent, and are one bad mishap away from bankruptcy.  Their numbers continue to grow.  I play Monopoly for fun, but I don’t like the idea that the America I love is playing the game for real.  This is not the America I grew up in during the 1950’s. 

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