Saturday, April 16, 2011

Does "Monopoly" teach Capitalism?

The Straight Dope
Was Monopoly originally meant to teach people about the evils of capitalism?
Dear Cecil: I heard the original Monopoly game, before Parker Brothers took it over, was designed to teach people how broken capitalism is. Is that true? — Matt, Whitehorse, Yukon

Cecil replies: Yes, it's more or less true, although you have to ask: who needs a game to understand how screwed up capitalism is when all you have to do is read the news?

Be that as it may, I convened the Straight Dope staff to play several versions of proto-Monopoly. Their review: nothing like the socialists to make the capitalists look good. The earliest recognizable version of what we know as Monopoly was patented by Lizzie Magie in 1904. The Landlord’s Game, as she called it, featured a board with the familiar circuit of increasingly pricey neighborhoods interspersed with railroads and utilities.

At three of the corners were Go to Jail, Public Park (the ancestral version of Free Parking), and the Jail itself. The fourth corner, however, wasn’t labeled “Go” but instead bore a drawing of the globe encircled by the lofty words “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.”

Translation: you got a hundred bucks. Nonetheless you realize: someone here has an agenda. The story goes that Magie intended her game to be a teaching tool about the injustices of capitalism. She was a fan of the theories of political economist Henry George, who thought landlords were parasites and advocated a "single tax" on them to replace all other taxes. More