Transplantedamerican

Political discourse – of course!

Monopoly.

steve_kleur3March 20th, 2009                         (please click on title for full article)

Board games.We love’ em; Stratego, Parcheesi, Risk, Snakes & Ladders. Playing board games is a lot of fun.  I even remember a Robin Williams Movie based on a fictional board game called,  “Jumanji”, (or something like that) , where  the situations and characters came to life as you played-  often with terrifying results.

That brings us to Monopoly. For those of you who don’t know the rules of Monopoly it goes as follows; Players start off with their own money and acquire real estate as they proceed around the board. And, as with all games, there are some who have a natural affinity for it and others who never quite seem to get the hang of it. But the real fun of Monopoly is all the little deals that go on on the side between players. There is nothing illegal about the side bets. It’s actually written in the rules of the game. Which brings us to the object of the game. Every game has to have an objective. The object of Monopoly is to  Bankrupt all the other players. That’s right. At the end of the game someone has all the money and the others don’t have enough to buy bread. And have you ever noticed the curious consequence of playing Monopoly that, in the process of bankrupting all the other players, the bank also become insolvent?

The upshot here is that people don’t really realize that our financial markets are just that – a game. For about two hundred years now the whole world has been playing one gigantic game of Monopoly. Usually it takes about twenty years of playing  before a bunch of people rig the game and we take a break – we have to – there isn’t any money left in the bank. We call these little breaks, “Recessions”. People get all upset at the underhanded goings on and we amend the rules so whatever they did to steal all the money will never happen again. But it always does – that’s the game’s objective. And here’s the thing; the players who caused this latest little break – they didn’t cheat. Everything that has been happening in the financial markets these days is a direct consequence of perfectly legal maneuverings. That’s why no one has been brought up on charges. They haven’t actually done anything illegal.

“But wait just a minute!”, we cry! “I never was involved in this game. No one asked me to play. And I’m getting stuck in a terrible situation that I didn’t have anything to do with creating!” Well, yes and no. Obviously, I don’t want to take this analogy to ridiculous extremes but we, the voters, hired the politicians who passed the legislation that allowed this financial abuse.  Their original intention was to make it easier for people to own a home by lowering the financial qualifications to procure a mortgage. But, naively, they trusted the money market managers and bankers to be responsible without realizing that , to them, this is all a game.

And, while it true that only about 15% of us actively play the stock market, a larger percentage of us have t-bills, mutual funds, 401 k’s and credit cards. We all, to a certain extent, play the game. So sometimes the mutual fund managers get greedy for more money to be put into the game and they pressure politicians to encourage us to invest more. The propaganda usually is couched in terms of “choice”. Like, “Social Security is running out of money!  People should have the “choice” of opting out of that social contract and investing their retirement money in the stock markets if they want to”. If that flimsy line of reasoning doesn’t work they will come up with some other way of getting us to live beyond our means –  and they did.

And so, after about five years, or however long it takes for us to replenish the accounts of the bank,  we’ll start another round. Because, when it comes right down to it, We Love Monopoly.

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1 Comment»

  Allen Taylor wrote @

Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

Allen Taylor


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