“Monopoly”

 

October 4, 2012
 
Sometime around 1903 Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips created a game, the purpose of which was to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land in the hands of a very few.  She called her invention “The Landlord’s Game” and it was commercially published in 1923.  Sometime around 1934 a board game called “Monopoly” was created and formed the basis of the game eventually sold by Parker Brothers.  
 
I remember playing Monopoly as a young boy. The goal of each of the players was to accumulate all the property and, therefore, become the winner.  When all of the property had been accumulated in the hands of one of us the game was over and we had that winner.  Because it was a game we never asked the “now what” question so I’m going to ask it now.  My reason for asking it is that the game has become the way of the world in which we live.  Wealth is being concentrated in the coffers of a very few individuals and corporations and it looks to me as if they are playing “Monopoly” and each of them is trying to accumulate all the money.
 
When you consider that the six Wal-Mart inheritors have as much wealth as the poorest 100,000 people in our nation and that the 400 wealthiest hold as much as the bottom half (about 160 million people) and that these numbers are accelerating we have to wonder where it’s all going and what’s going to happen?  In the “Monopoly” game when all of the property wound up in the hands of one of the players the game was over and we went on to some other game.  I know that it’s simplistic to talk about the accumulation of wealth in terms of the “Monopoly” game but humor me.  Given the swing in wealth to the very richest among us, over the last few decades and given that that swing appears to be going ever faster, maybe all the wealth will eventually wind up in the hands of some organization or person.
 
What is likely to happen in that almost impossible to imagine scenario?  Well I guess we would no longer have an economy based on consumption.  After all, how many pairs of shoes, or cars or houses or whatever can these very few consume?
 
The pundits ask when is the economy going to rebound, when will folks start buying again?  It seems to me that folks don’t have enough money to start buying again and, until they do, this economy will continue to bounce along on the bottom, growing at a very slow rate.
 
The problem is compounded by the myth that the richest people are the job creators and what makes it believable to many is that it actually used to be true.  Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller et al inhabited the throne of wealth and created millions of jobs.  They had no choice.  It was the only way for them to accomplish their dreams.  Others had to drill for the oil or make the steel in order for those commodities to have a value.  Hedge fund managers and investment bankers don’t need to create jobs to get richer, in fact it has been shown over and over again that they make more when they reduce the number of workers.
 
 
 
Posted October 8, 2012

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