Understanding Government's Real Estate Monopoly
The least understood but most consequential characteristic of government is that it operates on and derives all of its influence from its real estate roots. Governmental organizations of all sizes have been based, since they first were organized over ten thousand years ago, on control of real estate. Whoever controls a piece of real estate controls all of the activities conducted upon it.
A quick look at the map of Europe reveals that every inch of it is under control of one government or another. This may seem to be so obvious as to not be worth mentioning, yet every day we all experience the reach of government depending upon on what piece of real estate we live.
Once a governmental administration seizes control of a piece of real estate it has virtually unlimited power to exercise its ability to regulate almost all human activity.
And the most direct power it exercises is based on the power it has seized to levy property taxes. The difference between the private and public exercise of real-estate control is best seen in the exercise of property taxes. To see the differences between private and public real estate power, one can play a simple game that will effectively bring home these differences to all its players.
I propose that one way to understand the interplay of governmental power and real estate investment is to play the popular game of Monopoly, but with a new set of rules. The traditional game of Monopoly involves several players buying property and charging rent to the players who land on their property. But the traditional rules of the game only use the rules of the private sector.
What the game needs is a new set of rules, rules that introduce the players to the power of government to control/monopolize real estate. These additional rules will add the role of government to the financial world of real estate. They will illustrate how the real-world monopoly of real estate is not held by cigar-smoking capitalists but by soft-speaking Progressive politicians.
To bring progressive government into your advanced game of Monopoly all you need is the traditional game. The most sweeping change will the addition of a special player called “government.” This player will not roll the dice and move their piece along the board. Rather, the player will start out, as government does, owning all the real estate within his/her domain. Then, as players’ pieces are moved around the board, the government player can earn money in new progressively-driven ways such as charging a five-dollar carbon tax every time someone passes Go.
The government player will be chosen in the following way: every player will be given a sheet of standard typewriter paper and allowed 60 seconds to write down every type of government benefit they can think of. These do not need to be original, they can be standard goals that we all hear progressives repeat in every campaign cycle. For example, some of the things players can write down will include: improving education, income equality, cleaner water and so on. Whoever can come up with the longest list of progressive catchwords within 60 seconds will be the government player.
The player who makes the most progressive promises will then become the government player, and only one person can be the government player. The basic rule of this new version of Monopoly is that government starts out owning all the real estate. This government player will not roll the dice, but will collect money from what everyone else owns. For example, every time a player lands on a piece of property owned by a player, the government player receives a five-dollar property tax.
Rule number one is then that the government player does not have to own any rental property, and is entitled to collect a property tax, or rent in economic terms, from everyone else. After that, all the rules are made by the government player. At any time a player can pay money to the government in order to become exempt from the regular rules. For example, a campaign contribution to the government player can exempt someone -- pardon them in Presidential terms -- from going to Jail, or can lower their property tax.
The government player can raise taxes: making the players who become rich pay their fair share. And if all the money of the bank ends up in the hands of the government player, then the government player has the right to create a second money supply and reissue all of the money to the players a second time. This is called, in this new way to play Monopoly, quantitative easing.
Occasionally, for example every half hour, the government will see how much money it’s collected, keep half for a pension, and then redistribute the other half to all the players equally, regardless of whether they own rental property or not.
These rules can be embellished depending upon the sophistication of the players. For example, after quantitative easing is done twice, then all the rents on the board are doubled. This reflects the fact that the monopoly money is then worth half as much as before, as would happen in the real world.
Players will quickly see that the government is collecting money from all the players -- or taxpayers if you will -- by doing nothing but making empty promises. And while the government player has the right to change the rules at any time during the game, such as raise rents, all the government player has to do to explain the changes is to say “we must tax the rich” or “we need to clean the environment” without any further explanation or proof of where the money is being spent.
It will be an interesting study in personality types to see who, among your friends, wants to make the most progressive promises, simply to gain control over everyone else’s property and become rich. Or who exempts those who make campaign contributions -- such as public sector unions -- from programs like ObamaCare. In short, how quickly promises of equality create unequal treatment.
Of course, the government can raises taxes so high no one can afford them, and seize the property on the board, charging both rent and property taxes. It will be interesting to see how the government player behaves: if he/she becomes greedy -- totalitarian -- very quickly and raises rents to astronomical levels, and has many programs of quantitative easing to keep the game going, or if the government player keeps the property taxes low, in order to allow the private sector players to earn more money.
The great benefit of enabling government to enter the Monopoly game under these new rules is to enable players to experience what happens when government is allowed to operate outside the constraints of the free market. Government does not experience losses, or have a limit on its capital. Government, unlike individuals, does not lose its power, unless losing it through war to another government.
Those who play this game can have insightful discussions at many levels. The rules themselves will provide controversy and disagreements.