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November 22, 2008
Growing up before computers, we relied on board games as staples of play. One of our favorites was Monopoly. We didn’t realize it, but by playing Monopoly we began to understand concepts that would eventually dominate our adult thoughts: money, rent, mortgages, bankruptcy, and even charity.
The economic lesson of Monopoly was as evident in childhood as it is ignored in adulthood: if expenses are exceeding revenues, pretty soon the game is over, unless you secretly stashed a $500 bill under the board for an emergency bailout at just the right time. We were young, our lives stretched from Baltic to Broadway to forever, and we played Monopoly because it was fun.
75 years old, Monopoly has not exactly changed with the times, and the times are certainly changing. Coincidentally, I’m told the change occurring is precisely the change we need. I wonder whether Monopoly could recapture some of its previous glory if it were revitalized with a breath of the economic change currently in the air. Just a small rule change might suffice to re-energize the franchise. How about a rule that allowed a player who needed more money to take it from a player who had extra? That would level the playing field, right?
But maybe Monopoly should stay the way it is. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you try this or that tactic, but the game is always interesting. The New Monopoly might seem fair, but it wouldn’t interesting or fun. You would think that a game of the New Monopoly would get boring because it would just keep on going, with no winners or losers, since players who start to fall behind would always take money from players who start to succeed, but you’d be wrong. Because nobody would be playing.