Tuesday, September 9, 2014

You Can Tell a Lot About Someone by How They Play Monopoly...

People who play Monopoly with the unofficial "Free Parking" rule are more likely to be Socialists.

When I was a kid, we used to play Monopoly.  It is a fun game and teaches you the basics of free-market capitalism and also how brutal and unforgiving the marketplace can be.   

The object of the game is to acquire properties, preferably Boardwalk and Park Place, put hotels on them, and then bankrupt your opponents by charging them exorbitant rents when they land on your properties.  Like I said, it is a brutal game, and among kids, many a game has ended with the board being tossed in the air by the losing party.

The game requires some luck, to land on properties at the correct time.  It also requires some financial skill to understand which properties should be developed and how.  And it also involves risk-taking.  The player who mortgages himself to the hilt can often end up winning the game - or losing spectacularly.

Like Real Estate in real life, it requires skill, risk-taking, and a little luck.   It is a fairly accurate model of the marketplace, in that regard.

When I was a kid, we liked to play the game, and I went over to a friend's house once and they said "Let's play Monopoly!"   They were a poorer family, although not destitute.  And what was interesting was how they made up new rules for the game, to suit their whims.

And one of the most odious of these rules was the "Free Parking" house rule.  Simply stated, if you landed on "Free Parking" you would get a jackpot of money from the center of the board.  This money would comprise all the money from fines and whatnot from Community Chest or Chance (or get out of jail) .  And some kids even salted the pot with $500 to $1000 or more, right from the start.

It was not an official rule of the game and still is not recognized by Parker Brothers (although they don't discourage it, as they want to sell board games).   I never liked it.  It was wrong, and evil.  And let me tell you why.

The "Free Parking" rule turns Monopoly from a game of skill and chance to a game of pure chance.  The guy who carefully builds hotels on Ventnor Avenue is trumped by some idiot who did little more than land on "Free Parking" and win a huge pile of money.   You can be destitute one minute and then winning the game the next, all based on luck alone - with no skill required.

It takes Monopoly and turns it into Chutes 'n Ladders - a stupid kiddie game with no point to it.

And the reason why people like to play the "Free Parking" rule is that it "makes the game fairer" as the dumb kids can win as easily as the smart ones.   And it can make the game last longer, as about halfway through a given Monopoly game, it becomes clear who are likely winners and who are likely losers, and for the latter, the game gets boring as they basically play out what little cash they have left.  Free Parking can make the game last longer by randomly dumping money onto one player, late in the game.  It is an attempt to "level the playing field" by equating skill with luck.

In other words, Socialism.

And I guess it is no coincidence that the kids who played this made-up rule came from poorer families.  Why not "share the wealth" with Free Parking?   Why not gamble instead of using your skills?   Why think, when you can just roll the dice and hope you win?

And today, the poor still play the game this way - in real life.  They buy lottery tickets, hoping luck will come their way.  Myself, I built a Hotel on Marvin Gardens.  Who ends up the winner?  In real life, that is.

But increasingly, it seems, some folks call for the rules to be changed, to make it "more fair" for everyone and to "give the dumb kids a chance to win, too!"   And that sounds great, from a certain perspective, as it would be nice if life was fair and if everyone had an even chance at it.   But when you let some folks win based on luck, then others who worked their way would necessarily have to lose - at least a little bit.

And to some extent, it encourages everyone to stop trying to use their skills and hard work to win, and instead just hope to land on Free Parking instead.   The problem is, there ain't enough Free Parking to go around, so in real life, you don't get the big pot of money in the center of the board.   More like, "You've won second prize in a beauty contest!  Collect $10 and an EBT card."

Now if this sounds all conservative and whatnot, well, too bad.   But it does reflect a basic difference in philosophy in life.  There are people who play Monopoly with the "Free Parking" made-up rule, and there are those who despise such flim-flammery.

And I guess I have always been in the latter category.

Stop believing in Free Parking - it is not the way to play, and not the way to win.  Shortcuts to success, Free Ponies, and Redistribute-the-Wealth are not only wrong, they just don't work, in the short-term or the long run.

Play the game.  Pay attention.  Make wise choices.  Real life is different than Monopoly in one big way - in real life there is more than one winner - and not everyone else goes bankrupt!