Why do we, one of the richest nations in the world, not have universal healthcare? Why are we so opposed to helping others? I keep asking myself these questions, and I have come to an interesting conclusion. The game Monopoly had the opposite effect than the one that was intended.
Monopoly was invented at the beginning of the 20th century by Elizabeth Magie. The point of the game was to basically teach people of the dangers of unchecked, or free market, capitalism. That is a bit simplistic, and the game was focusing primarily on land and rents, and if the landlords are not checked by the government, there will eventually be a single landlord with all the other players either bankrupt, in jail, or deeply in debt.
I am starting to think that it had the opposite effect. I never knew any of that about Monopoly until recently. Here are some of the things I took away as a kid playing Monopoly:
- The person with the most money wins.
- If a rich person does go to jail, it is really easy to get out of trouble with a little cash.
- To win, you have to be ruthless.
- You have no friends and no family members, only opponents that must be crushed.
- Bribery works.
- The winners are happy.
- The losers are mad.
- If the losers were better, they would win.
- It is their own fault they lost.
- The bank always cheats, always.
These are the lessons I think most of us took away from that game. They go hand in hand with the current GOP and Libertarian views on economic policy. These are the same views that have been pushed and pushed down our throats since before World War II, until they became how we view our economic life. That capitalism, is the best and only economic system that works. Any other system, not only does not work, it is down right Satanic. That’s right, it goes against the Word of G O D! This worked we achieved more and more economic success. The average person made enough money suitable for raising a family on the income of a single, blue collar worker. Though, business owners were also making more and more money. “What did they do with this money,” you ask? Well, they used that money to make donations to politicians, judges, and political organizations.
The 1950s and 1960s are considered a golden era of economics in the US. The dollar was strong, our Middle Class was growing, and American Exceptionalism could be seen in everyday life (side note: Yes I am talking pretty much about white people here. Though a good economy helped everybody, the US was still pretty blatantly racist). What happened? Well, we began to equate success with the amount of worldly possessions one could accrue. As we tried to outdo our neighbors, we began to slip into the pleasures of credit spending. Of immediate satisfaction of being able to afford that which used to be out of our reach. Who cares that it will take 10 years to pay off, if ever making only minimum payments, and you will end up paying many times more than the value of, whatever? Not us. We feel like we are winning the game. Look at all the stuff I have. For more on the topic of stuff, I suggest you listen to this golden nugget from George Carlin.
While we were enjoying the financial boon of the middle of the 20ths century, behind the scenes things were changing. Regulations were being loosened, and laws were being changed that spelled the end of our good times. As average wages stagnated, executive salaries kept going up and up, until it has become obscene how much more they make. In addition to that, what little money we can put away, gets lost as the banks use our money to do a bit of speculative investments. We have been ignoring this problem since the 1970s because we anesthetize ourselves with media that tells us “Greed is good.” We watch movies that about the despicable things bankers, mortgage brokers, investment brokers, and all the others like them do. Do we listen to those warnings? No, we celebrate them. Because the bank always cheats, always.
How can we not celebrate them?
They are winning and winning is good.
I guess we forgot the rules of this particular game. If somebody is winning, then others must be losing.
We are losing the game, but we are to distracted to notice.
In real life, the game ends when somebody gleefully bankrupts everybody else, this could also be the last two people realizing they are evenly balanced after bankrupting everybody else. Or, somebody gets mad and turns the table over scattering game pieces everywhere. If only the game had something like government. It could regulate things like rents, costs, wages, and things of that nature. Something that is just about everyone thinks is a bit unfair, but because of them the game can continue for a very, very long and boring time.
Oh, wait! We are supposed to have that. We actually pay for that, with taxes. Unfortunately for us, people don’t like this whole government thing regulating their companies, so they are cheating. Openly, blatantly cheating by changing the rules, and the “umpire, is complicit.
Well, you can only change the rules so much before people begin to notice. You can only give them mind numbing “bread and circuses” for only so long before people begin to wake. I think, I hope, that is happening right now. Because we are getting closer and closer to the table being turned. I hope that we can find a third option to ending the game. One that does not end with everyone but a few penniless, stuck in drudgery just to stay alive, or end with a violent outburst that leaves us picking up the pieces. That can happen when you are just playing a game with friends and family, everybody cools down and it is over.
If it happens in real life, will there be anybody to pick up the game pieces and start over?