Monopoly

When my kids got old enough to play board games, we had a family tradition of playing Monopoly on New Year’s Eve.

We would begin just after dinner time, maybe have a dessert of chocolate fondue while playing, and the kids and I would battle it out to see who would be the last Monopolist standing. There is at least one New Year’s Eve pic of me with my pocket’s turned out and empty after midnight, some lucky kid or other having bankrupted me as a result of me making one too many visits to her land of high-rent hotel properties.

Monopoly is fun if the dice fall the right way early on in the game. Get the right properties, move quickly around the board, begin to collect the income of passing go, or land on some fortunate ”Chance” card telling you to collect $50 from every other player, and you create an early advantage.

Play more than once, and you realize the central role that luck plays. Which is also what makes the re-playability factor high. You know that next time, your luck might change. 

IRL, the luck for some people never changes. They can be the smartest guy at the table, but they start from a position so disadvantaged that they are always forced to pay out more than they can take in. Or they are forced into a life expending all their time and energy just to race around the board, hoping to get paid a humble and unchanging salary just for passing ”Go”. The cost of mere subsistence is so high they are never able to part with enough money to buy anything that will produce income. They fall further and further behind the ones who started with huge advantages to begin with.

To such, words like ”personal responsibility”, and ”free market capitalism” don’t inspire loyalty, or hope. They create hardness, and division, and resentment, and ultimately rebellion. 

Only one year did a kid of mine who had previously won become so upset at falling behind that we had a problem. She was not yet mature enough to recognize that luck was against her this go round. She erroneously thought that it was her skill alone that had gained her prior victory. At any rate, after growing increasingly frustrated at her change of fortune, without warning she grabbed the edge of the board and flung it upwards, disrupting the entire game for everyone. 

We had our own little outraged Robespierre giving us all a micro-demonstration of the French and Bolshevik revolutions. Once we boxed up the mess, we laughed and dunked more marshmallows and strawberries into the creamy, warm chocolate. 

To him who has ears to hear, let him hear. For your further consideration: 

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