Jump to content
House Price Crash Forum
Sign in to follow this  


Recommended Posts

Knowing that the game "Monopoly" (originally called the "Landlord's Game") emerged at around the time of the great depression I wondered whether there was a connection. I don't think there is but what I found out - see below - made me stop and think.

Monopoly is a game that seems to celebrate capitalism but the way the winner is decided is that one player has all the money and all the property and everyone else has lost.

Fine if you are sure you are going to be the winner - but otherwise?

Apologies if this is off-topic, but considering we live in an age where everyone seems to think that the only profits to be made are from land / property ownership, the idea embodied in the game that profits from property ownership actually corrupt the proper operation of capitalism is an interesting one.

It sits well with another interesting idea in an earlier thread that when a society places all its wealth in bricks and mortar it stifles other forms of economic activity and arguably leads to a recession / depression.


Let us go back to the years just prior to the turn of the century. It was at this time that the teachings of Henry George, a late 19th Century economics reformer, were put down in game form by Elizabeth (Lizzie) J. Magie of Arden, Delaware. This small town was a hotbed of Georgist activists who called themselves “Single-taxers” and believed only land should be taxed. George’s theory was that capitalism would work only if no one were permitted to make profits from land ownership.

From the town of Arden came a fellow named Scott Nearing. This chap would later become an economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Not a proclaimed Georgist, Professor Nearing was eventually fired from Penn in 1915, considered a “left-winger” for his beliefs that did, however, reflect some Georgist theory. By the 1970’s, we have found, the professor’s radical ideas of “living off the land” became the vogue. And, Nearing and his wife became folk heroes. The University of Pennsylvania, sixty years after dismissing Professor Scott Nearing, saw fit to name him an honorary professor emeritus of economics.

Scott Nearing and his brother Guy were introduced to the game called “The Landlord’s Game” by Lizzie Magie sometime around 1900. By 1915, the professor had taught his colleagues and students at Penn the game that was to become known widely as “Monopoly.”

One of those students was young Thomas Wilson, of Reading. Wilson and a group of friends entertained themselves with the game that was, apparently, in 1915, undergoing the popular identity change from “The Landlord’s Game” to “Monopoly.”

As early as 1916, the game was a hit in the parlors of a handful of Reading homes.

The local youngsters playing their version of the game were under the apparently mistaken impression that the game was devised by Professor Nearing - that Penn “radical” who despised the economic reality of any kind of monopoly. But, Professor Nearing was to confirm later that he did not “invent” any such game. As he said:

“As far as I know the game about which you wrote was invented by a single-taxer for the purpose of proving the wickedness of land monopoly.” Nearing added that he first saw the game played in Arden.

The “Statement of General Theory” of the 1931 Thun-Lerch Monopoly game rules says:

“Monopoly is designed to show the evils resulting from the institution of private property. At the start of the game every player is provided with the same amount of capital and presumably has exactly the same chance of success as every other player. The game ends with one person in possession of all the money. What accounts for the failure of the rest, and what one factor can be singled out to explain the obviously ill adjusted distribution of the communities (sic) wealth which this situation represents It is necessary to point out in detail the many points of contact between the game and real life.”

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think it's just about land. Karl Marx understood the inherent contradictions in capitalism, that it ultimately stifles capitalist development - and leads to monopoly capitalism. Large capitals, through a number of means (economies of scale, financial resources, etc) will push out smaller capitals - either through take-over or by forcing them out of business. The only time this doesn't happen is when you have a technological breakthrough, and for a time small companies on the cutting edge can thrive. As in the monopoly game, some of these small companies will become bigger companies and others won't...

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
It sits well with another interesting idea in an earlier thread that when a society places all its wealth in bricks and mortar it stifles other forms of economic activity and arguably leads to a recession / depression.

I have been saying this for years but few take any notice. The trouble with land and property investment is that it is so unproductive and creates very few jobs and little wealth except for the landlords themselves.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • 312 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?

      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%

  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.