Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Polish invent "Communist Monopoly" game

'Communist Monopoly' Teaches Downside of Socialist Life
[...] Just like in the original Monopoly, acquisition is the name of the game. In this case, however, that means struggling to get basic necessities such as food, clothing and furniture. "In the game, you send your family out to get items on a shopping list and they find that the five shops are sold out or that there hasn't been a delivery that day," the IPN's Karol Madaj told SPIEGEL ONLINE Thursday, explaining that the game "highlights the tough realities of life under Communism."

Indeed, there are many ways in which the game, which is called "Kolejka" after the Polish word for queue or line, builds frustration. Some rules allow other players to jump the line and get the last of a certain product, while others force players to give up their place in the queue.

Madaj emphasizes that the game was not inspired by any nostalgia for the Communist era, which lasted from the end of World War II until 1989. Instead, the IPN wants to educate young people who do not remember Communism by using the game as a tool to open up dialogue between the generations. "Those who were too young to remember how it was back then will be able to play this game with their parents or grandparents and maybe talk about how things were for the older generation," says Madaj.

Queue Jumping and Inside Information

Just like in the Communist era, players can leverage certain advantages to get what they need. The "colleague in the government" card is the equivalent of the famous "get out of jail free" card in Monopoly. Any player lucky enough to have one of these beauties can secretly find out when the next deliveries will arrive in the shops. Mothers with children are allowed to jump the line as well. [...]

Maybe they should call it "Monotony: the bored game".

Speaking of the Real Monopoly game, here's a good article that uses the game as an analogy of our real life economic situation today, by economist Amity Shlaes:

The Rules of the Game and Economic Recovery
THE MONOPOLY BOARD GAME originated during the Great Depression. At first its inventor, Charles Darrow, could not interest manufacturers. Parker Brothers turned the game down, citing “52 design errors.” But Darrow produced his own copies of the game, and Parker Brothers finally bought Monopoly. By 1935, the New York Times was reporting that “leading all other board games … is the season’s craze, ‘Monopoly,’ the game of real estate.”

Most of us are familiar with the object of Monopoly: the accumulation of property on which one places houses and hotels, and from which one receives revenue. Many of us have a favorite token. Perennially popular is the top hat, which symbolizes the sort of wealth to which Americans who work hard can aspire. The top hat is a token that has remained in the game, even while others have changed over the decades.

One’s willingness to play Monopoly depends on a few conditions—for instance, a predictable number of “Pay Income Tax” cards. These cards are manageable when you know in advance the amount of money printed on them and how many of them are in the deck. It helps, too, that there are a limited and predictable number of “Go to Jail” cards. This is what Frank Knight of the University of Chicago would call a knowable risk, as opposed to an uncertainty. Likewise, there must be a limited and predictable number of “Chance” cards. In other words, there has to be some certainty that property rights are secure and that the risks to property are few in number and can be managed.

The bank must be dependable, too. There is a fixed supply of Monopoly money and the bank is supposed to follow the rules of the game, exercising little or no independent discretion. If players sit down at the Monopoly board only to discover a bank that overreaches or is too unpredictable or discretionary, we all know what happens. They will walk away from the board. There is no game. [...]

She then explains the relevance of the Monopoly analogy to the 1930's. She goes into detail, using specific events to illustrate her premises.

I've often heard that government interference and intervention at the time actually prolonged the depression by eroding confidence and creating instability. Here, Shlaes offers the damning evidence for all to see. After explaining in detail, looking at causes and effects, she then demonstrates their relevance to the events of our times:
[...] It is not hard to see some of today’s troubles as a repeat of the errors of the 1930s. There is arrogance up top. The federal government is dilettantish with money and exhibits disregard and even hostility to all other players. It is only as a result of this that economic recovery seems out of reach.

The key to recovery, now as in the 1930s, is to be found in property rights. These rights suffer under our current politics in several ways. The mortgage crisis, for example, arose out of a long-standing erosion of the property rights concept—first on the part of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but also on that of the Federal Reserve. Broadening FDR’s entitlement theories, Congress taught the country that home ownership was a “right.” This fostered a misunderstanding of what property is. The owners didn’t realize what ownership entailed—that is, they didn’t grasp that they were obligated to deliver on the terms of the contract of their mortgage. In the bipartisan enthusiasm for making everyone an owner, our government debased the concept of home ownership.

Property rights are endangered as well by the ongoing assault on contracts generally. A perfect example of this was the treatment of Chrysler bonds during the company’s bankruptcy, where senior secured creditors were ignored, notwithstanding the status of their bonds under bankruptcy law. The current administration made a political decision to subordinate those contracts to union demands. That sent a dangerous signal for the future that U.S. bonds are not trustworthy.

Three other threats to property loom. One is tax increases, such as the coming expiration of the Bush tax cuts. More taxes mean less private property. A second threat is in the area of infrastructure. Stimulus plans tend to emphasize infrastructure—especially roads and railroads. And after the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision of 2005, the federal government will have enormous license to use eminent domain to claim private property for these purposes. Third and finally, there is the worst kind of confiscation of private property: inflation, which excessive government spending necessarily encourages. Many of us sense that inflation is closer than the country thinks.

If the experience of the Great Depression teaches anything, it is that property rights must be firmly established or else we will not have the kind of economic activity that leads to strong recovery. The Monopoly board game reminds us that economic growth isn’t mysterious and inscrutable. Economic growth depends on the impulse of the small businessman and entrepreneur to get back in the game. In order for this to happen, we don’t need a perfect government. All we need is one that is “not too bad,” whose rules are not constantly changing and snuffing out the willingness of these players to take risks. We need a government under which the money supply doesn’t change unpredictably, there are not too many “Go to Jail” cards, and the top hats are confident in the possibility of seeing significant returns on investment. [...]

It's definitely worth reading the whole thing. If you don't have the time to buy and read here book, this lecture she gave is the next best thing.

1 comment:

Monopoly Online said...

I think it's great that they're doing their part to remember the evil, destitution and other hopelessness of communism.