Monday, November 12, 2012

Monopoly's Socialist Origins

According to Christopher Ketcham, the origins of Monopoly can be traced in 1906, when a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created "The Landlord's Game."  Evidently, she designed the game "as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to 'own' land."

The early version of the game:

had Chance cards with quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson (“The earth belongs in usufruct to the living”), John Ruskin (“It begins to be asked on many sides how the possessors of the land became possessed of it”), and Andrew Carnegie (“The greatest astonishment of my life was the discovery that the man who does the work is not the man who gets rich”). The game’s most expensive properties to buy, and those most remunerative to own, were New York City’s Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Wall Street. In place of Monopoly’s “Go!” was a box marked “Labor Upon Mother Earth Produces Wages.” The Landlord Game’s chief entertainment was the same as in Monopoly: competitors were to be saddled with debt and ultimately reduced to financial ruin, and only one person, the supermonopolist, would stand tall in the end. The players could, however, vote to do something not officially allowed in Monopoly: cooperate. Under this alternative rule set, they would pay land rent not to a property’s title holder but into a common pot—the rent effectively socialized so that, as Magie later wrote, “Prosperity is achieved.”

Steve Clowney

(HT: Andrew Sullivan)

UPDATE:  Al Brophy did a wonderful post on the landlord game all the way back in 2007.  Check it out:

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Further evidence that propertyprof is ahead of the curve: you heard pieces of this story here first!

Posted by: Alfred | Nov 12, 2012 7:27:29 AM

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