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Monopoly was invented to demonstrate the evils of capitalism (2017) (bbc.com)
252 points by throwaway3157 36 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 358 comments

Here is the crux of the article, beginning with the father of the inventor, Elizabeth Magie:

"Travelling around America in the 1870s, George had witnessed persistent destitution amid growing wealth, and he believed it was largely the inequity of land ownership that bound these two forces – poverty and progress – together. So instead of following Twain by encouraging his fellow citizens to buy land, he called on the state to tax it. On what grounds? Because much of land’s value comes not from what is built on the plot but from nature’s gift of water or minerals that might lie beneath its surface, or from the communally created value of its surroundings: nearby roads and railways; a thriving economy, a safe neighbourhood; good local schools and hospitals. And he argued that the tax receipts should be invested on behalf of all.

Determined to prove the merit of George’s proposal, Magie invented and in 1904 patented what she called the Landlord’s Game. Laid out on the board as a circuit (which was a novelty at the time), it was populated with streets and landmarks for sale. The key innovation of her game, however, lay in the two sets of rules that she wrote for playing it.

Under the ‘Prosperity’ set of rules, every player gained each time someone acquired a new property (designed to reflect George’s policy of taxing the value of land), and the game was won (by all!) when the player who had started out with the least money had doubled it. Under the ‘Monopolist’ set of rules, in contrast, players got ahead by acquiring properties and collecting rent from all those who were unfortunate enough to land there – and whoever managed to bankrupt the rest emerged as the sole winner (sound a little familiar?)"

There have been many games that purport to demonstrate that free markets are a failure, all of them had to rig the rules to make that happen.

Monopoly, for example, is a zero sum game. There is no possibility of increasing the supply nor making more efficient use of existing supply. Win-win solutions are pretty much impossible.

That's exactly the crux of the observation about land and rent-seeking that Monopoly seeks to illustrate - you can't just make more land.

Of course you can make more. Build a 10 story building and you've got 10x the floor space. People do that all the time in places were land is in short supply. Monopoly is a child's game that has no connection with how markets actually work.

And how often can you repeat this until you have effectively solved the optimum, and the situation devolves into zero-sum anyway? Are we growing the pie, or are we just rediscovering how big the pie is by optimizing better?

>Monopoly is a child's game that has no connection with how markets actually work.

Those aren't mutually exclusive. As far as I understand, the idea of Monopoly isn't to show how markets work. Its to show how finite resources such as land interact on a semi-free market. Which is exactly why lots of countries are now having problems with investors, foreign or not, buying up everything and driving up prices.

> having problems

Most countries hurt because investors avoid them.

> buying up

Meaning tons of money and investment is flowing into the country.

> And how often can you repeat this

No limit has been found, and certainly there's none in sight. Previous things running out:

1. rand out of wood for fuel. Now we use other fuels.

2. ran out of whales for whale oil. Now using other fuels.

3. Germany ran out of oil in WW2. They switched to alcohol and were developing other synthetic fuels.

4. The US ran out of rubber in WW2, developed synthetic rubber.

5. Ran out of farmland. Now use much more productive farming techniques. Vertical hydroponic farms are an emerging technology.

And so on. Interestingly, the countries that fail to adapt to change are socialist ones. The free market countries adapt.

> And how often can you repeat this

The sky is the limit. Or is it? When prices rise high enough everything gets possible.

In addition to my excellent sibling's note that this is a very finite solution to a boundless problem, land has a lot more uses than living space. Let's see a 10 story runway.

> this is a very finite solution to a boundless problem

Are you seriously concerned about running out of places to put a 10 story building? People will just start making 20 story buildings.

How many farms can you stack?

People have started building vertical farms with hydroponics. Some say it's the future.

> you can't just make more land.

Sure you can. Other planets, moons, habitats... It's just expensive. And the prices are not nearly high enough to justify the investments.

> There is no possibility of increasing the supply nor making more efficient use of existing supply.

Sounds pretty much like the housing market where I live.

Ones where government zoning and regulation prevent any change, sure. But you can't really blame the marketplace for that.

There is no such thing as a free market for housing, because the only thing stopping someone else from squatting in your house and telling you to get bent at any time is the government.

Land is inherently limited, and becomes more limited the higher the population concentration. Eventually this can lead to things like AirBnB and other rent seeking behaviors in the absence of government intervention leading to gentrification.

> because the only thing stopping someone else from squatting in your house and telling you to get bent at any time is the government.

You're suggesting the government is anti-ethical to the free market. On the contrary, the government is required for a free market. The role of government is protection of property rights and contract enforcement.

> Land is inherently limited

Land use, however, is not limited. For example, building a 10 story building increases the amount of usable "land" by a factor of 10.

“Under the ‘Prosperity’ set of rules, every player gained each time someone acquired a new property (designed to reflect George’s policy of taxing the value of land), and the game was won (by all!) when the player who had started out with the least money had doubled it.”

This seems like an arbitrary cut-off point. How do we know that if the game were to continue the result wouldn’t end up being the same, with one player still controlling a monopoly of all the properties?

I believe that there has always been land taxes here in the US. I'd love for the US to break up some of these huge overpowering companies today though.

US mostly has a Property Tax for state or local governments, which is different from a Land Value Tax. The property tax is levied based on the value of your property, which includes all improvements made to the property. A land value tax is specifically levied against the value of the land itself, and ignores the value of any buildings and improvements or the use value of the land you're on.

Monopoly teaches people a view of economics being a zero-sum game and too many people learn the wrong lessons from it. Real life isn't a zero-sum game.

as the article points out the game was in particular desgigned to show the economic effects of private land rent, hence the original title 'the landlord's game', and that is in fact a zero sum game as they aren't making any more of it.

And in particular on tech websites like these people vastly overstate how non 'zero-sum' economic activity actually is mostly because tech has been in a bubble of highly anomalous growth. (A lot of it ironically arguably not real productivity growth but rent collection through platforms and market power).

In many ways the tech startups of today look more like digital landlords than innovators whose disruption is primarily taking over the market from a host of competitors rather than improving process efficiency. If we were living in Fordist times and the assembly line and other innovations delivered 6-7% growth annually, then we could rave on about non-zero sum economies. Total factor productivity growth these days is relatively non-existent.

And yet we are 30x richer per person in a 10x bigger population since the Industrial Revolution started.

That is 300x more than a zero sum model would predict.

"We"? What is being counted here, the average income and wealth?

Of course people are better off with food and iPhones, but in many major European cities people with middle class incomes share apartments that were literally single family worker apartments around 1900.

In terms of living space, the quality of life for the middle class is worse than 100 years ago.

There are exponentially more people today. In 1850 there were 23 million people in America, today there are 330 million. There was a 15x increase in population, with more than that in the city centers.

Texas had a population of 212k in 1850 and 29 million today. How can you compare the size of a house or land ownership then to today?

> Texas had a population of 212k in 1850 and 29 million today. How can you compare the size of a house or land ownership then to today?

You are pinning your argument on houses in _TEXAS_ having gotten smaller? lol bc if anything they have gotten larger.

At that time land was given away via grants in Texas to anyone who would live there by the hundreds of acres. Comparing that situation to land (housing) prices in a major city today is nonsensical.

> In terms of living space, the quality of life for the middle class is worse than 100 years ago.

most urbanites of today don't own a chicken, let alone a cow, in 800's standard they're worse off than serfs.

In 1900, the average life expectancy for an American man was 48.3

Today, the average life expectancy for Americans is 78.7

That is mostly, but not completely, due to infant mortality rates.

Indeed, the marxist argument is that the productivity gains of the industrial revolution would allow unprecedented human freedom, if not for their capture by the small class of people who own the means of production. The labor movement has played an enormous role in ensuring the working class gets a fairer share, via the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, etc.

We may see another example of this if Andrew Yang and other folks bullish on automation are correct. The few people who own the AI systems that replace truck drivers will get fabulously wealthy, while the large mass of workers will get nothing.

In the past ~50 years in the US, labor has been on the back foot, and productivity gains have gone almost exclusively to the wealthy, rather than the working class.

"In the past ~50 years in the US, labor has been on the back foot, and productivity gains have gone almost exclusively to the wealthy, rather than the working class. "

How so? The poorest working people in the US today are much much much better off than they were 50 years ago. It's not even close. A lot of people have recency bias, technology gains etc have given much more freedom to individuals, made work easier and less labor intensive, that is largely due to private industry. Globally, poverty has plunged.

What stats are you looking at?

Real wages have been stagnant for the vast majority of workers in the US.

And the "pulled people out of poverty" thing is such a BS stat. Converting subsistence farmers into sweat shop workers so that they they have $1.50/day instead of $0/day isn't a real metric of pulling people out of poverty. It's more a metric of how tied into the global system they are.

According to this real wages have been rising for the last 30 years: https://www.factcheck.org/2019/06/are-wages-rising-or-flat/

Your ignoring total compensation as wages are only one part of it.

Total compensation at all income levels has vastly outstripped inflation over the past 50 years.

[citation needed]

Median is $60k household. People making $30k each aren't having side perks thrown at them.

That's average, not median.

$1.50/day has much more purchasing power in poorer countries. Any time someone makes such a statement, I can immediately tell they are ignorant on basic economics. The US also used to have low wages for entry level workers, as did every (no developed) country. That's how progress is made. You can't expect a poor farmer with minimal skills to start making $25 an hour. And what stats am I looking at? What stats are YOU looking at? Even if you believe the notion that real wages are flat (not true,) living standards have still risen drastically thanks to technology. Do you think technology gains just come out of thin air? No, they are driven by competition and the need to profit.

I'm not holding my breath on self-driving semi trucks anytime soon. They will be the last type of vehicle to be automated. It takes a lot of skill to drive an 18 wheeler from warehouse to distribution center to warehouse. They are extremely dangerous machines if not handled properly and can easily kill dozens of people if a miscalculation occurs.

In the meantime, you could make the same argument about farming equipment in the 19th and 20th centuries. Yeah 90% of the population used to be farmers, and yeah the equipment automated away most of that labor, but did the former farmers and laborers lose out or did they gain, by access to the same technology... either via personal automobiles or via cheaper, more reliable supply chains of abundant food.

Likewise, if and when transportation is automated, people will gain from their time saved in traffic. They will gain from cheaper costs of transportation overall which will reduce price of goods at retail. They will gain from the availability of 24/7 cheap, reliable, on-demand transportation.

And no, real wages are at all time highs in the United States, with the median household income hitting $63K in 2018.

They're testing self driving trucks on I-70 outside of Denver specifically to test them in the worst conditions. They're not coming, they're already here.

The issue though, isn't that a specific job is going away, but instead the whole class of "human as control theory implementation" is going away. That's way more disruptive. Like, people instead becoming control software for guillotines level disruptive.

> And no, real wages are at all time highs in the United States, with the median household income hitting $63K in 2018.

"Real wages" mean inflation and CPI adjusted so you can actually compare them in a meaningful way. They have indeed been stagnant for median wage earners since the seventies.

Out of curiosity, do you have a link to the test trials in Denver? They're not already here. Even if they're 95% of the way, if that last 5% is catastrophic failure that ends in death and destruction, it's not even close to ready for production.

I'm well aware of what real wages means in terms of inflation.

"From January 2019 to January 2020, real average hourly earnings increased 0.7 percent"


> Out of curiosity, do you have a link to the test trials in Denver? They're not already here. Even if they're 95% of the way, if that last 5% is catastrophic failure that ends in death and destruction, it's not even close to ready for production.

I literally see Embark trucks going down the I-70 mountain in the snow. They are already here.

Here says they are already making deliveries (albeit test ones): https://www.wired.com/story/embark-self-driving-truck-delive...

> I'm well aware of what real wages means in terms of inflation.

> "From January 2019 to January 2020, real average hourly earnings increased 0.7 percent"

> https://www.bls.gov/news.release/realer.nr0.htm

And meanwhile when you don't cherry pick a single year (and really 0.7% increase isn't something to be writing home about in the first place), they've been stagnant for decades.


I think that’s a super narrow view of tech development. Many menial jobs are being replaced by tech, and if that’s not increasing productivity than I don’t know what Ford’s assembly lines did...

I don't think it's true that many jobs are being replaced by tech. Restaurant workers, store clerks, nurses, assistances, even warehouse workers and so on are stable. Go through a list of the jobs in the US that employ most workers and none in the top 30 have been created in the last 20 years.

Many economists have pointed this out. If the 'rapid innovation' that a lot of tech entrepreneurs talk about was happening (and they have an incentive to oversell it), we would see high unemployment (as people are being replaced) together with high productivity and high GDP growth. We see no such thing. The Andrew Yang robot horror scenario is nowhere in the data.

By historical measures, the technological progress of the 1940s to late 1970s vastly outpaces today.

> that is in fact a zero sum game

Not at all. Putting a 10 story building on a lot is multiplying the area by 10.


> And the proceeds still go to the landowner.

You can buy property and multiply its value by 10 by putting a 10 story building on it, and even sell floors on it. It happens all the time. It is simply not a fixed supply.

> Typical Caltech brat

LOL. My opinions on markets were quite atypical for Caltech students in the 1970s. They're likely even less typical today.

Setting aside opinions, I've been in business and associated with business entrepreneurs ever since Caltech. Consistently, those with positive outlooks and willingness to take action have done very well. Those with negative views and a victim mentality have all done poorly.

> You can buy property

Most people can't afford to buy property. That's sort of the crux of this discussion. Half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and about the same amount have less than $10k in the bank.

> I've been in business and associated with business entrepreneurs ever since Caltech. Consistently, those with positive outlooks and willingness to take action have done very well.

Yes, people who have money can easily acquire more money. Most people don't start out with money though, so it's rather selfish to judge the world solely from this perspective.

> That's sort of the crux of this discussion.

This discussion is about property being zero-sum. It isn't zero sum.

> Most people don't start out with money though

There are endless businesses one can start with no money.

I just drove from Seattle to Albuquerque, through vast tracts of empty land. Land is politically, not physically scarce. That's even true right around major metropoli, let alone the hinterlands. And even that doesn't count unused potential square footage along the vertical axis. The truly constraining axis isn't x, y or z, but NIMBY.

Empty land because its rainfall is insufficient to grow traditional crops. Worse, the water table in much of it is quite deep and the groundwater opportunities are scarce (and becoming more so). Compare with the US east coast where its pretty much impossible to throw a rock these days an not hit someone's house. Even in the rural areas people are frequently on plots of land that wouldn't support them without intensive industrialized farming.

Check out the "field lab" video's for a now ten year video blog posting of the hardships of attempting to live off the land in the arid SW us. Somewhere along the way he started saying "i'm just not someone who can grow crops". But in reality, its more a case of he can't grow crops because they don't survive 100F summers, or seasons without a lot of rainfal. If the weeds are having a hard time growing, your potato's/whatever are probably not going to be doing well.

edit: just to point out the redundancy, if you go read the newspapers in any of the major cities in the SW what you will frequently read about is water woes. Overwhelmingly those cities ability to supply water at the projected population growth rates are questionable.

Yeah CGP Grey had a god video about federal land ownership the majorty of land in western states is federal land.


Its kind of ridiculous. how little control states have over the land within their own boarders.

I understand that land is finite, but you'll need to explain further how tech is at all similar, or else I'm not sure it's a good metaphor. Monopolistic platforms aren't great, and I'm also no fan of competitive inefficiency, but how is any of this like land? It sounds like you're implying it becomes impossible at some point to make more tech?

shut it down boys, everything's already been made.

The monopoly game is not zero-sum. Money increases when you pass start, and cards drawn are on average a source of money.

In fact, the money owned by players inflates as the game goes on.

It is zero sum, because no intentional action can increase wealth. Only the gradual, chance-based progression of new money into the game.

In contrast, if I take out a loan and build a successful business, my intentional actions (successful business) lead to greater money supply than if I had failed at business.

Does that make sense, or am I missing something? I'll admit, the creation of new wealth/money is very mysterious. How to know when it is growing the pie?

> my intentional actions (successful business)

Your intentional action is to start a business. Whether or not it will be a successful business and actually "generate wealth" is to a large part dependant an chance.

Also, honestly, "It's not a zero-sum game" is beginning to sound like a religious mantra. Of course you can define "wealth" however your want and for the right definitions, you can certainly pull ever more of it out of nowhere. The set of natural numbers has no upper bound.

However, many extremely relevant kinds of wealth absolutely are zero-sum: There is only so much time in a day, only so much space to live in, only so many natural resources and only so much waste the planet will tolerate. If some class of people control disproportionately amounts of that, it will absolutely reduce the wealth of those who don't belong to that class.

No, it's not dependent on chance. It's not some random spin on a roulette wheel. It depends on if you are offering a service that is valued by the marketplace.

There may be only so much time in a day, but the critical factor in wealth creation is how much you can get done in a day (productivity). You can also figure out clever ways to get more out of what you have (efficiency).

> No, it's not dependent on chance. It's not some random spin on a roulette wheel.

There are many random factors that can cause your business to succeed or fail.

You might have a terrible business idea that would normally fail, but a coincidental event could cause your business to become wildly successful.

You could be a terrible businessperson, but by luck of birth your family has connections that allow your business to succeed through pure nepotism.

You might have a brilliant idea that fails because of a natural disaster, or because someone doesn't like you and decides to bury you in lawsuits.

You might have a brilliant business idea but a competitor springs up and poaches your labor pool.

You can also quit before you start and fail 100% of the time.

It's not failing if you didn't waste time and you still have 100% of your capital in the bank. I'm also not saying nobody should take risks, or that you can't create your own luck, just pointing out that there's an element of chance in every success.

A common thread I've noticed in people who say it's all luck is they never recognize when they are being lucky, and good fortune passes them by, unnoticed. Successful people feel lucky because they notice good luck and take advantage.

For example - odds are very good you're healthy. That's lucky! You live in the US - a lucky place to start a business! The internet makes it easy - lucky! You have an education - more great luck! If not, there's a free youtube video on just about anything you need to learn - what great luck!

>> It depends on if you are offering a service that is valued by the marketplace

And who decides what is valued by the marketplace?


- Politicians through regulation.

- The Federal Reserve Bank by continuously creating new money out of thin air.

- Banks by deciding who can get the newly printed Fed money through loans and who can't (typically based on the value of assets which individuals already have; the result is that rich people get most of the new money through almost 0% interest loans).

- Corporate monopolies by locking out competitors (through lobbying government for beneficial regulations or making it prohibitively expensive for other companies to compete due to price gouging, international tax arbitrage, allowing losses in some sectors to selectively wipe out competitors in other sectors, incentivizing journalists to promote the corporate agenda, etc...)

As a small startup, you can be as efficient as you like. If some corporation doesn't want you to succeed, they can easily drain your coffers and crush you without drawing any attention to themselves. It's not about productivity or cleverness; that has very little value these days. Economic value these days lies in one's ability to control the social narrative and the money supply; it doesn't matter what the reality is.

If you have unlimited money, you can literally pay people to sit on their asses and pick their noses all day; you can even convince them that this is helping the company and therefore the whole economy... The company keeps getting more money year after year so somehow all this nose-picking must be paying off right?

The massive hose of Federal Reserve cash plugged straight into the back of the company is just a minor detail.

And the farmers who feed everyone are fools for accepting this electronic play money in exchange for their useful work.

Regulation is a reaction to demand, it's not what creates demand. We can debate about the pros and cons of regulation, but that is quite a tangent. Certainly some businesses are prohibited by the existence of stringent regulations. Certainly regulations make it more expensive to start a business in certain industries. But they do not determine what the market wants.

The Fed also doesn't create demand for products and services. That demand is there, all the time. Right now there is latent demand in the marketplace to extend the human lifespan to 1000 years if possible. There's demand to travel at the speed of light or faster. Whether or not these things are even possible is completely independent of the demand for them.

It's also quite absurd that on the tail end of a decade of a start up boom in the tech industry that you would assert that all these factors make it impossible to succeed today. We are on Hacker News, a site powered by YCombinator, an incubator and investor that has helped make it possible for hundreds of companies to succeed that you claim is impossible. The combined valuation of the top YC companies was over $155 billion as of October, 2019. None of these companies existed 15 years ago.

> Regulation is a reaction to demand, it's not what creates demand.

A regulation that mandates, e.g. catalytic converters, creates demand for them. Requiring car insurance, same. Examples abound.

> The Fed also doesn't create demand for products and services.

The Fed(eral reserve) sets monetary policy. It's supply side. By setting interest rates low, it increases demand for credit.

Y Combinator is completely out of reach for most people. There are limited slots and tens of thousands of applicants. It makes the whole selection process essentially pseudo-random.

Also, Y Combinator is not popular because it is successful, it is successful because it is popular.

It's no coincidence that Y Combinator operates the most popular technology news link aggregator in the world which all the big corporate tech executives read. This significantly affects the odds of success for startups which join Y Combinator. They choose who wins and it doesn't matter who they choose. If you are selected into YC, it's like winning the lottery.

They should do an experiment; filter out all the obvious scam applications then for all remaining applications (tens of thousands of them probably) run a random number generator to select startups based on keywords that YC likes. I bet the success rate for that batch wouldn't be very different from previous batches.

YC was successful before it was popular.

All of the mechanics available to the Fed and Politicians are large imprecise tools. Regular people still have unmet needs and successful businesses are still started all the time to meet those needs.

> And who decides what is valued by the marketplace?

The people you'd be selling to.

Have you ever bought something?

> is to a large part dependant an chance

Not at all. I can start a business tomorrow, and if I do nothing or do stupid things with it, the odds of success are zero.

> only so many natural resources

We've literally only scratched the surface. Also, they aren't consumed. Things can always be refined and repurposed, as long as energy is available.

Energy is not infinite, and the subset of that energy that can be used without killing the ecosystem we depend on is very limited.

Yes, there are a limited number of atoms in the universe, and we should be worried about that.

The phrase “zero sum game”, taken as referring to the game theory thing, “zero sum games”, isn’t about wealth, but about utility (though sometimes utility could be modeled as just being wealth).

To say that something isn’t zero sum in this sense is a rather weak statement. If any combination of actions by people result in at least one person being worse off and no one else being better off, or in at least one person being better off and no one else being worse off, than some other combination of choices, that is sufficient to conclude that it isn’t zero sum. (This isn’t a necessary condition, only a sufficient one. But a Pareto difference (terminology?) implies a difference in the sum of utilities (assuming that there is a sensible way to add the utilities) without assuming a particular way to add utilities between persons, so I think it is easier to justify conceptually.)

That many things involving multiple people are not zero sum, in this sense, is obvious. (Punching a stranger in the face for no reason decreases the utility of the stranger without increasing one’s own. Well, for most people anyway?) It doesn’t imply that there are no limits to how good outcomes can be.

That a given thing is not zero sum is often something that would be sufficiently trivial as to not be worth saying, except that people talk about the thing as if it is zero sum.

If things were constrained to be on the Pareto frontier, then, while possibly still not zero sum, there would I think be less reason to point out that things aren’t zero sum even if they weren’t.

Pointing out that things aren’t zero sum is often, I think, effectively a call to take into account whether options would move closer to or further from the Pareto frontier, and not just pretend that things are always on the Pareto frontier and try to move along the Pareto frontier.

Now, if, within a certain context, the maximum distance it is possible to be from the Pareto frontier is negligible, then in those cases exclaiming “care more about the distance to the Pareto frontier!” wouldn’t seem to make much sense, and perhaps even sometimes justice requires putting more emphasis on where on the frontier we are closest to than how close we are to it, even if it means non-negligible difference in closeness to the frontier.

But, generally speaking, Pareto improvements are good and important, and forbidding people from taking actions that result in global Pareto improvements (I don’t just mean “if you only consider these people, then among these people it is a Pareto improvement”, but rather things that are Pareto improvements when considering everyone’s interests) is usually bad.

I would argue that if I hold 2 of the yellow and 1 of the green properties and you hold 1 of the yellow and 2 of the green in a 3+ person game, that we do have an intentional action that can leave us both better off.

If the two people involved in the two people involved in the trade are exactly x better off and the, lets say, two people not involved in the trade are exactly x worse off, that transaction is still zero-sum.

Zero-sum games are not limited to two player games.

You are only better off in the sense of having more opportunities to collect rent from each other. The result is still zero-sum.

Here’s a mental shortcut: as long as the objective of the game is to bankrupt all other players (i.e. to own all of the money), the game is zero-sum. No other details matter. It’s a cake-cutting game where everybody wants all the cake.

Is trading legal in Monopoly? I'm assuming that's what you are referring to.

Yes. It's part of the official rules (and the absence of it would be fairly disastrous to the game dynamics I think).

Apparently not in the original :



> Borrowing: A player may borrow from the “Bank" in amounts of one hundred dollars, and for every one hundred dollars borrowed the " Bank" takes a mortgage on one or more of the borrower's lots, the total value of which must be at least ten dollars more than is borrowed. For every one hundred dollars borrowed from the "Bank" a bank mortgage is placed upon the property on which the loan is made, and the player puts his note in the "Bank," paying upon each note five dollars (interest) every time he receives his wages. One player may borrow from another, giving a mortgage on any property he may own and making the best bargain he can as to interest, terms of payments &c. The player loaning the money places his individual, mortgage on the top of the borrower's deed to show that he has a mortgage on that property, Should a loan be repaid before passing the beginning-point, the borrower saves the interest.

But there are a few variations... This one looks closer to "modern" monopoly - I can't seem to locate the "two rulesets" referenced by Wikipedia though (one "pro" one "contra" monopoly - in the second everyone supposedly benefits from created value).



> Magie created two sets of rules: an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents.

See also: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/apr/11/secret-...

[edit: here are the combined rules with rules for "prosperity" https://landlordsgame.info/games/lgp-1932/lgp-1932_rules.htm... ]

It is in my house.

>> my intentional actions (successful business)

Yeah of course because you have full control of what happens to your business.

Your competitors, big corporate monopolies, regulators, investors, fickle cultural trends, politics, timing, your wealthy friends or family members and your own health have no impact at all on your business' chance of success.

Running a business is an exercise in risk management. All of the things you mentioned are interesting challenges, but they're not insurmountable. While there are few guarantees in life, one sure fired way to lose to all those factors is to make them bigger than they are.

>> but they're not insurmountable

If your health is so bad that you die, that's insurmountable.

If regulations are so rigid that the government forbids you to open your business, that's insurmountable.

If a corporation sets up shop next door and sells everything you sell at half the price, that's insurmountable.

Then also milder combinations of all of the above can be insurmountable.

You're confusing your hypothetical personal success with the state of the system as a whole.

Most businesses will fail, and most businesses are built on loans of some kind rather than bootstrapped.

Rent-seekers will try to profit from this because they will claw back their "investment" in the form of collateral - preferably physical, but IP as a last resort.

If businesses succeed, rent-seekers will profit from their "investment" with an aggressive term sheet that gives their return priority over returns for the people who did the work.

At the same time, rent-seekers will be investing in property. If there's a run of successful businesses in an area they will gain by increasing rents and speculating on property prices.

This is basically just asset inflation - very good for rent-seekers, very bad for people who need access to limited resources like housing and health care.

This isn't even getting into the costs of externalities.

The picture as a whole is a lot more complicated than "My business succeeded and now I'm making money, so there's no zero sum here."

Without the loan up front, most businesses never get off the ground to begin with. You're calling lenders "rent-seekers" like they don't provide a valuable, essential service that underpins the whole economy. If I want to start a business, I can either 1) raise capital in exchange for equity, 2) borrow money at a set interest rate or 3) save money for years until I personally have enough to start a company.

For many types of businesses, option 1 isn't a tenable option. Outside of the tech industry, the margins are lower and there is not a large network of VC angels for things like restaurants, farms, retail stores, home services, etc.

The classic example would be farming equipment. Sure, you could save for 10 years to buy an International Harvester Combine. Or you could borrow money to buy the Combine today, your efficiency goes up 10x and you pay off the loan with the higher profits you reap. Then, if you want to expand your farm, you might likewise save for 10 years to buy another plot of land...or you could borrow money today and buy that land and use leverage to grow quicker. The loan created wealth by enabling the farmer to become more productive.

At the same time, rent-seekers will be investing in property. If there's a run of successful businesses in an area they will gain by increasing rents and speculating on property prices.

And if they are speculating and the market goes south, they will lose their investment.

It’s not like there isn’t risk involved.

Wow, that's really depressing. I thought hard work and good ideas were important and valuable contributions to society.

Yes, that's the american dream. The problem with america is too many people believe the american dream, that you can go 'rags to riches' with hard work and perseverance.

The people working 90 hour weeks and barely able to make rent apparently aren't working hard enough.

You can. I used to work in a retirement community in Florida. I met thousands of retirees who either through their own business or from stock earned in a corporate job or from a solid 401K savings had more than $1 million in net worth. There's more than 10 million households with a net worth of over $1 million in the U.S [1]. It's not hard work and perseverance that matters. It's smart work and money management that matters.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/617390/us-millionaire-ho...

Perfect example for survivorship bias. To live in a retirement community you have to have money. So, when you work in a retirement community you see retired people who have money. What you don't see are all the people who made the same decisions, did the same things, but for some reason didn't end up in a retirement community in Florida.

There's plenty of lower-income retirement communities in Florida too. You can buy homes there for $100K or so, so you don't even need to be a millionaire. I would say, that if 1 in 30 Americans are millionaires, that is direct evidence that it's not some impossible, unachievable dream. 1 in 3 have a net worth greater than $200K.

Of course it's not impossible

What you're saying is that the majority of people have a net worth

So working harder than the majority of people will still mean you end up with a tiny net worth, the fear of bankrupcy from medical bills at any point in life, the fear of losing your home (if you're lucky enough to get a home in the first place)

America is a country where cops arrest 6 year old girls for the crime of being black. The american dream? Hah. Look at the american reality.

1 in 30 'make it'. 29 in 30 don't, and life is hell for them.

To the above comment I can't reply to, no, the median income in the U.S. is $63K. It's far from hell and no other country produces the abundance we have at the scale we do. Get outside the U.S. and go see the other 95% of the world.

The American Dream was never “rags to riches”. It was a comfortable middle class lifestyle.

The mathematical description might be "necessary but not sufficient".

>It is zero sum, because no intentional action can increase wealth

It's a probability game. The action of buying a property increases wealth proportionate to the risk of someone landing on it, hence that intentional action increases wealth as a function.

That doesn't make the game zero sum, especially when you add in the variable income bits of passing go or mortgaging properties.

I'll admit, the creation of new wealth/money is very mysterious. How to know when it is growing the pie?

Wealth is stuff that people want. You create wealth by creating stuff that other people want. http://www.paulgraham.com/wealth.html has a long version of this explanation.

The last 200 years have seen a dramatic transformation as we have found ways to efficiently create more wealth, with the result that we all have more stuff that we want than pretty much anyone used to. Both new kinds of stuff (effective medicine, gadgets like washing machines, electronic devices...) and the kinds of stuff we used to have (food, potable water, etc...).

And yet, people still emotionally fall prey to the old fallacy that more for thee means less for me. The truth is that there is no society on record that has managed to lower inequity without major disaster such as war or plague. And also no society on record that has managed to increase the prosperity of the poor without seeing income gaps rise.

(Read Enlightenment Now for a lot more detail on both of these phenomena.)

Or, as Margaret Thatcher put it, "...he would rather that the poor were poorer provided the rich were less rich." (See https://speakola.com/political/margaret-thatcher-on-socialis... for the full quote.)

The game is strictly zero-sum, you win by bankrupting your opponents. The amount of money in circulation has nothing to do with whether it's zero sum or not, it's the distribution of money-- and in monopoly, the goal is to have it distributed to _one_ person.

P.S. Just because this also bothered me: inflation doesn't happen during the game. Land itself does not increase in value during the course of the game, it only increases with direct capital expenditures. Example: if no one buys "Park Place" for 90% of a game, it does not increase in cost the cost for the player who eventually buys it[1], that cost is fixed throughout the game.

[1] Despite its marginal utility (i.e. value) for each player increasing as the game goes on. In that example, it's nice because utility increase whether you have Broadway (I think thats the other piece) or not (preventing someone from building on it is a strategy too).

That's not real wealth though. The houses and hotels are the actual capital improvements.

The thing is, supply and demand seem not to matter in the housing market. If you land on Park Place you can't shop around for alternatives.

This might be retconned by saying that most housing is occupied and that's where you found a vacancy, but it's still pretty artificial. If the other houses are occupied then why isn't anyone getting any income from them?

> That's not real wealth though. The houses and hotels are the actual capital improvements.

That doesn't make Monopoly any more zero-sum. You're not generally limited by the supply of hotels. If I build a hotel where there were four houses before, the total capital stock has increased, not stayed constant.

Maybe not your point, but:

> You're not generally limited by the supply of hotels

A strong strategy in Monopoly is leveraging the fact that houses and hotels _are_ in limited supply. There are only 32 houses available and you can't build a hotel unless you have 4 houses on each property in a set. If you end up with 3 monopolies with 4 houses on each property the game is pretty much over because nobody else is able to invest in anything.

Just to point out, if you're strangling the house supply with the result that nobody can build hotels, it is obviously true that nobody is being limited by the supply of hotels.

...But any real Capitalist would then see the opportunity to stop investing in real estate, leverage his real estate as collateral, and build more houses. Thereby increasing supply, and creating even more wealth by offering his new houses to the other players.

Of course this would pressure the house hoarder into building hotels... Except each other player gets a set of dice, and on rolling anything higher than a 4, his hotel construction is thwarted by decree of the community's zoning board. UNLESS he's making deals under the table, increasing number he has to roll under to get approval from the zoning board.

And so on, and so forth.

> If the other houses are occupied then why isn't anyone getting any income from them?

I think you're talking about profit here. If you're going to take the metaphor seriously I think you'd have to assume income is coming in if the houses are maintained. Your profit is the money you take from the other players. If you land on Park Place, you specifically need Park Place, and you're forced to pay a premium. As the property owner you're waiting for those premiums to overtake the initial outlay used to build the houses.

> This might be retconned by saying that most housing is occupied and that's where you found a vacancy, but it's still pretty artificial.

Actually this just sounds like the California housing market where NIMBYs perpetually prevent housing stock from increasing, which is of course a result of central planning, not a free market mechanism, LOL!

It's not purely "free market" to restrict housing supply, but the freedom to influence politics to your own advantage (like NIMBY's restricting housing supply) is absolutely an effect of the free market system.

Why wouldn't buying political advantage be just as bad under socialism or communism, etc?

Oh it still is.

Capitalism is not exactly equal to "free market". There's still a hell of a lot of market under socialism.

I'm just pointing out that you have to regulate SOMETHING. Regulating nothing = people amassing wealth and buying political influence = those current power holders regulating everyone else so the current power holders just continue to win. Then you don't have your "free market" anymore. It's inherently unstable.

In my opinion, the wealthy should have no more political power than the poor. But of course the wealthy have an outsized ability to influence politics. So they can work to repeal or nullify the very laws meant to reduce their influence - it's a fight that will never end and requires working and poor people to constantly be aware, organizing, and participating in politics to have any chance at all.

Or maybe one day, in my dream world, the rich and powerful will realize hey it's not so bad to have a workforce that is educated and healthy and has enough money in their pocket to buy the things we produce without taking out loans! And then we all leave in peace and harmony...

> There's still a hell of a lot of market under socialism

Completely agree. It's frustrating, because with words like "capitalism" and "socialism", why use words at all? Nobody means the same thing -- yet most people want the same thing -- it's really frustrating. I view it as a really important failure of science and philosophy. And a great opportunity for simulations in the service of empirical morality.

Which reminds me: Adam Smith's advisor wrote a whole tract on "Moral Computation" back in the early 1700s

> Completely agree. It's frustrating, because with words like "capitalism" and "socialism", why use words at all? Nobody means the same thing

And there's the reason why, in my original post at the beginning of this sub-thread, I used neither of those terms, in order to communicate more precisely.

Centrally planned economies are inferior to freer economies, whether the top-down controls are imposed by democracy or autocracy; both create economic inefficiencies. History has borne that out repeatedly.

But of course, that statement disregards non-economic externalities like environmental impacts, and one may want a central power to map non-economic externalities onto economic costs through e.g. taxes and fines for polluting because the economic inefficiencies incurred are worth the tradeoff (like having clean water/air). Then the market can price those non-economic externalities accordingly, once the market is appropriately regulated.

There is a bit of a puzzle because many large corporations do pretty well with hierarchical planning and competition involves lots of duplicate effort. The markets also seem to encourage centralization for economy of scale? (Consider big tech, the airline industry, and index funds.)

I often wonder if there could be a feasible system by which things inside a large company could be run by a market-like thing, and whether that could end up using work more efficiently.

I hear about some part of a company requesting another part do some market research on some topic, and then just entirely disregard the results, when the market research department could have used that effort and time and money to do some other more useful market research that would have actually been used, and I wonder whether there could be some way to make sure that the requests to another department that something be done, have appropriate costs in some sense.

If one was better off by not requiring some other department do some work that doesn’t actually get used than if one does produce such a requirement for them, then presumably one would try to be less likely to produce such requirements, which seems desirable.

Is there a realistic feasible way to do this? I don’t know.

Companies do experiment with this sometimes as part of the budget-making process, as well as internal competition. I haven't heard of any big wins though.

It seems better to take internal functions and open them up to outside customers, as the cloud computing companies do.

Each of these systems is degrees of the other as well, and that seems proper for the exact reasons you mentioned - not including desired externalities in pricing/market dynamics.

There are a few things that I believe only work in a moral way when they are taken out of the hands of capitalist pursuit-of-profit dynamic:

* Healthcare: What does the demand curve look like when your alternative is death or a painful, limited life?

* Pollution/Environmental damage control: Without regulation the chemical company owner has zero incentive not to dump their leftovers in the creek.

* Access to quality education: Equality of opportunity

* Access to housing: Simply a question of morality. In the US at least, we have so much goddamn money and so much goddamn land and the ability to build giant buildings on that land. No one should be homeless.

You could argue that's just inflation. Total real value remains the same with every lap, it's just distributed differently between players (particularly if you count the unclaimed tiles as an extra player)

The "Do not pass Go" mechanic effectively means some players skip income and it's not uniform inflation.

Also players selectively mortgaging properties will destroy overall wealth in the game.

Don't the rules of monopoly guarantee all players but one go bankrupt?

At the end of the game, yes, but if players don't try to bankrupt each other it probably won't happen.

Early in the game the expected value of a trip around the board is positive because of low rents of undeveloped properties and the net gain from Chance and Community Chest, plus passing Go. Cash flow into the game is positive as a whole.

Later in the game, when property is developed you're going to be paying bigger rents. This is going to cause players to mortgage or sell houses to pay the big rents (also their own liquid cash supply is likely lower from developing their own properties), each of which is a money sink since you don't get full value for these. This causes money to exit the game, eventually leading toward bankruptcy.

However, this requires that players actually get to develop their properties. If the game hits a lock due to no one trading and no one getting a natural monopoly, the game can go pretty much indefinitely.

> If the game hits a lock due to no one trading and no one getting a natural monopoly, the game can go pretty much indefinitely.

Yeah, I once played with someone whose strategy was "Never trade". In an act of desperation, I offered him $1,000 for a light-blue property, and he refused. The game lasted for nearly an hour before I quit out of extreme boredom.

A typical 4-player game of Monopoly should only last around 30 minutes, but people often have terrible strategies or play with ridiculous house rules that constantly inject money into the game, prolonging it. A lot of people don't even know that the house rule they're playing is even a house rule because it's what they were taught when they first learned to play.

> Yeah, I once played with someone whose strategy was "Never trade".

That's the right strategy for strong play. You should never trade property for mere money. If you absolutely have to, trade property for property if the trade gives you a monopoly, or if (in a more-than-two-player game) doing so gives you a net increase in the number of groups for which you hold at least one property (so you can block anyone from getting a monopoly in those groups without trading with you).

It's not an especially fun strategy, either for you or the people you're playing with.

My friends and I tried the rule that you could loan other players money. We had to stop playing after that.

> Money increases when you pass start, and cards drawn are on average a source of money.

Money itself is of value only if it can be used to buy stuff. The assets in Monopoly are fixed - more and more money chases the same assets, meaning that the real value of that money remains the same.


Arguably we are in the process of playing monopoly. It is just not near the end yet.

We have not used up all the fixed resources yet - which is why we can keep growing, but we soon might as the population grows and the rich take as much as possible.

> We have not used up all the fixed resources yet

Please explain how iron has been "used up".

While true, in almost any iterated trading game major disparities emerge — a point Monopoly makes well.

In real life however, these disparities are only a problem if people leverage them against others.

> In real life however, these disparities are only a problem if people leverage them against others.

Isn't this nearly always the case though? Absent external constraints?

There is also wealth destruction when mortgaging the properties, which means the total wealth in the game can go down.

This is correct - but I think the point the user above is trying to make is that the game doesn't teach the most fundamental lesson of capitalism - that competition drives adaptation.

Competition driving adaptation is really important, but darwinism predates capitalism!

I'd argue that the most fundamental lesson of capitalism is that markets magically allow individual self-interest to contribute to the collective benefit

Ok, fun facts: Adam Smith got his PhD in a department of moral philosophy. His first book was about why people are nice to each other: I feel good if you feel good, I feel bad if you feel bad.

His second book, "Wealth of Nations", was also about why people are nice to each other. He described capitalism (aka market economies) as the basis for large-scale moral action. Markets and trade naturally support collective benefit.

Adam Smith wasn't extreme -- his point was to promote "the greatest happiness for the greatest number" -- a phrase coined by Adam Smith's PhD advisor, Francis Hutcheson.

But the transactions between players are zero-sum... An interesting, related point: zero-sum trading games (even ones based on chance [1]) always devolve into pareto/power law distributions when bankruptcy is a possibility. More a matter of natural law than the "evils" of capitalism

[1] trading game simulation: https://youtu.be/CsRLVZTYpGo?t=313

But the transactions between players are zero-sum... An interesting, related point: zero-sum trading games (even ones based on chance [1]) always devolve into pareto/power law distributions when bankruptcy is a possibility. More a matter of natural law than "evil" capitalism

[1] trading game simulation: https://youtu.be/CsRLVZTYpGo?t=313

From a purely monetary point of view at a global level, transactions are indeed a positive sum. But the "positive" value of transactions, globally, is remarkably small - it's effectively inflation minus population growth (between 1 and 3% yearly).

So, if your money is growing more than this 3%, someone else is losing money so you can make it.

EDIT: I figured this would be unpopular - please feel free to correct me, to point out where the money on, for example, 6% returns on investments come from if not from someone else.

This is the whole Picketty et al "r > g" question, and I believe economists disagree on what the real numbers are.

So, it seems that "r > g" is less of a question and more of a generally accepted statement. I'm not an economist, but a cursory review of economist whitepapers (here's one[0]) indicates that most don't dispute the "r > g" assertion, but instead just say that "this is a reasonable state of affairs", or "it's a problem, but the solutions are worse."

[0] https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/mankiw/files/yes_r_g_so_wh...

I'm not sure about the non-zero sum economics models anymore. Physics says that the planet is finite, so much of the "wealth creation" is little more than changes in perceived valuation. And while a lot of people have a lot more $ and things like iphones, most people have less land, more polluted oceans, and many other things that may turn out to be move valuable in the long run than those iphones.

On the land thing, one of my grandfathers had close to 500 acres of farmland. Today I could barely pay the taxes on that land if it was still in the family. But its not, instead there are a couple dozen families living on smaller 20 acre plots.

Monopoly is about land, and monopoly teaches people a correct view of land: land is a zero-sum game.

It is striking how much real-life has mirrored monopoly: when the game starts and there is plenty of land to go around, there are no problems. After a while, the land runs out, and the wealthy hoard the land and charge the others for its use. The wealthy then get wealthier and the poor get poorer.

We are now in the later stages of the real-life monopoly match.

There is still plenty of land to go around.

And of course, you ignore the cases where people bought land and the value dropped (e.g. Detroit).

> and the poor get poorer.

They don't, though.

> Real life isn't a zero-sum game.

Wealth may not be zero-sum within the narrow artificial scope of "money", but power is zero sum. Wealth viewed as money is a sneaky neaningless distraction. Wealth viewed outside of power is meaningless.

Lets say bob and alice are in a room. They both have a nerf gun. Now bob gets a machine gun and alice gets another nerf gun. So the "wealth" in the room increased. But the power in the room didn't increase. It shifted from 50/50 between bob and alice to 100/0.

When you view wealth superficially, it's not zero sum. When you view wealth seriously, it's zero sum.

The value of wealth isn't the pile of worthless money. The value of wealth is the power it projects over other human beings.

If everyone on earth died but jeff bezos, his wealth would be meaningless. What does $130 billion mean when only he's around? It means nothing because it can't be converted to power in a world with 1 person.

It's a game about land, and land is finite.

I'd argue that in terms of land/housing market, in an established, multi-centuries contiguous (ie not disrupted by revolution, nationalization, large redistribution) urbanized area it becomes a zero-sum game and hence all the problems that entails.

IMO this is more or less the inevitable result of long surviving land ownership rights. You can see this in the correlation between home ownership rates and when was the last time land was nationalized/redistributed: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_home_owne...

What do the top 10 countries have in common: they were communist dictatorships in the previous century were all land was taken and managed by the state.

What do the bottom 10 countries have in common: very long standing property rights with no redistribution in the last few centuries.

Not saying that what we need is nationalization/revolution but simply pointing out statistics and trends which may help inform people in order to counter their effects.

House rules that obviate this to some extent (e.g. 'free parking') seem a bit like a debt jubilee.

Once we hit the limits of eternal growth (if not by CO2, then by something else) it becomes one.

I'm sure those limits exist, but who's to say we'll ever hit those limits on human timescales?

right now, global warming is an existential threat that sets an upper bound on how much energy we can responsibly use. but if we can develop carbon-neutral means of harnessing energy at scale, we can use much more. if we can develop viable space travel, we can gain access to more material resources than exist on Earth. any one of the "next steps" along the exponential curve can fail, but I wouldn't assume we will hit a hard ceiling anytime soon.

Depends. If earth overpopulates and there is lack of resources it will be even less than zero sum.

You cannot mention this on HN. Mr Graham Himself has declared that the pie always grows.

This is strange as economists agree pretty much across the board that one way of making an economy grow is to increase population. It stands to reason that one way to shrink an economy is to decrease population.

Note that I am making no comment how that growth or shrinkage affects the quality of life in that economy but when looking at total growth population change is correlated.

Is this always true?

To take it to extremes - just to prove that overpopulation can lower output, imagine our population increased 1000x overnight, do you think in this scenario the economy will grow? I imagine this situation would not be handleable and people would be going completely crazy killing each other.

The above scenario is not realistic, but what about if population grows and grows and then comes a point where we realize that for example we have

1) Reduced potential living space by a huge margin due to for example climate change or pollution. 2) We have no idea how to solve this issue. We can't move to another planet, we don't have the tech yet even if this was possible.

There's many potential ways we could fuck up which causes there to be limited basic resources that at the very least would make the world scramble to solve this issue and produce less value because they have to focus solely on this issue and large proportion of people would have to be fending for themselves, with sometimes only options to get basic necessities is to steal from others.

Or the people who are rich, thanks to using the monopoly principles will be good because they have enough money, power and control to buy the remaining resources.

This assumes that wealth does not consist of new or alternative resources.

I mean yes, that's what I said. It might or might not happen. But it's just a scenario where it will be a zero-sum game or less. I'm not saying it will happen, just that it is possible.

I love how everyone who wins at monopoly acts like a right arse to the other people and it turns out it was just rolls of the dice that decided if they won... I certainly always feel like I deserve to have won.

As the title implies, the game was designed to be a lot like real life, and it sounds like that from your POV it has succeeded.

Reminds me of the story of the lucky coin:

> If 1024 fair coins are each tossed 10 times, chances are good (> 63%) that at least one will come up heads 10 times in a row; and that coin will be proud to explain how its skill, faith, guts & determination made its achievement possible, and how that combo can work for you too.


I get your (and parent/grandparent's) points but this line of thinking leads to unnecessarily cynical and pessimistic thinking rather than recognition that success/failure are inherently probabilistic.

Yes, plenty is out of our control and luck is often ignored. Yes, some people get really lucky and some people get really unlucky and it sucks. However, this doesn't mean that "skill, faith, guts, & determination" have nothing to do with their success. These behaviors/traits increase your chances at success and positive outcomes, period.

It's a paint-mixing problem: every success story is some blend of skill, merit, grit, pre-existing resources, and dumb luck; and post-hoc, it's non-trivial to tease out the exact causes and proportions in a success story.

From the point of an individual actor, I agree: it's always correct to maximize your agency, knowing full-well that there are factors outside your control that might unfairly sink you (or, unfairly cause someone to out-compete you despite shortcomings).

That in no way contradicts the idea that there may be ecosystemic benefits to providing resources to maximize the odds of success. To use a trivial example: if I'm a hardware vendor hosting an app store, the success of each app will be a blend of skill and luck. But if I provide tools like ratings, analytics, and discoverability, I can potentially increase the odds that meritocratic apps succeed. (Take it as read that poor interventions could also make this go the other direction.)

One curious quirk is that in the space of game design, this luck/skill dichotomy is flipped on its head, and turned into an explicit goal: that a satisfying game should permit the winner to believe they won on skill, while the loser believes they lost on luck. There's a great talk from MtG creator Richard Garfield on the subject [0]; I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions what inferences we should draw from this in the "game" of market competition. :)

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=av5Hf7uOu-o

And the 1,048,576 other coins who never tried to flip, because they knew that getting 10 in a row was just luck, will live lives of quiet desperation.

This is overly black and white thinking.

“Because luck is involved, it’s only luck that matters.”

When in reality, it’s luck and effort that matter. You can’t control the luck part, but you can control the effort part.

It's similar to health - a great deal of how healthy you are has to do with luck (e.g. genetics). If someone said "the health game is rigged so there is no use in trying to be healthy" we'd think they were nuts.

> Because luck is involved, it’s only luck that matters.

I don't think that's a reasonable conclusion from the story, it's setting up a situation that is pure luck, and asserting that people will take credit for their luck. It's not saying that everything in the real world is actually luck.

As a counter-point, there's also the tale of the FPS, where the person who has spent 10,000 hours mastering the game will invariably hear that he's a cheating, hacking n00b when he beats the same guy 20 times in a row due to "luck" despite not using any cheats, because the other guy is an idiot with no strategy who can't even aim.

On the other hand noobs are more likely to score by pure luck. In poker there is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_beat

Give everyone 10x the bank's cash as inheritance and you'll also learn a lot of real life lessons from it.

A more realistic solution would be to have one player start with half of the bank and already owning most of the properties. Two other players start with the regular starting cash. Everybody else starts with nothing. Then they must praise the first player for being such a stunning businessman if he wins.

A bunch of rich people competing with one another even though they have everything they'll ever need is pretty realistic too.

It's all about negotiating better property trades. The dice have little to do with it.

That's not true at all. If you roll dice and only land on empty properties and corners, you'll have nothing to negotiate with. Negotiation only works if both parties have something of value and the dice determine whether players have something of value.

If you land on nothing, you have a large amount of cash compared to other players which you can leverage for negotiation.

The game isn't just who can get a monopoly first, but who can also improve it the fastest. In my experience, players often overvalue the expensive properties due to maximum rent but don't take into account the capital and therefore time required to improve them.

> it turns out it was just rolls of the dice

Often that is how things happen in the real world. When people win they look back and attribute it purely to their own hard work. Some act like assholes, too. So at least in that respect it is a good model :-)

Believe it or not there is an element of strategy in Monopoly (or can be, if you take the time to learn it). Not all spaces are landed on equally, and not all properties have the same return on investment.

Playing with common house rules tends to remove elements of strategy.

That is true, but the rolls of the dice still have vastly more influence on the outcome than the very limited decisions that players can make. In order to decide whether or not to buy Park Place you have to land on it first.

Not unlike real life.

>Park Place you have to land on it first.

Not necessarily. The games rules include an auction that is frequently removed in house rules. What's supposed to happen is if the player who lands on the space (Player A) doesn't buy it from the bank, the property is auctioned to all players.

Maybe no one owns Boardwalk yet, and Player A doesn't want to try and get the Park Place/Boardwalk monopoly. Or maybe Boardwalk is owned by Player B but Player B doesn't have any cash, so Player A thinks they can block the monopoly while paying less to the bank. Or maybe Player B does have the cash but Player A knows that B is desperate for the monopoly, so they want to drive the price up and force them to pay more.

There's more to than just rolling dice and landing on spaces.

You can calculate the game-theoretic value of all of the properties (I'm a little surprised that no one seems to have actually done this AFAICT -- maybe a project for next weekend). At that point the game reduces to pure luck: players who land on properties whose list price is less than their game-theoretic value will buy those properties and gain a (small) edge. The auction clearing price for rational players will be the game-theoretic value, which will have no effect on the outcome. The rest is pure luck (modulo some other obscure rule that I've forgotten then allows players to make decisions), and that is the overwhelmingly dominant factor.

It's not just property values/landing percents. If you can get a "low value" monopoly more quickly through the auction, because combined players happened to land on all the orange spaces first time around the board but they're all "rationale" and "know" that orange is low-value (I don't know if it is, just an example), then that opens up an opportunity for you to swoop in.

That might not happen every game but it is advantageous to get a monopoly sooner rather than later. Like I said earlier you can also factor in how much money your opponents have when deciding whether to go to auction or pay list price. If everyone is cash poor that opens up opportunities for you to get deeds for low cost, increasing the properties future rate of return.

The randomness in the game means you can't just pick one optimal strategy and apply it to every game and every opponent. And if your opponents change strategy (or your opponents change), you need to adapt your strategy to accommodate for that as well.

edit: As far as the math goes, here's one such article that goes over it: https://ideas.ted.com/heres-how-to-win-at-monopoly-according...

another edit: There's also a limited amount of houses/hotels the bank has, so there's strategy around getting houses first and leaving your opponents unable to build up their monopolies (another frequent house rule is that there unlimited houses too buy from the bank). If multiple players are trying to buy houses at once and there's not enough, the houses are auctioned again to the highest bidder (hello capitalism housing shortages).

You can also sell properties you own, or choose to stay in jail (frequent house rule is that you can't collect money while in jail, but this isn't an official rule).

Liquidity is a thing, and trades are a combination of properties and cash passing between people who already have holdings of properties and cash that affect the subjective values of the properties being traded.

I think you're underestimating the complexity of your proposed calculation, and think is simply boils down to calculating how often particular spaces are landed on times the amount paid when they are landed on. I mean, it does, but the second part is not so simple.

What you have is a fairly complex strategy game, and the rest is pure luck (called dice.)

edit: I'd really be interested in seeing what you come up with (or imo, at what point you'd bail out) if you were to attempt to solve Monopoly. I'm at pessimizer@yahoo.com

I'd be interested in how you calculate it. Sounds like a great project. I've seen others that point out due to how the board is laid out which properties are most likely to be landed on, but don't think I've seen theoretical value based on rents.

An even better calculation would be how much it's worth to each player based on what they already have as well!

Please share!

Usually people don't pass up the chance to buy property though. It's not that there's a house rule against the auction, it just never comes up unless you have someone who is already losing badly that lands on a space that has somehow not already been snapped up.

Right, that goes back to my original comment:

>there is an element of strategy in Monopoly (or can be, if you take the time to learn it).

Buying every property you land on immediately from the bank for listed price is not an optimal strategy.

Other than maybe the utilities, when is it not advantageous to buy a property you land on? Until an opposing monopoly exists, there is a net positive value to each turn, so you have plenty of resources and if all you do is deny the property to someone else, you essentially get it at 50% discount by mortgaging it.

You always buy everything. I can't believe people are arguing about it. Here is the game:

1. Roll dice.

2. Buy whatever you land on.

3. When everything is bought, make a few deals with other players. This takes 30 seconds and is the only skill involved in the game.

4. Roll dice until game ends.

It's 99 percent luck.

To clarify, if you send a property to auction you can still bid on it. You can even use this technique to over extend a competitor.

On the flipside of over-extending, last time my family played we included auctioning. Didn't take long for my brother to realize he could send it to auction, bid $1 (which no one challenged because we were focused on the partially-completed colors we had), and immediately mortgage it for free money to buy houses on the properties he did care about.

That's genius!

If you play with auction rules and don't do the stupid free parking == $$$ house rules then Monopoly can be pretty cutthroat and a lot of fun.

Then you aren't playing correctly.

The way to win monopoly is in trading cards to gain monopolies. The winner is almost always the person who makes the most deals.

A player can win the game simple by making the most deals with other players, even if they are a loser in every single one of those deals.

It's far more a lesson on negotiations and trading - ie. business lessons, not capitalism lessons.

Just like capitalism!

You should try entering a game after a few rounds have already been played. Impossible.

That's how monopoly works in real life.

(Thinking about it, I guess demonstrating this is the function of the jail in the game).

My children learned how to negotiate via family monopoly games. This has made parenting MUCH more difficult.

I think they would have figured it out eventually. We never play Monopoly, but I sometimes suspect that my children are actually reincarnated lawyers.

My 4.5 year old (at the time) was playing school with his 6 year old sibling.

Older: What is 1 plus 1?

Younger: Two. Or eleven.

I see Javascript or law in the future...

Clearly you’re failing to teach your children binary :P

I've always used Monopoly as a good way to explain inflation.

If you play by the stated rules in the game, any property landed on goes up for auction to all players if the current player doesn't want to purchase it. Imagine what happens to the purchase price of properties in this scenario if every player started the game with 10 times more money...

I've always used it as a business negotiations lesson.

The winner of the game is often the person who makes the most deals to secure the most property monopolies.

The KEY lesson is that you can trade "down" as the loser of every single deal, and yet still win by virtue of the fact that you've made the MOST deals.

Making deals captures untapped value. There's actually a LOT more strategy to Monopoly than the people in this thread realize.

Have you actually played Monopoly until the end? The winner is not usually the person that makes the most deals. It's the person who makes the best deals for the dice rolls. If you buy blue, green, and yellow blocks through deals, you're almost always guaranteed to win regardless of how many deals you've made outside of those. The remaining players can continue to make deals and, as long as you don't accept them, they can never win.

That is... false. Trading down consistently only works if you’re playing with idiots.

Trading a high value property for a low value property makes sense if you get a color set, but if you do this multiple times with bare minimum competence players, the likely outcome is that everyone has at least one set, but you have booth the lowest amount of cash to develop things and the least valuable properties.

With the exception of edge case (although often optimal) strategies where you lock down the available houses, trading down is likely a sign that you’re trying to increase your likelihood of winning from 0% to 10%, while improving the odds to a greater degree for whoever is getting the better deal.

Most properties are superficial until they have specifically 3 houses on them. If you have three color sets, but fewer than 3 houses on any of them, you’re going to lose.

The game's creator, Lizzie Magie, was a proponent of Georgism[0], not exactly anti-capitalist, but supported common ownership of land.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism

Calling Georgism "common ownership of land" is seriously misleading. A tax is not ownership, no matter how many times the neo-feudal "vulgar libertarians" (as Georgists and geolibertarians call them) try to establish the trope via mere repetition.

Common ownership is the term Henry George used. Of course, keeping the title system was specifically preferred in order to limit the scope of government.

Just need to pay for the land you use, since it belongs to all.

We should, perhaps, distinguish common ownership from public ownership. The concept of the Commons is one that people ought to understand. Something can be owned in common without it being managed by the government.

George wrote a lot about the commons, and you're right that it's important to understand the relationship between state/common/private ownership, but I stand by the statement that its use here - without that context, where more common capitalist vs. communist notions of property are already being discussed - is misleading. It's like throwing "bad faith" into a discussion without being clear that it refers to a domain-specific concept from law or existentialist philosophy.

"Georgism" is actually a really great idea but the name is terrible. I remember I tried to discuss it with someone once and they chuckled when I said the word "Georgism". They couldn't actually listen to my argument.

I think names are very important. For example, I find it ingenious that the country "French Guyana" has the word "French" in it and that there is another country in South America already called "Guyana"; it's probably a key reason why "French Guyana" is still part of France; they literally have no identity without France; they'd have to invent and popularize a new word first and that's very difficult to do.

Just call it LVT, as the land value tax is the policy focus of the ideology. It would fit in next to other acronyms in vogue like UBI, MMT, FJG, etc.

It is called Guyane in French. Given that the locals are not English native speakers, I fail to see how the English name influences their national identity.


And I always thought we were missing something because players would always end up bickering and hating the experience (except the winner, and it brought out the worst in them).

Now I see that was actually the core lesson.

The title is incorrect. It was invented to demonstrate with exclusionary land ownership. Even Adam Smith recognised that this would be a problem.

Further, The introduction of hotels to the game was not intended initially. Adding hotels causes more housing to appear, which is antithetical to the point of housing shortages

The board game Cashflow is closer to reality than Monopoly, especially the 202 version, which provides for paper assets options, as well as loss of investment properties to acts of nature. A good way to learn basic investment evaluation using play money.

Think of the WWW as a Monopoly board. Except unlike the board game the first move involves no roll of the dice. The class of players known as users always start the game on the same certain properties, owned by a small set of players known as Google, Amazon, etc. Microsoft used to have a marketing slogan to address the growing presence of the internet: "Where do you want to go today?" The question we should have is, "Why does Microsoft need to know?" Why do these companies need to know what we are going to do next? In the WWW monopoly a small set of players collect rent from nearly every user and strive to know every users' next move. It may be through the control of websites or devices, or both. As they say, the game is rigged.

Microsoft were certainly the first movers, but they only owned the stations. Muppets.

Amazon, Google, Facebook moved in and bought almost all the properties.

Apple are doing very well from owning the purples.

I wish more people would learn from it: Monopolies are bad if it's a private company or the government.

The outcome is still the same: a stalled industry, little to no innovation, and many times, high prices.

What if we limited max amount of property owned by a person (by sq ft or value)?

How else should land be distributed if not via free market capitalism? Land is a scarce resource that people want. Either some person/corporation owns it or the government does. Its easy to see models where the government owns all the property as this exists in many places around the world such as Nigeria, China, and North Korea.

The best policy is a balance between total government control and total private control. An individual can own land, but the government can tax it, or allow easements, etc. Governments can own land and allow individuals on it. So it doesn't have to be one or the other.

The ideas of Henry George [0] address this, without resorting to "Tragedy of the Commons" solutions of collective ownership. The short answer is a Land Value Tax [1], based only on "ground rent" (the usage value combined with the value of proximity to community), as opposed to taxing improvements, as most property taxes do currently.

The rough theory is that the tax should be proportional to the unearned "rent-seeking" profits that derive indirectly from the surrounding community; moreover, a higher tax on ground rent disincentivizes pure speculation [2], while removing the disincentive of value-creation/development baked into our property taxes now. And unlike communist policies, this system would preserve the distributed intelligence of markets; there are some libertarian economists who favor the idea, the most notable of whom was Milton Friedman, who called LVT "the least worst tax".

In some sense, it could be seen as closer to a voluntarist system that most forms of government: one essentially pays the surrounding community to compensate them for their violent exclusion from a portion of nature. This video articulates the idea fairly well in plain language: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yltJHY6g5I

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism

[1] http://www.landvaluetax.org/what-is-lvt/

[2] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Everybody_works_but_...

Also check out Ralph Anspach's "Anti-Monopoly". There's a book about the huge lawsuit it caused, and it's an amazing story!


>Anti-Monopoly – a board game with a twist

>This game may look familiar, but don't be fooled – it's a real estate trading game with an exciting twist! Players choose free enterprise or monopoly, then play under different rules. Competitors charge fair market value while monopolists take over whole neighborhoods and jack up rents. In real life, monopolists have an unfair advantage. But in Anti-Monopoly, competitors have a fair shot at coming out on top!

Parker Brother's Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle




>Anti-Monopoly is a board game made by San Francisco State University Professor Ralph Anspach in response to Monopoly.

>Background and history

>Anspach created Anti-Monopoly in part as a response to the lessons taught by the mainstream game, which he believed created the impression that monopolies were something desirable. His intent was to demonstrate how harmful monopolies could be to a free-enterprise system, and how antitrust laws work to curtail them in the real world.

>The game was originally to be produced in 1973 as Bust the Trust, but the title was changed to Anti-Monopoly. It has seen multiple printings and revisions since 1973. In 1984, a new version appeared as Anti-Monopoly II; this version was updated and re-released in 2005 without the numerical designation. The game is currently still in print, and is produced and distributed worldwide by University Games.

>Trademark lawsuit

>See also: History of the board game Monopoly (Anti-Monopoly, Inc. vs. General Mills Fun Group)

>In 1974, Parker Brothers sued Anspach over the use of the "Monopoly" name, claiming trademark infringement. While preparing his legal defense, Anspach became aware of Monopoly's history prior to Charles Darrow's sale of the game to Parker in 1935, and how it had evolved from Elizabeth Magie's original Landlord's Game into the version Darrow appropriated. Anspach based his defense on the grounds that the game itself existed in effectively the public domain before Parker purchased it, and therefore Parker's trademark claim on it should be nullified. The case dragged on for ten years,[1] with numerous appeals and overturned judicial verdicts, until Anspach and Parker ultimately reached a settlement, permitting him to continue using the name Anti-Monopoly and distributing the game.[2]

>For a time during the dispute, the game was marketed as simply "Anti."

How a Fight Over a Board Game Monopolized an Economist's Life


The Story of Class Struggle, America's Most Popular Marxist Board Game


Twenty years ago I made "Micropoly", a board game about Microsoft's monopoly. The company names on the properties are a bit dated by now!


Here's the board:


And this is the XML file that defined the board, properties, utilities, cards, etc, which were generated by a Perl script and some PostScript:


    <CHANCECARD TITLE="Download">
        <IMAGE X="130" Y="70" SCALE="0.55" EPSFILE="graphics/gatespie.eps"/>
        <TEXT X="10" Y="40" SIZE="10">Go directly to Reinstall Windows.</TEXT>
        <TEXT X="10" Y="25" SIZE="10">Do not pass Start,</TEXT>
        <TEXT X="10" Y="10" SIZE="10">do not collect $200.</TEXT>

        <CORNER NAME="Start Menu" INDEX="0" NAME1="START" NAME2="MENU" NAME3="" CAPTION1="COLLECT" CAPTION2="$200 SALARY" CAPTION3="AS YOU PASS" IMAGE="DrawMicropolyStartMenuCorner"/>
        <CORNER NAME="Reinstall Windows" INDEX="1" NAME1=" REINSTALL" NAME2=" WINDOWS" NAME3="" CAPTION1="JUST" CAPTION2="REBOOTING" CAPTION3="" IMAGE="DrawMicropolyReinstallWindowsCorner"/>
        <CORNER NAME="Free Software" INDEX="2" NAME1=" FREE" NAME2=" SOFTWARE" NAME3="" CAPTION1="" CAPTION2="" CAPTION3="" IMAGE="DrawMicropolyFreeSoftwareCorner"/>
        <CORNER NAME="Goto Reinstall" INDEX="3" NAME1=" CORRUPTED" NAME2=" REGISTRY" NAME3="" CAPTION1=" GOTO" CAPTION2=" REINSTALL" CAPTION3="" IMAGE="DrawMicropolyCrashAndReinstallCorner"/>

The Microsoft Monopoly Game

Micropoly is the Microsoft Monopoly Game! It's a parody of Microsoft that's fun to play, a free board game based the rules of Anti-Monopoly, and a political statement protected under the First Amendment.

This web site exists to freely distribute the full set of graphics and rules for Micropoly, in the "open source" spirit of the original folk game monopoly invented by an Atlantic City Quaker woman.

You are encouraged to download the graphics, print out copies of the game set for yourself and friends, and have fun playing Micropoly!

The Goals of the Micropoly Project:

To make a political statement about the effect of Microsoft's monopoly on the economy.

To raise awareness of the original folk game monopoly invented by Quakers and illegitimately patented and pirated by Parker Brothers.

To promote the alternative Anti-Monopoly rules, invented by Ralph Anspach in 1973, that teach why monopolies are bad.

To distribute the graphics and rules of Micropoly as a free "open source" game, true to the spirit of the Quaker who originally invented monopoly.

To develop a computerized version of monopoly, that can be customized with any local theme and artwork, and played over the Internet.

To imitate life imitating art imitating life imitating art, and so forth.

Micropoly synergistically illustrates several important points, by drawing parallels between the time of the Great Depression and the end of the Twentieth Century:

Monopolies are bad, and competition is good.

The original rules of monopoly require everyone to play as a monopolist. That's why companies like Microsoft and Parker Brothers like the lesson it teaches: being a monopolist is good, and in order to win you have to make the biggest monopoly. But the rules of Anti-Monopoly divide players into monopolists versus competitors, resulting in a dynamic, unpredictable, more interesting game. Competition has the same benefits in real life!

The "open source" philosophy has been around a long time before computers.

The Atlantic City Quaker woman who invented the original board game spread it around to her friends for free. She would invite people over to play, and they loved the game, so they made their own copies with crayons on oil cloth. This free folk game spread around the country and was played by many people, long before Parker Brothers knowingly decided pirated it. Today we have computer networks, desktop publishing, color printers, and the "open source" model of software development, so it is much easier to spread the free Micropoly game all over the world.

Big companies abuse the patent and legal systems to pirate and exploit other peoples original ideas.

Parker Brothers pirated monopoly from its original inventors, illegitimately patented an "open source" folk game, perpetrated an extremely successful propaganda campaign to convince the world that Monopoly(TM) was invented by Charles B Darrow, and aggressively drove other companies out of business with frivolous lawsuits.

They waged a nasty 10 year legal assault on Ralph Anspach, inventor of the "Anti-Monopoly" game, ruining his successful game company, even though his case finally made it to the Supreme Court and won!

As a result of his hard fought victory, the true story of Parker Brother's Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle has been published for all to read, and it's safe to call a game "anything-opoly".

We are very grateful that he never gave up, and won in spite of Parker Brothers' dirty tricks. We thank him, because he made it possible for us to publish Micropoly, and generously offered to let us use his superior Anti-Monopoly rules, which so perfectly illustrate the point of Micropoly.

The similarities in the monopolistic behaviors of Parker Brothers and Microsoft should be obvious.


The software used to produce Micropoly will be freely distributed, as well as the Micropoly content, to serve as an example of how to make your own personalized monopoly game.

We are developing a free "Openopoly" architecture based on XML, whose purpose is to automate the production of custom monopoly games, both printed board games and multi-player online computer games.

Micropoly will be the first example of such a custom game, so anyone will be able to drop in their own text and graphics, turn the crank, and produce a version of monopoly localized for their own city, university, company, church, sports team, or favorite political cause.


Wow, I guess that was a revelation and something worth appreciating: the idea that if we just take a little bit of everyone's wealth and share it with the Commonwealth, then there can be a lot more wealth for all.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22425495.

If sharing wealth leads to greater wealth, then why is it necessary to try to take wealth (by force)? Why don't people willingly give up their wealth so that they can make more?

If it is possible to make more wealth by giving up some, why not let people choose whether or not they will share? If you theory holds true, then people who share will get richer and the people who don't share will get poorer and the problem will solve itself.

Prisoner's dilemma. A single wealthy person giving up their wealth will not have a large enough effect on society to actually change anything. It will only make them worse off (as they now have less wealth). From the perspective of a single person, hoarding as much wealth as possible is a local optimum.

When all wealthy people get together and divide their wealth, this enables education, housing, preventative health care, etc for poorer people in society. This will in turn lead to reduced crime, reduced homelessness, reduced illness and a much more productive society as a whole. This will then in turn generate more money for them.

This is a global optimum that will make everybody better off, including the rich, but it is not easy to achieve. It requires long-term vision, which is difficult in a world driven by quarterly reports and four year election cycles.

there seem to be a ton of assumptions in this comment.

At least they put some effort into it. As it is, your comment contributes nothing. What assumptions, and why are they wrong?

That's actually a really valid point. I got interrupted by work. I'll see what I can do.

Assumptions are testable, e.g. using game models. Such as Monopoly.

If you want as more accurate model, you can make one, e.g. mock markets. You can even evaluate then using various programmed strategies.

The problem is if your assumptions are completely invalid. Macroeconomy tends to use a few of those, especially based on workings of debt cycle. An almost correct descriptive model which when used as proscriptive causes ruin. Likewise pure supply-demand models fail when applied in the real world.

I don't think you can talk about this stuff without resorting to unsubstantiated beliefs about the way the world works.

Parent's "wealth for all" does not mean "wealth for each."

Of course taxing the wealthiest to share with everyone results in the wealthiest having less than they would otherwise, which is why they tend not do do so voluntarily.

However, if it makes most people better off, and makes society as a whole better off, then maybe it's worth it for the government to force their most-successful citizens away from their selfish instincts to the betterment of the nation?

> However, if it makes most people better off, and makes society as a whole better off, then maybe it's worth it for the government to force their most-successful citizens away from their selfish instincts to the betterment of the nation?

So basically it's ok to sacrifice the minority, as long as it benefits the majority, huh?

Not much of a sacrifice when it's just a higher tax rate.

A lot of these arguments also tend to elide the fact that even under the most "extreme" tax structures in place or being proposed in first-world democracies across the globe, wealthy people are still wealthy even with those taxes. In practice, no one serious is actually talking about forcing Bill Gates to give up all his money so it can be apportioned equally to every American citizen. If Gates had to pay an annual wealth tax of 2%, started with $90B (the most recent estimate of his net worth I can find), and made $2B a year (which is less than the most recent estimate of his annual wealth increase I can find), then after 20 years he would have... $93B.

I'm aware libertarians believe it's the principle of the thing, dammit, but I'm truly weary of arguments which boil down to "Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax is philosophically indistinguishable from a call for nationalizing all industry."

> I'm aware libertarians believe it's the principle of the thing, dammit, but I'm truly weary of arguments which boil down to "Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax is philosophically indistinguishable from a call for nationalizing all industry."

First, while some wealthy people remain wealthy, I'd guess there's a much larger impact on people who are becoming wealthy than those who are already super-rich.

Second, as you said, it's the principle. I've got an objection to seizing people's stuff to then give away to others. There is no reason government should supply anything that is not a pure public good, and it should supply precious few of those, too. Remember that every act the federal government takes is backed up with the threat of death. If you don't comply, a bunch of agents will bust down your door at 3 AM and haul you away (see the disturbing number of paramilitary groups many federal agencies now possess). If you resist, you get killed.

This applies to income tax too, by the way. I couldn't care less how much good you think you can do with it, no one gets to take someone else's stuff because he wants to give it to someone he deems more deserving.

> First, while some wealthy people remain wealthy, I'd guess there's a much larger impact on people who are becoming wealthy than those who are already super-rich.

Given that her proposed tax is for wealth over $50M, I'd guess there is not much impact at all on people who are "becoming" wealthy.

> If you don't comply, a bunch of agents will bust down your door at 3 AM and haul you away (see the disturbing number of paramilitary groups many federal agencies now possess). If you resist, you get killed.

The number of first-world multimillionaires brutally gunned down by federal agents because they underpaid their tax is indeed countless. I hear this is a real problem in Denmark.

> This applies to income tax too, by the way. I couldn't care less how much good you think you can do with it, no one gets to take someone else's stuff because he wants to give it to someone he deems more deserving.

Living in a society is quite a tragedy.

>Given that her proposed tax is for wealth over $50M, I'd guess there is not much impact at all on people who are "becoming" wealthy.

It's the corporate taxes that hurt the most because in a globalist society those taxes are taxes their competition does not have to pay and therefore can undercut them in price in world markets.

That is objectively wrong though, isn't it?

The government absolutely can, and does, pass laws to legally take anyone's stuff for any reason it likes.

If that is your bottom line, then almost every government in almost every country I know of overran it almost immediately.

What we are discussing right now is....given that they ca, and do....under what circumstances we want them to do it.

Think of it as a reality based discussion.

Unfortunately, governments do indeed steal stuff all the time. That's why it needs to be as hyper-local as possible and why citizens should own military-grade arms. I think our arguments are jousting without clashing, so to speak, because I'm making a principled point rather than a pragmatic one.

Im not sure you have thought through the consequences of citizens owning military grade arms.

It (arguably) removes the government as a threat, but replaces the threat with other citizens.

It seems to me that history teaches that in the absence of a strong government, people are taxed by whoever is capable of becoming a strong local warlord.

Somalia or South Sudan would be current examples.

Im not sure how that is better?

The income that is paid to you derives it’s value from the stability of the backing gov’t. I don’t think money is as “yours” as you think it is. Gov’t is already involved whether you like it not.

It has been since we went off the gold standard, yes. However, the government has already been taxing for this service in the form of inflation (which, incidentally, is one of the more regressive taxes one could devise). All we have to do is abolish the fed and go back to the gold standard and this problem is solved.

The state backs up your right to personal property with violence too. Your stuff is only your stuff we decided it is a right and have our state enforce that right.

Well sure, stealing from others is a violation of the NAP. That's part of the "keeping the peace" duty I mentioned in my above position that the state should keep the peace, uphold property rights, and enforce contracts.

What's the NAP? In any case, we rely on the state to uphold those rights, and since we cannot expect the state to work for free, we accept a percentage is needed for the maintenance of those right.

Sorry, non-aggression principle. Basically, no using force against someone else until he does it first. You're right that we do have to have some government to uphold basic duties. However, those duties are pure public goods and should be billed as such. Sum the total expenditures each year, divide by the number of adult citizens, and directly bill each citizen that amount.

I think it should be normalized to the amount of wealth rather than pax, because a larger pile of wealth relies more on this authority to maintain it. I'd even think perhaps supralinearly so.


> radical libertarianism

Calling something "radical" is a tried-and-true technique to attempt to discredit it without arguing the point. What I described isn't that far from the federal government in early America.

> The point of government is to organize society, to provide a framework for doing things which we all collectively agree need to be done, but is in nobody's selfish interest to do.

Why? How do you justify using force to coerce others toward your vision of what you believe correct?

> There is a lot of stuff that fits this category.

Such as what? Please tell me why each of these must be done by the government.

> the government doesn't just set rules and boss you around.

Well, that is mostly what it does. There were over 50 volumes of federal law by the 80s: http://www.kowal.com/?q=How-Many-Federal-Laws-Are-There%3F

Some of the services you mentioned are there for good reason. I'm okay with weather and maps - the military does need to have that information (even if the military should be smaller), and once the information is collected, it's a public good and can be made available to citizens. I'd prefer stuff like forests were managed on a local level. As for emergencies, private disaster relief often does a better job: https://capitalresearch.org/article/private-sector-disaster-...

> Do you think society should be organized or not?

Talk about a false dichotomy. There are absolutely more- and less-organized societies. I've made it pretty clear that the government should keep the peace, uphold property rights, and enforce contracts.

> The notion that everything will all magically self-organize into a nice society is manifestly a myth.

Why? The above provide plenty of structure for a "nice society", for some definitions of nice. What's yours?

> I would rather live in the former Soviet Union in all its totalitarian dysfunctionality than in what libertarians imagine utopia to be like.

That's your choice, except your choice messes with my life. Mine only messes with yours to the extent that you no longer get to steal my stuff.

> If you want an example of that, try Somalia.

The Somalian government does not keep the peace. It does not uphold property rights. It does not enforce contracts.

> tl;dr libertarianism is anarchy in a business suit.

That statement is a willfully ignorant attempt to create a straw man. Democrats are communists in business suits, republicans are fascists in business suits, both of those statements are just as important. There are some anarchists, but not very many.

>taxing the wealthiest to share with everyone results in the wealthiest having less than they would otherwise

No taxing the wealthiest results in the wealthiest moving their capital investments elsewhere.

This seems like an easily solvable problem, frankly. Gazillionaires don't tend to want to live in the tax havens they store their gazillions in because (surprise) they tend to be shitholes. So you just tax the movement of money in and out of the country - money is pointless if you can't spend it.

The reason this isn't done isn't because it's hard, it's because the foxes are running the chicken coop.

If that's the case, then why don't we see capital always rushing to countries that have the lowest tax rates? Last I checked Japan has lots of capital investment, a large economy, a substantial wealthy class, and yet a high tax rate...

People don't always make the rational choice for long term benefits when there are short term gains to be had. Individuals, thanks to bounded rationality, tend to seek satisfactory solutions, not optimal ones. It takes coordinated effort to find optimal solutions.

Another way to think of it is, that by benefiting from public goods (roads, law enforcement, health regulations) already in existence you and your family have already entered into a social contract with the government, which acts as a representative of the collective will of all people towards a more perfect union, and in which payment is due for the benefits you have obtained.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-serving_bias https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_trap https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bounded_rationality https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract

> People don't always make the rational choice for long term benefits when there are short term gains to be had. Individuals, thanks to bounded rationality, tend to seek satisfactory solutions, not optimal ones. It takes coordinated effort to find optimal solutions.

Translation: People are stupid and need to be forced to do the right thing. (Where the "right thing" is defined by the current people in charge.)

Everybody gains from the wealth created by something like a city park, whether they contribute or not. So there's a game theoretic problem that prevents reaching the wealth maxima without public collaboration. For example you might end up with a strip mall that produces more wealth for a few people but less overall wealth for the whole community then the park because surrounding land values don't benefit as much.

Because "enlightened self interest" is an oxymoron?

By the way, "people who share will get richer and the people who don't share will get poorer" is a misstatement of the theory.

Delayed gratification is one of many reasons.

If exercise leads to greater health, then why is it necessary to try to encourage people exercise? Why don't people willingly exercise so that they can be healthy?

There is a difference between "encouraging" and "forcing".

Should we force people to exercise?

No but we should force people to pay taxes due to the same underlying human trait. If you don't exercise you hurt mostly yourself. If you don't pay taxes you are a burden on society.

Let's say that you could somehow increase your wealth by 1% each day.

If you have $100, tomorrow you will have $101. Then $102.01. And so on and so forth. At the end of the year, you'll have $3778.34

Now let's say that if you give $50 to someone else, you can both increase your wealth by 1.1% each day. At the end, both of you will have $2711.08. Individually less, but collectively more.

That's the issue: individually less.

While you may get some benefit from the collective betterment of society, it still requires sacrificing some portion of your potential maximum wealth.

Ok now do year 2 and see how that $50 turned into a net loss of $146,998.73

You realize you have to double that, right?

It's $146,998.73 for each person. No matter how you slice it, 1.1% is greater than 1%. We're still working with $100 initially.

And if you're talking about one person's unrealized gain, we've already addressed that.

Individually, we may make less, but collectively, we make more.

The idea is that since fortune is largely based on luck and then exploiting that luck, we could be leaving a lot of progress on the table. A landlord who makes their wealth simply by charging rent isn't really doing anything to advance anything. He just happened to own the right bit of land at the right time.

So if we tax him and then use those taxes to provide for those who did not have the same breaks, we may be enabling someone to actually create something that advances technology or science or medicine.

I mean, "individually less, collectively more" also explains why the individual doesn't want to voluntarily give up anything.


> The marker of the arrested mind of the libertarian.

Personal insults are against site rules, and that comment comes mighty close.

It's against a class of belief, not an individual, and it's harsh but accurate; libertarianism represents a frustratingly truncated thought process.

But you applied it to what GreenJelloShot said. Now it's against an individual, or at least an individual's statement.

You can't tax yourself to prosperity.

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