Monopoly Now Wants You to Cheat—Just Like Real Capitalists

Yves here. Our Outis read a spate of young adult novels a year or so ago to see what themes were common. He was struck by several things. One was the powerlessness of the female characters. They had far less autonomy and were less fully developed than women in movies in the 1930s through 1950s, where there was often a great deal of sophisticated gender role play (as in both the men and women knew the women were playing subordinate but often really pulling the strings). Second was that there was a great deal of breaking and gaming of the systems, and that was depicted positively. It might be time for him to write up what he found in more detail.

By Nick Casella, a contributor to Civic Skunk Works where he write about politics and economics. He is also the head researcher for Civic Ventures. He studied International Relations at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. Originally published at cross posted from

The year was 1904, and Lizzie Maggie wanted to create a board game that acted as “.” Upset by the the inequality around her, Maggie aspired to ridicule and condemn the dire outcomes of unbridled capitalism. So she constructed the Landlord’s Game, which intended to educate players on the rules and regulations of realty and taxation. Eventually, it ended up being the precursor to the game-which-nobody-ever-finishes, Monopoly.

Shortly after producing the game, Maggie , “In a short time, I hope a very short time, men and women will discover that they are poor because Carnegie and Rockefeller, maybe, have more than they know what do to with.”

A long time has passed since then and it’s safe to say that Maggie’s hope has not been realized. Monopoly’s creator would look at today’s economic landscape and be disheartened. Inequality remains breathtakingly high, poverty still exists at a startling rate in the wealthiest nation on earth, and her board game has become a celebration of the very economic practices it was designed to denounce.

That’s some tragic irony — though it appears as if Hasbro is trying to draw attention to Monopoly’s original purpose by releasing a new “cheaters edition” this autumn (as seen above).

The cheaters edition follows the rules of classic Monopoly, except this version encourages players to break them…They encourage players to cheat in various ways, from collecting rent on another player’s property or stealing money from the bank.

This is the sort of economic commentary we need right now. For far too long, Americans have acquiesced to an economy ordered by and for monopolies. More than that, control of market share has become the desired outcome in every aspect of economic life — it is the logical conclusion of shareholder-driven capitalism. Peter Thiel captured the sentiment of modern times perfectly when he approvingly wrote, “.”

Naturally, that mindset leads to an economy which lacks robust levels of competition as capital becomes more and more concentrated. :

Eighty percent of . CVS and Walgreens have a virtual lock on the drugstore and pharmacy business. A private equity firm in Brazil controls roughly half of the U.S. beer market. The chemical giant Monsanto is able to dictate when and how farmers plant its seeds. Google and Facebook  of the $73 billion market in digital advertising.

How did we get here though? How did we move from the New Deal economy, which aimed to protect small businesses and empower workers, to a low-wage economy motivated by monopoly capitalism?

During the fight against big businesses, Franklin Delano Roosevelt made clear that cutthroat competition needed to be curtailed by strong antitrust laws. He labelled business and financial monopolies as “”—and built up countervailing powers like labor unions and regulations to stop the concentration of power into the few’s hands. FDR was considered a traitor to his class and a champion of the forgotten men and women of America.

That’s some favorable messaging territory, and conservatives knew it. It would have been politically ruinous for them to come out in favor of rabid monopolization and abuse of the common worker. So conservative business leaders, politicians, and academics coalesced around the promotion of freedom—namely, the safeguarding of one’s liberty from government intervention.

They focused their efforts on making the public fear government monopoly more than a business monopoly. The pro-business political agenda became nothing less than “.” Hyperbole notwithstanding, they were able to depict the government as the robber baron and big business as the hapless victim of socialist interventionism. In this light, a government that intervened to curb monopolies became worse than the monopolies it aimed to restrain.

That logic may sound ridiculous, but this economic narrative worked. In the minds of Americans, Republicans slowly became the lone “,” as Herbert Hoover declared.

By the 1970s, anti-monopoly movements went from being “” to an economic framework which “.” As the worry about corporate consolidation became a partisan issue, “.”

Barry Lynn, the author of Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism & The Economics of Destruction, argues that the overturning of anti-monopoly laws came down to the “radical neofeudal wing” of economic thinkers taking over the Republican Party’s economic messaging.

It was Reagan who was able to really codify this economic worldview into laws, but in order to do so he needed Democratic help in the House—and he unfortunately got a lot of it. Driven by fears of high inflation, Democrats became fixated on lowering prices for the American consumer.

Subsequently, Lynn notes “the party leaders became increasingly open to the idea that concentration, efficiency, and privatization (under the guise of deregulation) were the best way to serve the nation’s populace.”

Unfortunately, all presidents after Reagan continued this line of thinking, which allowed for further corporate consolidation. It is important to recognize that this economic outcome was considered a worst-case scenario just a century ago. Woodrow Wilson, a Democratic centrist who ran to the right of Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, admitted as much, predicting the United States was “.”

How quaint. The lesson of history is clear: the pull towards monopolization is extremely strong in a capitalist economy. No matter how defiant the people, eventually powerful economic interests prevail. If a government does not make attempts to curb wealth hoarding at both the individual and business level, inequality will rise and competition will be restricted.

As we look to reverse the trends of radical inequality, we must analyze the success of the conservative’s messaging. They were annoyingly effective at undoing the New Deal’s policies by changing how Americans thought of the relationship between the government and business.

While Lizzie Maggie’s ultimate goal of unveiling the wickedness of monopoly capitalism has yet to be achieved, her instincts were right. She understood how important it is to alter people’s perceptions of the accepted realities around them. Although she’s not here today, she would be quite pleased with Monopoly’s dramatic rule change. What better way to highlight our rigged economy than by making blatant cheating permissible—and advantageous—in a game all about wealth accumulation?

Progressives have to finally demonstrate to Americans that monopoly capitalism is not only, as Barry Lynn claims, “an ideology of darkness that erects institutions to promote more darkness.” It is a perverse way of ordering an economy.

The house rules must change.

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46 comments

  1. Thuto

    It’s apt that the author mentions messaging and altering people’s perceptions. Crushing your competitors is seen as a critical success factor and you better be very clear about how you aim to do that if you’re going to get your business plan funded. The great strategy thinkers, from Porter to Rumelt, make money teaching people how to leave competitors in the dust. Just like economics gains legitimacy by labelling itself a science, the purveyors of the message about competition nail the final nail into the coffin of anti-monopoly thinking by declaring hyper-competitiveness as “human nature”. To be sure, healthy competition does and should exist and given the tendencies of humans to abuse power, it’s competition itself that, paradoxically, is the antidote to monopoly. Yet, it’s the win at all costs, throw competitors under the bus, poison the environment on your way to being a monopoly type of competition that gets showered with all the praise. Maximum market share maximizes shareholder value, and the circle is complete, so under these conditions monopolizing markets, to say nothing of people’s mind spaces, of course becomes holy grail.

  2. Scott

    Everyday, I walk by the site of the Boston Tea Party. In elementary school, I was taught that colonists were protesting the high prices of tea, only later to find out that they were protesting a government-sanctioned monopoly. The British East India Company was actually selling them lower priced tea than they could buy elsewhere. Which side would today’s leaders of the political parties support today?

    1. Carolinian

      The revisionist take is that the low cost British tea was undercutting the tea smugglers, some of whom were famous “founding fathers.” But the fact that our founders acted out of self interest doesn’t mean that the British colonialism they opposed was a benign institution. Everyone, it seems, is exploiting somebody.

      As for the above, worth noting that the Gilded Age monopolists viewed their own actions in the best possible light. Rockefeller said that he was bringing order to the boom/bust chaos of the oil markets of the time. Morgan saw the redundancy of the then existing railroads as ruinous and thought he was doing the country a favor by privately controlling their prices.

      Of course the Midwestern farmers who were then exploited by high shipping prices didn’t agree and the country eventually evolved a notion of regulated capitalism that last for awhile. What we have now is a reversion to rule by the few with no restraint possible by the many. It’s a failure of democracy, obviously. Time to dump some tea?

      1. JBird

        The American Revolution kinda just happened. American independence was an extreme view held only by some fanatical nutcases.

        ThyBritish government was in massive debt due to the Seven Years War and had to build, and garrison, all the new territory in North America. Reasonably they thought the colonists should contribute something.

        It was SOP to ask the Colonies’ governments to raise the money. Instead, the British Parliament decided to use various sales taxes.

        Not only greed, but actual real concerns over having voting seats in Parliament was a big issue as then governmental was…dysfunctional. The allocation of MPs was not done proportional by population. The urban regions were under representatives, or in some places, not at all.

        The American economy was based on smuggling (see mercantilism) especially of molasses to make rum as well as the upteen things that they could not make and were very expensive to import from Britain compared to other places. This smuggling economy had been in place and ignored by the British for over a century.

        Then the big crack down on smuggling and the new use of sales, along with Parliament’s refusal to either reform the allocation of members or the non-system of government between colonies and central government.

        So as the crack down started,
        Money!
        We don’t wanna, and where’s our representatives? Tyranny!
        Shuddapp Ungrateful bumpkins! Money! And maybe someday we’ll talk.
        The British create a police state (and this is where the ideas for the Bill of Rights come from)
        No!
        Yes!
        Bam!

  3. Hana M

    By the 1970s, anti-monopoly movements went from being “a bipartisan goal” to an economic framework which “retreated from the public consciousness.” As the worry about corporate consolidation became a partisan issue, “the enforcement of anti-monopoly policy grew increasingly toothless.”

    The link in this section is to a very interesting site that I had never heard of before: The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). Lots of excellent posts on local energy resilience and local broadband initiatives.

    Any candidate who has the courage to make anti-trust a central campaign issue has a good chance of winning bipartisan support. Bernie Sanders showed the way by highlighting the role of big business in campaign finance and by pioneering his $27 dollar fundraising model.

  4. Hana M

    I would love to see a post from Outis on YA fiction. Sad and surprising to hear that many recent YA novels feature powerless women. I’ve only read two series, both of which featured very strong female characters–Hermione Granger, Harry Potter’s friend was a brilliant and powerful witch; and Katness Everdeen in the Hunger Games was a fiery, intensely independent huntress who managed to start a revolution.

    1. Knifecatcher

      My favorite YA series – criminally unknown in the US – is the Tiffany Aching series from the late, great Terry Pratchett. There are 5 books in total, set in the same Discworld context as his most popular adult works. The heroine is a young witch learning her powers and her trade but in a very different vein than Ms. Rowling’s series.

      Tiffany Aching is, in a word, a badass. The series starts with 9 year old Tiffany finding that a swamp monster is about to grab her little brother. So Tiffany – being a very practical girl – whomps it upside the head with a frying pan.

      The last book in the series was published posthumously, and is the final Terry Pratchett novel. I may or may not have sobbed like a baby when I finished it.

  5. JCC

    This article as well as should be required reading for every voter in the country.

    Unfortunately most Americans remain “blissfully” unaware of any of this and will continue to blame the Govt for all their problems.

    Did anyone happen to notice the map of concentrated employment/monopolies in the Tepper article and how it lined up almost perfectly with the recent presidential election’s results by county map?

    These two “big picture” maps show clearly that the scam has been very effective and will probably be a battle fought for many years to come.

    1. JCC

      I should have added the map of US County 2016 election results to my comment above

      The comparison between this map and the map of employment concentration by monopoly that is in Tepper’s article is very telling as far the ignorance Corporate/Pundit propaganda imposes on a large part of the public vs. what has actually occurred.

      These two maps side-by-side tell a strong story about the obvious damage monopsony (corporate monopolies’ purchase of labor) has created on multiple levels over the last 30 to 40 years.

  6. Katsue

    From a gameplay perspective, this cheaters’ edition sounds absolutely terrible. Stealing money from the bank, in particular, is a recipe for extending the game length even more.

    1. diptherio

      When I was a kid, my sister and I would play Monopoly pretty regularly. Her strategy was to draw out the game long enough that I would eventually have to get up and go pee…at which point she would raid the bank. So the game, you see, was actually “how long can I hold it?” And you’re right, it wasn’t much fun…at least for me.

      1. Wukchumni

        We don’t have electricity @ our cabin, so board games still rule the roost, and the National Parks version of Monopoly is the most popular one of the half dozen on hand. Sometimes games are just a slow death, beaten down to pauperdom en route to being broke 3 hours later.

        That said, Wall*Street Monopoly would be the quickest though.

        One player gets to buy up all the properties beforehand, and every game lasts about 10 minutes.

    2. Kokuanani

      My husband’s family created a “Communist [or “socialist,” I don’t know exactly] Monopoly” — to each according to his/her need. If one player was running out of cash, others voluntarily gave him/her some. This guaranteed that the game would never end.

  7. PlutoniumKun

    Our Outis read a spate of young adult novels a year or so ago to see what themes were common. He was struck by several things. One was the powerlessness of the female characters. They had far less autonomy and were less fully developed than women in movies in the 1930s through 1950s, where there was often a great deal of sophisticated gender role play (as in both the men and women knew the women were playing subordinate but often really pulling the strings). Second was that there was a great deal of breaking and gaming of the systems, and that was depicted positively. It might be time for him to write up what he found in more detail.

    I’d be really interested in this. Reading some feminist writers you’d think the world dragged itself out of a primordial swamp of repression sometime around 1968. But as a fan of old movies its striking just how much better the female characters were in many genres from the 1930’s to 1950’s. And its not just Hollywood – the Japanese golden era (post war to around 1960) featured highly successful directors such as Naruse who created numerous films centered around complex female characters, with the ‘female gaze’ central. I’ve often thought that the reason for the apparent step back was purely to do with cinema economics – TV essentially robbed cinema of a big chunk of its more mature female audience, leaving studios to focus on dating couples and bored young men. But perhaps there are deeper cultural reasons.

    1. diptherio

      I think I might be able to sum up why our entertainment industry has gotten so bad at writing good female characters in just five words: Harvey Weinstein and his ilk.

      1. diptherio

        Adding, all those conservatives who’ve been lambasting Hollywood for being a den of filth and depravity apparently knew what they were talking about.

        1. ambrit

          And, as long as Hollywood was on their side, as shown by the anti-EPIC propaganda churned out by the studios, they were perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to the “filth and depravity.”

      2. Pespi

        It goes deeper than that. At risk of sounding like a troll, the constant depiction of women in victims in news and other non-fiction but ideologically biased forms of media has removed the sort of “Hey buster” slap-in-the-face type of strong woman from the list of possible personalities.

        I don’t know how to phrase that effectively. Maybe someone else can fish it out for me.

        What I’m trying to say is that women can be more than just victims or just sexless NGO boss-aspirants.

        Pure ideology, it’s purely pure ideology

    2. PKMKII

      Note that a lot of the writers of YA came about, so to speak, during the 90’s and aughts feminist backlash. So a lot of gravitate towards reactionary feminine roles, helpless and in need of a masculine figure, whose abusive behavior is depicted as endearing, to save her. Mind you, they’re not all like that, Hunger Games being a prominent counter-example (although that wallows in the other bad reactionary trope of YA novels, the libertarian fantasy of the ubermensch versus the big bad centralized government).

      1. Pespi

        When I watched the Hunger Games movie I was shocked that it was essentially neo-confederate propaganda. These corn fed battle hardened tough guys and gals is being oppressed by them effete and decadent city folk with their flying trains and what not.

        Outis is right. These books are cranked out at pulp speed and that grind pulls the latent ideology out of most anyone.

  8. Kevin

    I heard about this and thought it was a joke. I told my canadian wife, shortly after we moved here, that the capitalism we practice here in the U.S. is like Monoploly without the rules.

  9. Norb

    Another point to consider is the success neoliberal thinkers have had undermining the idea of cooperation. Nothing is possible in human activity without successful cooperation. This idea of a lone genius or small groups of people more deserving than the multitudes of others is the foundation upon which inequality and injustice rests. Without a reorienting of that message, the drive for monopoly power cannot be stopped.

    Isn’t the entire natural world and all the phenomenon within the result of this interaction between competition and the evolving nature of cooperation among the elements? Humans, by separating themselves in their minds from the environment that they draw life from, have mainly focused their abilities on mastery and hierarchy, not connectedness. Contemplating connectedness requires long term thinking and vision.

    The revolution or break with the existing status quo is slowly building up as more people reorient their lives along cooperative lines. Strictly competitive systems need a healthy underlying framework in order to function, but the short term search for advantage perpetually undermines that foundation. It leads to a crash of the system.

    What is needed today is a new board game that teaches cooperation. The battle to teach the dangers of parasitic capitalism is already lost. Monopoly is a board game that should be called slow death. That is why the game always ends up with family fights and bad feelings. The game of sociopathy.

    The game of MMT?

  10. FortyYearsInThe UniversitySystem

    What? Anti-trust laws are supposed to curtail competition? My word! That is not the way I have looked at it. Anti-trust laws, which are sadly unused today, I believe were intended to supply the real “invisible hand” of our late friend Mr. Smith who was dead against monopoly, collusion, corruption, and all those similar things which conspire against open, competitive markets. Weirdly, today the businessmen (who, Smith said, rarely get together without falling into collusion to cheat the population at large) who rave about the “invisible hand” mean exactly the opposite of what Smith meant. How Orwellian is that? We need more competition not less. If FDR, as the writer said, wanted to curtail competition with anti-trust laws then FDR was not the fellow I had always heard he was.

    1. Grebo

      Cutthroat competition was the phrase used. Presumably this is in contrast to gentlemanly competition which supposedly leads to a stable equilibrium of low prices, high quality and good customer service.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Barry Lynn describes in his books how monopolies stifle the innovation and creativity of new entrepreneurs. On of his themes is the crumbling of small business and small enterprise cutting off that avenue of expression for the very kinds of people Capitalism is supposed to lionize. Those are the values the free Market is supposed to foster through Smith’s “invisible hand”.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Typos MAX — sorry —
        Barry Lynn describes in his books how monopolies stifle the innovation and creativity of new entrepreneurs. One of his themes is the crushing of small business and small enterprise cutting off that avenue of expression for the very kinds of people Capitalism is supposed to lionize. Those are the values the free Market is supposed to foster through Smith’s “invisible hand”.

        Also remember that FDR is credited with saving Capitalism from itself.

  11. Jamie

    Although she’s not here today, she would be quite pleased with Monopoly’s dramatic rule change. What better way to highlight our rigged economy than by making blatant cheating permissible—and advantageous—in a game all about wealth accumulation?

    This seems to me to be an inordinately naive view. Children play games in order to figure out how things work… things like following rules and taking turns. Children playing this new version of Monopoly will simply be taught that in order to win one must cheat, that “cheating” is acceptable and expected, and that the primary concern of the cheater is to not get caught, i.e. to cheat successfully you must become skilled at cheating. Children playing this game will not grow up into adults who think that cheating “spoils” everything and our rigged economy is morally wrong. They will, instead, tend to think that cheating, and getting good at cheating, is a way to have “fun”. This seems so obvious to me that I wonder if I am missing the clues that this is meant as parody and not to be taken seriously.

    I may sound old and stuffy, but you cannot teach children to do “right” by designing a game for then to indulge in “wrong” behaviors. Children playing Monopoly don’t “learn” to analyze what is “wrong” with capitalism (at least, not from playing the game). It’s a game. And it’s fun. If you want to “teach” socialism, give them a fun game that follows socialist principles. If you want them to despise landlords, don’t give them a game where they become landlords, give them a game where they have to organize to overthrow landlords.

    1. JBird

      Gaming changes depending on what you are trying to teach,’or learn, and the people
      playing. Children are more “here and now” with have less desire to learn from any game’s metaphors. Adults are supposedly able to be to abstract lessons from such games.

      So having children play a game where greed is good and winning is partially by chance will not teach them about political economy. I think games, like propaganda, can still indirectly mold your mind.

  12. Katniss Everdeen

    I’ve always thought the game, Monopoly, would be an understandable way to explain to people the difference between how “money” in an economy is supposed to work and how it does work in america.

    The game board is the economy. As the game is traditionally played, more and more money must be fed in so that property can be bought and built up with houses and hotels. Rents must be paid and sometimes a player has to pay to get out of jail.

    Every player gets his or her own $200 every time he or she passes GO to do with as he or she wishes. There’s always a winner, but the same person doesn’t win every time. Winning depends on strategy and the roll of the dice.

    Change the rules a bit to reflect how things actually work in this country, with three players–Top Hat, Shoe and Dog.

    When the Top Hat passes GO, he gets $200. When the Shoe passes GO, the Top Hat gets the Shoe’s $200 and the right to lend it back to the Shoe at interest. When the Dog passes GO, the Top Hat gets the Dog’s $200, and the right to lend it back to the DOG at exorbitant interest because, well, it’s the Dog. The introduction of money into the game continues like this. The Top Hat can demand “his” money back at any time.

    It’s not hard to see who the winner will be. Same player every time. Lending money into the economy instead of spending it in. People might be able to relate. At any rate, they probably won’t have too much trouble identifying the Top Hat.

    Oh, and if the Top Hat slips up, the Shoe and the Dog have to make him whole again. Them’s the “rules.”

  13. nonsense factory

    For a few years now I’ve been thinking about a merger of the games Risk and Monopoly, in which you start out on the Monopoly board but as you accumulate capital, you can also start buying tanks, airplanes, and ships to launch wars on your opponents, eventually moving on to the Risk board. Or some kind of variant thereof. Too close to the reality of 20th century history for comfort, perhaps. . .

  14. Phil in KC

    For a long time my friends and I have thought that US commerce and politics revolved around the idea of cheating people out of their money. Nice to see the idea embodied in a Hasbro game. Probably the only way to get the truth of our system in a public forum without muddying the message.

    Will defenders of the so-called free market take offense?

  15. teacup

    Lizzie Maggie’s inspiration was Henry George’s book Progress and Poverty – it was a huge success at the time (1876) and helped spark the progressive movement. The modern remedies to curb the consolidation of wealth are capturing economic rent from natural resource opportunity (J.S. Mills ‘unearned increment’) and Pigouvian taxes. Mixing these with functional finance and a jobs guarantee would do much to quicken the pace on a crumbling neoliberal agenda.

  16. Wisdom Seeker

    The laws to fix the monopolization of the U.S. economy exist, they have just been “reinterpreted” into toothlessness. If a consumer has only 2, 3 or 4 choices, that’s not enough to prevent monopolistic cartels.

    Bring back Sherman & Clayton!

    I thought Trump would do this. It would be easy for a genuinely populist president to start with the healthcare industry and the oversize banks; no one likes them!

  17. Jeremy Grimm

    As I recall, during the Reagan years there was worry that Japan might surpass the U.S. as the preeminent economy in the world. This was roughly the time General Motors discovered it had to make room for Japanese cars in the U.S. car market. Some “economists” were concerned that the U.S. Corporate Giants were too small to compete with what were viewed as the Giant Japanese trading cartels operating in the world “market”. I recall this was also around the time Milton Friedman discovered that monopolies were all right as long as they lowered consumer prices or something to that effect. The only cartels Reagan went after were cartels of labor, the unions. I think it is fair to say that what has changed since that time has done little to rein in the growing consolidation of U.S. Corporations and their power. I don’t believe the old anti-trust laws were repealed as much as simply not enforced to reign in Corporate consolidation. Reading this post I think it is amusing to see J.P. Morgan’s rationalizations for his good offices in consolidating U.S. Corporations reused by Microsoft’s Bill Gates arguing for the benefits of Microsoft’s consolidation and standardization of PC operating systems. [Thank you Bill.]

    I’m glad to Barry Lynn’s book referenced in the post. In addition to “Cornered” read Lynn’s earlier book “The End of the Line”. I’m not so happy to see a reference to President Wilson. Wilson does not appear among the great Americans I admire and the more I learn about him the less fond I grow.

    This is not the first time monopolies and trusts have choked off competition in our Market economy, but I fear this time really is different. I think the mice will reign in monopolies shortly after we bell the cat. But the long run is different too. This time looks more like it might play out the 1780s in France than the years running up to the New Deal

  18. Adam Eran

    The whole story: From Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth: “[The Monopoly game’s] inventor, Elizabeth Magie, was an outspoken supporter of [land tax proponent] Henry George’s ideas, and when she first created her game in 1903, she gave it two very different sets of rules to be played in turn. Under the ‘Prosperity’ set of rules, every player gained each time someone acquired a new property (echoing George’s call for a land value tax), and the game was won (by all) when the player who had started out with the least money had doubled it. Under the second, ‘Monopolist’ set of rules, players gained by charging rent to those who were unfortunate enough to land on their properties–and whoever managed to bankrupt the rest was the sole winner. The purpose of the dual sets of rules, said Magie, was for players to experience a ‘practical demonstration of the present system of land grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences’ and so understand how different approaches to property ownership can lead to vastly different social outcomes. ‘It might well have been called ‘The Game of Life’ remarked Magie, ‘as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world.’ But when the games manufacturer, Parker Brothers, bought the patent for [what was originally called] The Landlord’s Game from Magie in the 1930s, they relaunched it simply as Monopoly and provided the eager public with just one set of rules: those that celebrate the triumph of one over all.”

  19. The Rev Kev

    Really? Really? Young adult novels are going back to the old dark days with women? Is this the influence of the film industry playing out after a generation of ‘hot’ women playing as bit characters in films? We are literally going back to the 1950s now? I remember exactly how women were portrayed back in those old films, especially the scifi ones. I thought that I would mention a short film clip to illustrate the differences in how women in films were portrayed back then and now but I will have to place it in context first.
    There was a scifi series called “Star Trek Voyager” in the 90s which was noteworthy for having very strong female leads which included the Captain and Chief Engineer of the ship and it worked well. On this ship was a holographic deck where one officer recreated old 1940s style scifi holographic stories based on “King of the Rocket Men”. The writers in this series, just for fun, had a character in this holonovel called Constance Goodheart that mimicked these old style heroines and you can see the result at-

    Do we really want to teach young people that young women are that powerless again?

    1. ambrit

      The problem here is just who the “we” doing the ‘educating’ are.
      ‘Young Adult’ books. What I remember as ‘Juvenile Books.’
      Fashions in strong women or ‘damsels in distress’ come and go. What hasn’t changed for the last fifty thousand years or so is the culturally imposed subservience of women to men. In the long ago, a case for ‘strong silent’ he men protecting the childbearing and child rearing females from a decidedly mean and nasty world, oh, wild animals galore, uncertain food supplies, had some small support. Women, when gravid and post partum were distinctly vulnerable. Then societies developed with protections for women and children built in. It was pure survival strategy.
      Now, historically suddenly, women have wrested control of their fertility from nature, and controlling men. This is a huge paradigm change. Inter sex relations have been in a ferment for the last hundred years. The old patriarchial system has lost its’ raison d’etre. A new social balance is being worked out, and is still a work in progress. Patriarchialists would like it to be a “work in regress.” Literature, especially works that inform and teach the ‘young adults’ of the society, are part of the ‘new dispensation.’
      Enough ranting. Time for bed.
      And so, we do direct ourselves to the place where slumber reveals new worlds hidden in old.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The wee problem with that argument is that women used to have some reproductive control. Read Agnotology. Women had some ability to prevent conception; there are historical records of women in ancient times lecturing particular women how stupid they were to get pregnant, didn’t they do X (I dimly recall one technique involved lemons). They may not have been as good as the pill, but even a 60% reduction in the odds of getting pregnant would be a big deal. And if you saw the movie Vera Drake, you can induce a miscarriage using a lye solution.

        Agnotology lists that as a prototypical example of loss of cultural knowledge.

        1. ambrit

          I get your point, and will have to get a copy of “Agnotology.”
          I quibble here about the distinction between partial and near total control of fertility. Earlier birth control regimes had at least some chance of failing. Enough of a chance to give pause to an aware woman before initiating coitus. Today, that awareness has eroded, (counter arguments encouraged,) to the point where a young woman could consider whether or not to indulge in sexual activity as a social decision, not a biological one. Teen pregnancies do display the pitfalls of uninformed decision making, but instead of a measurable chance of pregnancy, the practical possibility of impregnation can be reduced to near zero. Women please correct me if I’m wrong here but, this seems to me to be a game changing shift in the psychology of sexual interactions.

      2. The Rev Kev

        I am afraid that historically your idea of history does not ring true. I should know as I shared the same view when I was younger. Even a cursory examination of the history of birth control () for example will show you that this is a much more complicated deal than is acknowledged. The history of pregnancy termination is another study altogether. I have to say that most of the social mores and the way things are that you see around you are a social construct and nothing more. There is little behind it that says that this is the way that things should be as a ‘natural order. Consider a Roman citizen in the 1st century and his outlook and beliefs on the world. Wouldn’t he say that his way of life was the natural order with slavery, conquest and multiple gods? Let’s take it a step further. What if when you were born that an exact duplicate of you was created and then transported back to, say, 15th century England. If you could meet your 15th century alter-ego, how much would you have in common with yourself.
        Historically women have not always been fragile little flowers. Look at the Shield Maidens of the Viking era of for a more modern example, look at the tens of thousands of Russian women that served in combat formations in WW2. Women are tough as they have had to be. I would describe them the way that traditional Royal Navy disciple was once described – an iron fist in a velvet glove. The truth of the matter is that every generation forms the next generation in a mold of their own making and then injects a binding agent of prejudice to hold it all together. It works after a fashion until that society’s circumstances change. The changing roll of women is an example of these cogs slipping as society has changed. To give another example of how fluid women’s roles in society are, last century a women’s place was in the home – until a world war came along that not only socially sanctioned women working in war factories but actually demanded it. And when the war ended the roles changed again as places had to be created for returning soldiers. Something to think about.

        1. ambrit

          Agreed that the history of birth control is twisty turny. However, the ‘Shield Maidens’ were, as the name explicitly states, non child bearing females. Women are tough, but also often at the mercy of biology. Men are, I’d say, also so constrained, but to a lesser degree. (Sadly, men can run away from having to deal with pregnancies.)
          Social constructs serve one basic function; the survival and perpetuation of the society. The real death blow to the institution of slavery, I’ve read, was the industrial revolution. Formal chattel slavery gave way to wage labour based slavery. The ancients, I’ve also read, had a social aversion to labour based occupations being given any social standing. Most inventions then were located in practical places, such as workshops and manufactories. The class of artisans and inventors were accorded scant social status. Technical civilization languished. The industrial revolution is called such because it is just that; a revolution, an overturning of settled forms. I suggest that the recently developed artificial biological control of fertility is just such a revolution. Yes, fertility could be controlled to a certain extent, but it took time and effort to learn and implement. Now, control of fertility is easy. A series of pills, or a shot, or implants, and an age old fear is banished to a corner of the psyche. No wonder the old guard patriarchalists oppose modern birth control. They have lost control of a half of the population.
          I will now return my shroud draped lich to my First Kingdom abode.

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