Monopoly, Milton Friedman’s Way
When Hasbro showed a new version of Monopoly last week at the Toy Fair, people were aghast that an infrared tower in the center of the board would squawk instructions, track players’ money and make sure that everyone abided by the rules.Basically, the idea is that when they changed the rules - changed the zoning rules, the rent control, and monetary policy - it threw off the entire economic balance of the game. Read the whole thing. It's awesome.
A generation of children may never learn to make change. They may never learn to argue about rules and change them. And they may never, as I and a group of Monopoly fanatics in college did in a great all-night game, learn important economic lessons. “There might not be the attention span for that anymore,” said Mike Zelenty, one of the players.
Monopoly was taken seriously in Shorey House at the University of Chicago in the late 1970s. A room was set aside as “The Monopoly Room.” But in that post-Vietnam, pre-Reagan era, all assumptions were questioned and a game our parents played was no exception. Rules were meant to be altered. The house even convened a “constitution convention” to change the official rules of the game to allow a person to build a hotel on a property without first having to own four houses.
The precise details of our classic game are blurred by the alcohol consumed that night and the years that have passed since then, but this much is recalled. We decided that Monopoly was hostile to a free market because it restricted the number of houses or hotels one could buy. We voted that a player could buy as many hotels as a property could physically bear and rents would be raised proportionally.
But the bank soon began to run out of money. So we did what any government would do. We began printing more of it, by scribbling $500 on scraps of paper. We printed a lot of money.