Is the real economy like the board game Monopoly? We can pick out particular similarities, such as the instance cited above. The game’s banker does issue an unlimited amount of paper money which has no inherent value. For the most part, however, the comparison falls flat.
Last year, two leftist authors used the board game as an analogy for “the danger of raw, unfettered capitalism.” Published at Truthout, Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks paint a dramatic picture of how the cannibalistic final rounds of a Monopoly game model both the recession of 2008 and a larger economic collapse yet to come. They argue that a high concentration of wealth in the hands of a few initiates an economic collapse as an endless quest for profit drains consumers and ultimately deprives even the rich, ending the game. They write:
But let’s assume the Monopoly game doesn’t end there. Let’s assume the broke players keep rolling the dice and keep going around the board. They essentially keep living their lives desperate and broke, using their credit cards and home lines of credit to stay in the game. Maybe they end up in jail. If they’re lucky, they land on Baltic Avenue and can afford to stay a night in the slums.
Meanwhile, the oligarch who owns everything can no longer collect any income. The other players can’t afford to pay rent, they can’t pay utilities, and they can’t ride on the railroads. Eventually, without consumers spending money, the Monopoly oligarch goes broke, too. His properties and businesses disappear and suddenly everyone is broke!
That’s what Monopoly’s version of economic collapse looks like. And it’s very similar to what global economic collapse in the real world looks like, too.
Their analysis proves worth reading in its entirety, if only to fully demonstrate its error. Their argument rests upon premises which fall apart when tested.
Very seldom do liberals and conservatives agree on much of anything these days, but there is one area where we should have some common cause. Over at the liberal website Alternet, Bill Berkowitz has written a piece called, “Cruel Country: Debtors Prisons Are Punishing the Poor Across America”:
In the 1990s, Jack [Dawley's] drug and alcohol addictions led to convictions for domestic violence and driving under the influence, resulting in nearly $1,500 in fines and costs in the Norwalk Municipal Court. Jack was also behind on his child support, which led to an out-of-state jail sentence.” After serving three and a half years in Wisconsin, Dawley, now sober for 14 years, is still trying to catch up with the fines he owes, and it has “continue[d] to wreak havoc on his life.”
…The jailing of people unable to pay fines and court costs is no longer a relic of the 19th century American judicial system. Debtors’ prisons are alive and well in one-third of the states in this country.
In 2011, Think Progress’ Marie Diamond wrote: “Federal imprisonment for unpaid debt has been illegal in the U.S. since 1833. It’s a practice people associate more with the age of Dickens than modern-day America. But as more Americans struggle to pay their bills in the wake of the recession, collection agencies are using harsher methods to get their money, ushering in the return of debtor’s prisons.”
…This year’s ACLU report….points out that many poor “Ohioans … convicted of a criminal or traffic offense and sentenced to pay a fine an affluent defendant may simply pay … and go on with his or her life [find the fine] unaffordable [launching] the beginning of a protracted process that may involve contempt charges, mounting fees, arrest warrants, and even jail time. The stark reality is that, in 2013, Ohioans are being repeatedly jailed simply for being too poor to pay fines.”
According to the report, Ohio courts in Huron, Cuyahoga, and Erie counties “are among the worst offenders. In the second half of 2012, over 20% of all bookings in the Huron County Jail were related to failure to pay fines.
…CBS Money Watch’s Alain Sherter recently reported that “Roughly a third of U.S. states today jail people for not paying off their debts, from court-related fines and fees to credit card and car loans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Such practices contravene a 1983 United States Supreme Court ruling that they violate the Constitutions’ Equal Protection Clause.”
Wreaking havoc on ordinary peoples’ lives
Jack Dawley: “You’d go do your ten days, and they’d set you up a court date and give you another 90 days to pay or go back to jail… It was hard for me to obtain work, so I fell back into the cycle of going to jail every three months.”
Paying money to people you owe can’t just be an “optional” thing. The government must be allowed to force people to pay their debts or our entire system of commerce would break down. That being said, it’s immoral, unconstitutional and even counter-productive to put someone in jail for being truly unable to pay his debts. How are you going to earn enough to pay what you owe if you’re in jail?
This is what happens when you let the Internet choose.
Hasbro let fans decide on a new token for the game (and which of the old tokens to boot) on Jan. 9. The voting closed Tuesday night. The result: The iron is out and a new character, a cat, is in.
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The National Scrabble Association does not condone cheating. Also, the National Scrabble Association exists. One of the United States’ top young Scrabble talents was caught hiding blank tiles, and subsequently ejected, at the game’s national championship tournament in Florida. This was, apparently, “a big deal.” The executive director of the National Scrabble Association, John D. Williams, Jr., has said that this is the first recorded incidence of cheating at a national tournament. What a shame.
The cheating was caught by a neighboring player. The cheater, a male minor, tried to hide the blank tiles when resetting the board after his previous game. In what is surely one of the poorest attempts at cheating known, the ejected player simply dropped them on the floor. Blank tiles — which only count for 2% of the total tiles — function as wild cards and could therefore provide the proverbial word glue required to win the game.
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