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by Dr. Robert M. Fearn

Monopoly game flickr rorowe8.jpg
As a young couple at Washington State in the early 1950s, our social life was limited largely to activities with other graduate students in economics and their wives, a small, bright, and cohesive group. Since we all were living in not-so-gentle poverty, social activities were usually confined to weekends and to our various apartments. The favorite activity was a game of Monopoly. Not only was that a cheap form of entertainment, but it suited the players and their interests. Indeed, we quickly modified the game to allow private negotiations, coalitions, cartels, tying agreements, etc. That is, we made the game into what Karl Marx considered capitalism to be and what it could well become in the absence of genuine competition and the anti-trust acts. Witness the easy and early transition of the former Soviet Union into bandit-style capitalism. Moreover, as most people recognize, the game of Monopoly is inherently inflationary. We did not change that aspect of the game.

Under those conditions, we found that Marx’s predictions were absolutely correct. Capitalism, under inflationary conditions, played “all out” with few or no rules or regulations limiting private acquisitive behavior will inevitably result in two large combines battling each other until one triumphs, often by chance. Indeed, if one was a loner toward the end of the game, the safest place on the board was in jail where one might survive a bit longer (three rolls of the dice until you were paroled into the dog-eat-dog world of the monopolists). In our case, the final outcome usually took us into the wee hours of the morning, and we often had breakfast before returning home to tumble into bed.

From time to time, the group included Paul and Margie Hendrickson (Puyallup), Bill and Emma Iulo (now Bambridge Island), Bob and Nancy Vitale (Walla Walla?), and, later, Gene and Phyllis Boyle (Spokane).

It was a wonderful way to learn about economics.


Dr. Robert M. Fearn, MA, WSC (now U)
Later: CIA Analyst, Professor of Economics (NCSU), and occasional consultant on international labor issues and problems.

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