The venerable king of board games, Monopoly, needs a total makeover. Since 1935, the iconic parlor game has celebrated the excesses of capitalism, allowing players to parlay meager bank accounts and paltry $200 payouts for Passing Go, into massive fortunes in real estate (glitzy hotels on prestigious Boardwalk and Park Place) together with railroad and utility monopolies.
All of which is to say that it doesn’t reflect the current economic downturn and ongoing uncertainty that plagues the markets. Players should be able to mortgage their properties with toxic, sub-prime loans, which could put the banks in distress bordering on failure. The Chance cards should continue to feature the familiar “Go Directly to Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200,” but the charges should be upgraded to massive stock fraud, wire fraud, and insidious Ponzi schemes—updated crimes for our twenty-first century characterized by abject greed and rank corruption.
New Community Chest cards would be added to the traditional stack of “Bank Error in Your Favor, Collect $200,” “Pay School Tax of $150,” or “Pay Poor Tax of $15.” These astonishingly low taxes would shame any self-respecting lawmaker today. The new twenty-first century cards would include: “Economic Stimulus Grant Money from Uncle Sam, Collect $500,” and “Bail Out Cash from the Feds, If You Own a Railroad or Utility, Collect $200.”
Of course, the amounts of cold, hard cash in the game would have to be changed to reflect our new “trillionomics” mentality. On passing “Go”, each player would receive a $2 million retention bonus. Real estate prices across the board, from slumlord properties on Mediterranean and Baltic Avenue, to the elegant gated communities on Park Place and Boardwalk, would be inflated by a multiple of four or five zeroes, despite the recent crash in property values that precipitated the economic meltdown. To allow continued usage of the original board game equipment, footnotes akin to those in annual reports to corporate shareholders would be used…“all amounts in 000s.”
The traditional game pieces we loved would have to be replaced to reflect contemporary consumer excesses. Monopoly aficionados will remember with great affection the battleship, top hat, flat iron, wheelbarrow, thimble, and beloved Scottie dog. But, times change. The new game pieces will include a monster Hummer H-1, a Gulfstream G-5 private corporate jet, and a multi-million dollar yacht (complete with helicopter and Donzi speedboat).
Sadly, the made-over board game will no longer be a celebration of our capitalist system. There will be a dominant role in the game for Uncle Sam. I suppose he could take over the role of The Banker, doling out money in the form of bailouts, economic stimulus packages, and loans to spur the sagging real estate market back to vitality.
Most importantly, the updated board game will be equipped with a miniature printing press (fashioned after the one in the U.S. Mint), so that, when Uncle Sam has exhausted the supply of $500s, 100s, 50s, 20s, 10s, 5s, and 1s in the bank, he will simply crank up the press and print more.
On second thought, that might be so close to the current discouraging reality that it would suck all the fun out of the game. In that event, with attribution to Warren Buffet, maybe the game should be renamed, Off the Cliff?