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October 17, 2015


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James Grimmelmann

These Monopoly variants have nothing to say about the right to exclude. You left the basic framework of Monopoly in place: players who trespass on each others' properties are required to pay liability-rule compensation. That's exactly the same in all four variations. You've modified the rules that deal with the _allocation_ of property rights within society, but not the rules that deal with _exclusion_.

Anon E. Anon

Sounds like a great way to proselytize about your political views while claiming that the game is about Trust and Estates.

Mark Edwards

Anon - I couldn't agree less.


Monopoly or watching rugby?


Anon E. Anon

Couldn't agree more. This isn't teaching Property or Trusts and Estates. To offer this as a teaching tool to profs who teach these subjects is sort of bizarre!

This is a transparent attempt to teach an oversimplified, skewed and shallow version of political theory. Of course, that's about all we can expect when we hear about political theory in politics (we rarely do, so most are entirely ignorant or have little information, as demonstrated by these "rules" of the games).

Perhaps all this would be perfectly ok in the political arena. (Remember, the Chair of the DNC couldn't identify the difference between a socialist and a democrat!) At least it might spark a discussion about the real issues and a deeper, more accurate analysis.

But, in connection with courses in Property and Trusts and Estates? Who's kidding who here? Is this a joke?

What's next? The Marxist view of Civil Procedure?

Fun is fun, but please.


Mark apparently agrees with Anon E. Anon as well!

Dave Garrow

Al, This really illustrates (as have many other things recently) why anonymous comments need to be eliminated......

Mark Edwards

Hi James -- I disagree in this sense -- the right to exclude is not limited to physical trespass. It also includes the right to prevent the state from redistributing resources from some private hands to others. In these games, the distribution of resources varies considerably, and in ways that the law would not allow under the alternative systems of government. The inability of a private party to prevent that indicates a weak right to exclude; the ability of a private party to enjoy disproportionate resources indicates a strong right to exclude.


We need a game with socialist rules of the USSA, where singles and the childfree are taxed to support the breeding and mis-education of the breeders' brood.

Derek Tokaz

Don't the Western European Socialist countries have lower inheritance tax rates than the US?

Also, players in Monopoly do not all earn the same wage. The amount for passing Go remains even, but players vary in how quickly they make it around the board. If in real life everyone earned $10, but some earned it every hour while others earned it every fifteen minutes, we'd hardly call that an equal wage.

Mark Edwards

But how quickly one makes it around the board is a product of luck, not skill, and like Hasbro I'm willing to assume that over time luck is pretty evenly distributed.


" Al, This really illustrates (as have many other things recently) why anonymous comments need to be eliminated......"

Yes, eliminated. Apparently, this commenter prefers the Stalinist version of the game.

Not unusual, unfortunately.

Derek Tokaz


Whether it's due to luck or skill, it still goes against the claim that the players are "paid equal wages throughout their lives."

Also, I haven't heard Hasbro say anything about the even distribution of luck in its games (nor do I thin Daviau has discussed it on the roundtable podcast), but if you've seen them comment on this mechanic please share.

You're probably thinking about the law of large numbers, but that's not how luck works in Monopoly. Some people will in fact move around the board much faster. They'll roll doubles or get a beneficial Chance card. Others will land in jail and suffer a significant setback. Also, what constitutes a lucky result changes throughout the game. Landing on a space first is lucky. The next person to land on it is unlucky. Moving fast and rolling doubles early is lucky, while rolling doubles late in the game gives you a greater chance to land on an opponent's property -- landing in jail at the end is extremely fortunate. So, even if the rolls evened out over a game (and they don't; it takes many games for that to happen), players would not have an equal distribution of luck.

Mark Edwards

Folks, it was supposed to be fun, not perfect. Feel free to use it, ignore it, alter it, edit it -- if you decide to use ChartaCourse, you will automatically have the ability to directly edit the rules to your heart's delight. That would be fantastic, actually, because then we could compare results under different sets of rules. Think of how interesting that would be.

To the anons and Jimbino -- get help. Your fear of the unknown has morphed into paranoia and anger.

Derek Tokaz

I thought this was supposed to be a "useful means of teaching about the power of different conceptions of the right to exclude, and of inheritance laws, to shape society," not solely "fun." If it is supposed to be useful, then criticism about the accuracy of the analogies are appropriate. And I don't think the criticisms aren't that it simply isn't perfect -- it's that the analogies are so simplistic and inaccurate as to be at best useless, and at worst provide misinformation about how these systems work.

For instance, in Capitalist Monopoly, Player A earns 75% of Player E's funds for passing go (A gets $150 and E gets $50), and B gets half of D's money. Presumably this represents how owners get the lion's share of the value generated by their employees. But in Western Socialist Monopoly this element is gone. Does this mean that there are no business owners in Western Socialist countries? Or that they don't profit from the work of their employees? Or that owners and employees split the profits evenly?


When someone responds to critiques of a proposition advanced by the author to putatively support teaching Property and Trusts and Estates - that it is inaccurate, over simplified, misplaced and inappropriate to a law school course - by calling people inappropriate names, and by claiming "Hey, who cares anyway?" then you know the author has no response.

These versions of Monopoly game indeed might be fun. When Monopoly was first created, it gave rise to a virtual wave of variants, before it was commercialized. That is fine.

But a law prof who purports to teach law may not, IMHO, mislead students by expressly claiming that these variants are related in any meaningful way to the described economic systems. We have enough misinformation and ignorance in the popular culture. Let's not exacerbate the problem IN LAW SCHOOL!

To say that posting this observation means that "my fear of the unknown has morphed into paranoia and anger" sounds more like hurt feelings and projection than reality.

Steven Freedman

I think Mark Edwards and others are responding to the hostile tone of the criticisms, not the criticisms per se. Mark's reworking of Monopoloy is meant to spark thought and conversation, not insults and derision.

This isn't sports talk 950, it's the faculty lounge.



You aren't responding on the merits either. Instead, as usual, you are just calling people names, instead of addressing the arguments on the merits.

It is true: in the FL, folks can debate endless about the debate, instead of the substance.

I haven't heard a cogent defense of using overly simplified, inaccurate, politically biased and misleading materials to enhance teaching a law school course. If the materials are "fun" again so be it. But, Steve, can you tell us the reason you think these materials would be a "useful means of teaching about the power of different conceptions of the right to exclude, and of inheritance laws, to shape society."


Steven Freedman

@ anon. For a cogent defense, I refer you to Mark Edward's post and comments since I think he did a fine job explaining how he uses his reworked Monopoly game to introduce concepts he covers in his class.

As for name calling, I don't believe I did that.

Finally, give law students a bit of credit. Of course using Monopoly is an oversimplified way to discuss the complex topics covered by Mark. It's a game, not a treatise. My experience with law students is that they are mature enough to recognize that using a board game for an in-class exercise is not meant to dictate to students Marxist truisms about political economy, but just a fun, creative way to get students thinking about different concepts.

Derek Tokaz

For capitalist monopoly, Mark allows some players to "capture the labor-value of others." But why is this only in the capitalist system and not Western European Socialism? Don't Western European Socialist countries also have capitalism, shareholders, and investor profits? I don't think Stephan Persson is in the factory sewing every pair of jeans himself. I bet he's got a lot of employees, and he captures plenty of their labor-value.

And why is capitalist Player E eternally bound to Player A? That sounds more like slavery than capitalism. If capitalism is supposed to come with a very strong right to exclude, then how is Player A able to use the force of the state (aka: the rules) to take Player E's earned income? The right to exclude ought to protect his wages. If it was meant to represent corporate welfare, then okay, but it's not. It's capturing his labor value. Why can't E just say to B, "Hey, if you give me the same deal you have to D, I'll come work for you instead"? I mean, that's a whole lot closer to actual capitalism than this game's version of literal wage slavery, where A has a right, enforced by the state, to take a portion of E's wages.

Mark describes everyone getting the same $200 for passing go as being "paid equal wages throughout their lives." In the Western Democratic Socialist version players (with one exception) get the same $200 for passing go. So is the idea being expressed here that everyone in these countries earns the same wage? Even in upstanding socialist countries like Sweden, there's a huge disparity between the income of the top 10% and the bottom 10%, but that's not reflected at all in the exact mechanic that's intended to reflect that fact.

Imagine if we created Income Tax and Social Welfare Monopoly. Player A plays by the normal rules, except that when he passes go he must place $25 in the Free Parking pool, and give $50 to Player B. Player B has a very different set of rules. B does not move (but does not collect by staying on Go). Player B may buy 1 property per turn without moving to it. The game ends after 20 rounds, and the winner is determined by dividing total assets by number of spaces moved.

I'd expect the game to be criticized as a thinly veiled attack on the poor as "welfare queens" and would be properly rejected as just a strawman caricature. Would anyone buy the defense that it's just meant to be fun, introduce some concepts, and start a conversation?

I think that's what the criticism is getting at. That the rules of this game as so poorly reflective of reality that the game ultimately only serves (or only appears to serve) as thinly veiled anti-capitalist propaganda.

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