In the previous essay I proposed a variation adding inheritance rules to the standard Monopoly game. The aim was to provide a context for discussing the tension between inheritance and fairness by using the simple context of the classic board game. Out of curiosity, I also posted my proposed rules on Facebook without the context of the blog. Not surprisingly, people got the point of the rules and there was some criticism of my analogy. As might be expected, one criticism was that while Monopoly is a zero-sum game, the actual economy is supposedly not. This does raise the question of the impact of making a non-zero-sum version of the game with the inheritance rules in play.
One response to the zero-sum criticism is to note that Monopoly does reflect the actual zero-sum aspects of the real economy. The classic game is about owning properties and major business (like railroads) and these are zero-sum matters in the actual world. If, for example, I own a vast tract of land, that means less land for other people. While we can make more usable land by draining swamps and building islands, there is obviously a finite (laying aside the sci-fi scenario of expanding outward into an infinite universe) amount of land. The same generally holds true of businesses—there is a finite limit and the success of my business in an area limits the success of others (which is why competitive business requires that the state restrict monopolies). As such, for the zero-sum parts of the economy, Monopoly is not a bad model.
The easy and obvious counter to this is to argue that there is no zero-sum economy or that there is a significant non-zero-sum part of the economy that negates the unfairness of the inheritance system. My Monopoly analogy, the criticism would go, fails because of this and inheritance is thus fair. But what if Monopoly could be made into a non-zero-sum game?
In the real economy, the idea is that the sum grows over time. The same can be applied to the game. A crude way to simulate this is to add in the Board Expansion rule variant to the inheritance rules (infinite money, houses, and hotels can also be added by printing them as needed). To play this variant, you will need several Monopoly boards.
Board Expansion Rules for Monopoly Inheritance!
Rule 1: Prior to the start of the next game, place another Monopoly board with its Go square adjacent to the Just Visiting square of the prior board. Repeat until the players decide to stop playing. Play begins in the Go square on the board from the first game.
Rule 2: Once a player’s piece has completed moving completely around a board (from Go to back to Go), they must exit the board and move to the next board. A board is exited via the Just Visiting square and entered via the Go square. Once a piece has completely moved around the final board, the piece must be moved back to the prior board and so on until the original board is reached. The process then begins anew and continues into the game ends. The board a piece is on is treated as the game board for that piece.
Alternative Rule: Instead of being forced to leave a board after moving completely around it (from Go to go), a player can elect to stay on a board if they wish. This rule allows player’s a chance to escape the original game’s board.
This variant allows for a non-zero-sum game, limited only by the number of Monopoly boards on hand. While I do agree that this allows the players who do not have the luck of inheritance a better chance, the player who gets the inheritance still has a significant advantage. While there will be a new board with property available to all players each game, the player who has inherited from the previous game will be in a far better position than the other players to acquire the new property. The main effect of the expanding game would seem to be that the heir player will have ever more property at the end of each game and thus the next heir will have an even greater advantage over the non-heirs. While the game is not zero-sum, those that lack the inheritance will probably still lose.