Have you ever played Monopoly?
Chances are that you have, given that it’s the most successful board game in United States history with nearly a half a billion players worldwide.
The history of the game is quite interesting.
More than a century ago, a sharp-witted Quaker lady named Elizabeth “Lizzy” Magie came up with a clever way to teach people about concepts like taxation, and asset distribution in a society. The learning tool she came up with was a board game called “The Landlord’s Game,” which she actually wound up patenting in 1904. Years later, her creation would be redesigned into the Parker Brothers smash hit Monopoly.
First and foremost, Lizzie was a political activist. The purpose of her board game was not just for people to pass time, but, to educate them about what happens when an individual or an enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service. Lizzie wanted people to know about monopolies and how they ultimately end up bankrupting most while a few get rich.
I should clarify that I don’t mean to imply in any way that Lizzie’s insights were novel or new in her era. After all, competition laws go all the way back to the Roman Empire. However, in Lizzie’s day the competition laws were not very strict. Consequently, the gap between the rich and essentially everyone else was widening at a disturbing rate like now.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of such lax competition laws was John D. Rockefeller. He formed Standard Oil of Ohio which essentially gobbled up the competition in no time. In fact, in less than four months, in what later became known as the “Cleveland Massacre,” Standard Oil had gobbled up 22 of its 26 Cleveland competitors. That massacre occurred in 1872.
In a few words, Rockefeller’s unregulated feeding frenzy got so out of hand that he essentially killed the game. He owned it all.
Figuratively speaking, Rockefeller had all of the utilities, all of the railroads, all of the best properties, all of the hotels, and most of the houses. Everyone else was either broke or down to their last few rolls.
Incidentally, the little guy in the top hat is John D. Rockefeller.
(more to come on this)