“Capitalism: The Board Game” isn’t the problem.

“Capitalism: The Board Game” isn’t the problem.

Its winners are — and they’re too chicken to start a new round.

Published: June 30th, 2020 at 10:23 pm EDT
Last Updated: September 6th, 2020 at 3:11 am EDT
Triple-click here or highlight for Trigger Warning: Discussion of slavery and assault.

A country nearly 250 years old, appended to an economy even older than that, the United States has never once played the game of capitalism to even know if the thing’s any good. America’s racists have ensured that the free market has been nothing more than a fiction and a taunt for large swaths of the population at any given time — particularly, for Black Americans.

This description will come as no surprise to the long affected, suppressed players. Racists’ efforts have only in the last few decades been at all veiled, following decades worth of explicit violence and targeted amendments to the game’s rule books, our Constitution, our laws. 

The story from the descendants of former explicit racists, literal KKK members, goes something like this: “We had racism, and then Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. came around, and now we don’t.”

Let’s add a few more details to the story, shall we? Let’s describe the game in more of a “play by play.”

Lawmakers and the starting players have enacted racial socialism from the start, benefits for a class of skin color that tilted the markets severely.

We all know how this current game began, American Monopoly. European men who already owned property started it for themselves on this land centuries ago. They had just finished wrestling the game table away from indigenous peoples and were proud to have done so, citing ideals like family, honor and culture.

The men, despite their differing ancestry from across Europe, then banded together and won a war against a world-power who was attempting to write the rules of their game from afar.

How dare they.

War won, independent at last, these victorious European men rebranded themselves “American,” printed currency and proudly sat comfortably at their hard-earned table to begin a new game. 


The New Americans bought up property as they landed on it, traveling West ’round the board. They made deals with each other. It was all so successful that the men earned money every turn, it seemed, an economy if not booming, at least moving. 

As rounds continued, a violent display awaited each player’s view when they landed on many properties. Some minded a great deal. Some enjoyed it.

Slowly, the New American men allowed New American women to take seats at their game table. It wasn’t every day, but the women too earned money regularly.

They either had enough money to start, or they dealt with others who wouldn’t price them out of property on the board. The New American men eventually and mostly struck deals with female players, rolling dice alongside them. 

As rounds continued, a violent display awaited each player’s view when they landed on many properties. Some minded a great deal. Some enjoyed it.

The New Americans had quite literally stolen humans who were once players from their own game of Life from across an entire ocean and forced them to work here, brutally, so that they, the original immigrants, could play their game of Monopoly comfortably, for centuries — tending to bills instead of fields. 

Eventually, after a war that pitted American against American, all stubborn remaining captors by law had to release those humans who had been working on property spaces. Slowly, those who built up the railroad spaces were “freed” as well and given tiny amounts of currency with which they could then play the game.

Crops and transportation had made the big bucks, you see, so it was the decent thing to do, to throw pennies at those who had harvested the crops, and at those who had hammered the steel. 

Decent or not, it was law, a minimum wage for the first time — that’s what the American Civil War earned.

It did little else.

A hundred years it would be, before these players could even try to elect game leaders who governed the board in a way that got them “into” the game…

The land-owning originals gave these newer players just shy of nothing and “beat them out” as gang members might, still lynching, still assaulting. They intimidated, mocked and murdered these humans for even thinking themselves worthy to take a seat at the table with some currency — mind you, on a game board the late-addition players never asked to be brought to in the first place. 

With nothing to call their own, finding themselves already split up from their families (such was the case intentionally, to keep these humans more dependent and weaker apart), many of those newly freed had no choice but to get paid those same pennies again and again at jobs on the exact same plantations, working for the benefit of their abusers. 

The rule-makers rarely afforded these new players doctors, or adequate shelter or education. What basic resources other players got, they got none of. 

The latest rule ratified into the game, the “13th Amendment,” allowed for slavery to continue as long as it was as “a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

Suddenly loitering and vagrancy arrests spiked.

Law enforcement took the new players’ pieces away over invented infractions. Empowered, friends of law enforcement could then put the returned humans back to work, absent even the pennies once again.

The tenured players who were allowed to make rules and vote made absolutely sure repeatedly that all the way into the next century, literally just one year shy of a full 100 years after “freedom” first rang as Lincoln’s and Douglass’ dreams were realized, that those called “Black Americans” — and far more often, demeaning slurs, instead — were never given the power to vote. A hundred years it would be, before these players could even try to elect game leaders who governed the board in a way that got them “into” the game, either with some small amount of money each time around the board, God forbid, or through some help negotiating first-property sales with white owners who wouldn’t even consider sales of board spaces to Black Americans, much less fair prices on those sales. 

Elected leaders eventually made it illegal for banks to deny Black Americans loans over their skin color…

…in 1974.

By the early 20th century, there came a time, the Great Depression, when not just a minority were in need, but all were in need of welfare. As if by magic, welfare became available to those who were employed and paid above the table. 

Guess who still wasn’t employed and paid above the table. Guess who wasn’t even eligible for welfare. 

Eventually, more than just a player’s race started to affect the decisions of “deals” or “no deals” around the board; decisions became about class, players congregating, self-congratulating and dealing within exclusively. The descendants of the original European-Americans, within as few as one or two generations of their grandparents arriving as immigrants themselves, for instance, made sure to label others with the mantle “immigrant” and “alien” instead.

…a rule called the “13th Amendment,” allowed for slavery to continue as long as it was as “a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” Suddenly, loitering and vagrancy arrests spiked.

New to the game. Lucky to have a seat. Mostly unwelcome. 

Still taxed at every single American register in the 21st century, these off-the-books, scapegoated humans from south of the border end up contributing more to the IRS’ coffers yearly than do over ten million on-the-books Americans, many of whom are modern white families who get paid by the government at tax season, whether on welfare or unemployment normally or not, through what’s known as the “earned income tax credit.” 

The irony is snow-squall thick, living oxymorons.

January 1st, 2020. “Go.” We current players, of all races and classes, resting our wrists on the board, know for a fact that our grandparents lived across the street from Civil War veterans — for several decades, even — and we’re supposed to believe that this game hasn’t been rigged from the start for a ton of players here. That we are not still under the chilling economic and social shades of our past’s hellacious shadows.

Around the board we’ve gone. The cash from the bank tray is dwindling. Those who roll enough with compound interest get exponentially more, more, more everything. Collect 200 privileges. 

Along the way, favorites have come and gone, top players who rise closer and closer to the top rankings. Others now considered powerful were out of favor once, too, all to different degrees. The winning players love to point all this out, how awful they once made it for others who shared their skin color, too: Catholics, the Irish, Italians. 

But Catholics had the Oval Office before Black Americans all could vote. 

How much longer before we sit up straight and say, “All right, everyone — rule reset, new game?” How badly do the clear winners want to win this thing? 

This summer, in June of 2020, we lived through the rounds of the game where a lot of players at once did just that: they sat up straight and asked tough questions about the game as it currently sits. Spines aligned perfectly, these crowds were diverse, demanding and resolved. Over the days and weeks of mostly peaceful protests, a large majority never flipped the game board — though I’m not sure how anyone could blame them if they did. 

Upwards of 95% took the higher road, in moments of incredible strength, courage and ethic. 

Instead, many of the same ones now angry that these late-to-the-game, scattered players are challenging the additions to the rule book were themselves upset when a new public health rule was added just within the last couple of months — and no, they were not all placid in their ire.

Capitalism, it seems like a good game, maybe even a great one. I’d love to play it someday.

We’ve never played with a genuinely free start and free market to even know if it’d even work as imagined most famously by philosopher Adam Smith among others. Lawmakers and the starting players have enacted racial socialism from the start, benefits for a class of skin color that tilted the markets severely.

There’s a natural element to the original game pitch, as Andrew Carnegie once argued. “Survival of the fittest” is the way of life in the universe that we occupy, our will existing to graft extra rules onto this eternal die. And some of us have just loved to change those rules to control who and how others play.

The rules in a capitalist, supposed meritocracy like ours are almost exactly like those of Monopoly — but above, and now enumerated here, are three major differences: 

  1. The starting players have forced other players to enter the game late and with little to no starter cash, despite the starter players’ having some from their families, unsplit — and you, my reader, know it. 

  2. Players, already with significant head starts, often made and make dramatically different allowances and concessions for different sales of goods, services and properties, forgiving debts and allowing for or altering loan agreements based literally on the skin color of the other player with whom they are dealing — and you, my reader, know it. 

  3. The game has been going on for so long that compound interest has crowned winners “winners” again, over and over again. It has made losers somehow even more at losses each time ’round the board, a dizzying speed and acceleration to the unfairness, worsening inequities rapidly — and you know it. 

With these rules, what we play cannot be called capitalism. It’s a knock-off version, sapitalism or something.

A fourth truth to recognize, if you can find even a single compassionate cell in your brain, is this: our current winners blame millions nearly completely for their own losing, mocking in private, mocking in public. Sore winners, they rarely if ever concede to the head starts early players and their ancestors so clearly had and have. 

What we each really want always is a fair competition, in this case, through the already-winning players performing an exorcism on themselves, at least of their prejudices.

Some players have won the current game round to such a wild degree that the rest of us don’t even have a chance anymore. Have you ever played a board game with others, and had to keep playing, even though you already knew you’d lost?

Are we supposed to be surprised that those who started the game have won it, and that those barely dealt-in and dealt-in late, have effectively lost? Is this really news? 

What advantages Black Americans have gained for themselves and their communities always seem to backfire in damaging ways for innocent families, the fire-starting mobs left unprosecuted, to put it mildly. Later, we often come to find that what few reasons for the violence that did appear rational were simply lies.

As BET put it, “Karens” are not unique to this decade. Far from it. One woman whose lie caused the savage beating and murder of a 14-year-old Black American boy Emmett Till, confessed 62 years later in 2017 to fabricating her original testimony. To lying.

Two stories walked into a courtroom to defend themselves. The writer of one, was already dead.

Like bears hoarding for a billion winters are our top 50. Their giving back a million here, a million there — this, from hundred billionaires — is mostly a very much unfunny joke to those who understand math and finance. Words can be funny sometimes: one billion feels like less than 999 million. I’ll say it again: the winners are hundred billionaires. They’ve actually made money from the pandemic, too.

No, not all of their wealth is liquid. But boy, is a great deal of it. The arguments from the right about the rich’s lack of liquid wealth tend to shut down the left effectively, but qualifications, as always, are in order. Billions and billions and billions do sit in bank accounts, not stocks, accruing interest and waiting for the green light of a credit card swipe, or the signature on a check.

As landlords and bank owners, the winners charge us money to occupy spaces on the board they no longer have any actual use for themselves, or never did in the first place, not even to fund their life necessities and desires long already fulfilled, or promised business expansions never endeavored.

Some take mortgage and tenant payments and reinvest in communities, sure. Most don’t even try. Why would they? For decades, we’ve idolized their personal mansions, personal jewelry and personal collections. We’ve produced shows about their extravagance, penned songs and screenplays glorifying their habits. 

Beavers with sticks. Squirrels with acorns. Jay Gatsby already with the biggest house, but still jealous, staring at a green light across the bay as if it were Medusa. 

These descendant bears continue to hoard and hibernate in 30-roomed mansions, garages of 300 cars, collecting, backstroking their way through their piles of stuff digital and physical like Scrooge McDuck, but far creepier, like Howard the Duck. 

Our winners hoard even as the winters of the world — untimely death, hunger, ill-health, minimal or zero resources — become fewer and fewer, less cold, less dangerous, less possible. It’s almost as if their behavior is all habit. 

It is. Just ask any animal. 

Players are fed up. They’re trying to fix the game, not end it, and they don’t quite know how. 

The broader middle class isn’t doing so hot. We Americans, 78% of us live “paycheck to paycheck,” and the card-carrying capitalists tell us it’s because 78% of us spend too much or are somehow lazy. Inflation has continued by the second, as it always will, but the minimum wage hasn’t changed a cent in 11 years, a record for our country.

We all love a good competition in different ways, gamified worlds. What we each really want always is a fair competition, in this case, through the already-winning players performing an exorcism on themselves at least of their prejudices. The riddance would be game-changing. 

The protesting players at the table will know the exorcism has taken when the others across the board fess up to their obvious privileges, when they fess up to their hoarding and their avoidance of reinvesting, hunkerings down far more frequent than would ever be rational. 

Beavers with sticks. Squirrels with acorns. Jay Gatsby already with the biggest house, but still jealous, staring at a green light across the bay as if it were Medusa. 

Evidenced by the winners’ real habits unchecked, what appear to be rational cries of socialism have now arisen. I know what Bernie doesn’t perhaps, that just as Jeff Goldblum’s character Malcolm put it in Jurassic Park, and just as water finds the path of least resistance, our winners too will always find a way to express their ancient, animalistic habits to hoard and to misdirect our sight away from their piles. It won’t matter what bills like those Sanders proposes actually pass into law; they will find ways around them. 

Winners, consider this an invitation not to. Know that socialism need not be the attempted solution, not if you genuinely and very publicly change by degrees and allow for us to move forward as a country just as other developed nations have so successfully, with their rich investing back into their own companies or fellow citizens either by a forced and acceptable tax, or preferably and more permanently by philanthropic intent, by choice. And therein lies the power of exponential, compound interest: even a few degrees more of reinvestment and philanthropy from some hundred-billionaires, and the game genuinely gets fairer. 

The promises of the Industrial Revolution have shaped our nation like running water to a canyon, and in the resultant ravine, a better life for all is now not just possible but likely — yours included…

Support the trialing, for instance, of either the universal or partial collection of a bit of money when passing “Go,” to give people of all skin colors a fighting chance. 

Elizabeth Maggie, the inventor who thought up Monopoly, found the “$200” rule to be so important when she tested the gameplay, that she made “Go” its own space, real estate deeded to all amongst other private spaces. 

This maneuver of hers rests neatly in plastic packaging in every Wal-mart across the land. It allowed for the game to remain fun, even when a player knew they were in last place. They were never to feel completely cornered. 

Ms. Maggie created Monopoly to expose the eventual inequities in later rounds of capitalism. She failed. Whom she exposed as the emperors without clothes were not Smith’s capitalism and its future, but Smith’s winners.

Winners, all you have to lose in accepting the reality of our shared history is that warm feeling you get when you look in the mirror and say, uniquely, “I alone made me.” Those four words can be distilled into just one, a sin: your “Pride.”

I fear, I may have already stripped you of the privilege of your more adulating mirror moments if you’ve read this far. If not, perhaps your twelfth mansion will finally be what settles your instincts.

Beneficial to all is the taming of prideful hoarding. Liquid checking funds and cash unsaved, uninvested and unspent deserve liberation and application to other Americans or industries chosen by the earner — a humble gathering of first aid kits from an aisle where they otherwise were collecting dust. Then, we may unlatch each and apply its tools to our injured on the battlefields of the economy, restarting the game for individuals without restarting the game for all.

Philanthropy comes in a variety of methods, as does reinvestment. Even merely a jump to another industry from which billions may still flow — from say, the prison industrial complex, to vertical farming technology or therapeutics — could, widespread, augment the joy of playing our collective game.

Those searching for a reset do not seek “handouts.” The term is horrifically backwards, a way to ridicule the same poor for whom Jesus himself wept, their feet, kissed by him.

What progressive protestors have wanted for years, even, is at least a go at a fresh round. They concede so much. They don’t ask the 1% to unload all of their headstarts. They know, the landlords of the nation will never let their tenants just outright own the floors underneath their feet from one day to the next.

They know, that appeals to a sense of compassion the 1% culturally agrees is “weakness in disguise” will fail. They know, their requests will be deemed those of “losers, who lost fair and square.”

They know, the 1% and its in-pocket politicans will ignore tangible data on how giving the homeless each a small apartment, for example, actually saves a county, state and country money. They know, that pointing to countries where similar models of less greedy upper classes are already in effect to great success will, too, fail.

The protestors, they know that their evidence-based suggestions will be drowned out by terrified screams of “communism.” They will never try to depose the 1%. They’re not that stupid. They are more than aware of the militias who believe in the God-given right for us all to purchase a 301st car while our brothers starve.

What these protestors really want is to be treated like the formidable players they can be and have been, coaxing you to jump back into the ring with them fair and square.

Winners, I say you get in there and let them have it. The promises of the Industrial Revolution have shaped our nation like running water to a canyon, and in the resultant ravine, a better life for all is now not just possible but likely — yours included — with happier more willing players all around, healthier humans making your products, thinking up new ideas from which you benefit, treating your wounds, making most humans’ lives better.

I say, you start buying better feelings. You’re already doing just that, you know — buying feelings. Up until this moment, you’ve bought the feelings of fictional superiority.

Damn, you just missed the last one. We’re out of stock.

We just got in, though, these feelings of joy, and there’s a special on the tears that will fall down your cheek after you send a young person to college. We also sell the catharsis from “donating to a children’s hospital.” And if you’re more in the market for long-term feelings, consider switching industries if possible to something a little more… what’s the word… humane.

Get into the economy of the ideas. It’s an emerging market.

Life can be a celebration of the land, or at least, we should all work to make it one. Already prosperous as a country, we may need few if any new laws or taxes to celebrate and play, not a socialist in sight. Instead, we need only conscience to keep the game interesting.

Ya’ chicken? Bok, bok. Your fellow Americans would like a “Go.”

Wanna play?

Theoretical, democratic-socialist legislation to tame capitalist instincts to hoard, aimed specifically at the 1%, will work, a release valve providing for the 99%.

Even with moderate changes of attitude from capitalism’s winners about reinvesting and gifting, few if any laws would even need to be passed for us to see massive changes in the lives, liberties and pursuits of happiness in our country. Initiating a universal basic income, or one targeted and gradated for certain income brackets, would benefit all Americans.

IDEAS SIFTED: capitalism, American History, Monopoly, slavery in America, sexism, racism, Adam Smith, Andrew Carnegie, The Great Gatsby, Bernie Sanders, Jurassic Park.