Making Monopoly Great Again

I was at one of my favorite pubs for brunch on Sunday, Town Hall on Wisconsin Avenue.  A few of us regulars, including the bartender, got talking about the new normal – Occasional Government.  We tried to find some analogy to help understand what is going on and likely to happen.  I suggested the following and people seemed to embrace it.

We are having a family get together and crazy Uncle Donnie wants to have a family Monopoly game.  Several people moan, having been through this before with Donnie.  But he insists and proclaims, “I will show you how to make Monopoly great again.”  This leads to further whimpers, but everyone finally agrees to set up the game around the large dining room table.

Donnie streaks around the board, lands on Park Place and buys it.  Next turn, he throws snake eyes (ones on the dice), moves to Boardwalk and buys it.  Before handing the dice to the player on the left, he wants to build hotels.  He does not have enough money.  He needs $2000, but only has $1000.  He proposes borrowing from the bank.

This possibility is not mentioned in the rules, but our family has always allowed variations of the rules if everyone agrees.  Donnie proposes to pay 20% interest, on any remaining balance, every time he passes Go.  Interest payments would be placed in the center of the board to be gained by whoever lands on Free Parking.  Loan repayments would be paid to the bank.  Everyone agrees to this.

The hotels are placed on Boardwalk and Park Place, with rents of $2000 and $1500, respectively.  The key question is whether anybody will have to pay this before Donnie has to make interest payments.  Donnie quickly draws a Go to Jail card, thereby avoiding passing Go for three turns.  Fortunately for everyone else, no one lands on Boardwalk and Park Place during these turns.

After this stalemate, Donnie gets out of jail, makes it around the board, passes Go, and puts his $200 in the center of the board.   No one lands on Boardwalk and Park Place.  Donnie puts another $200 in the center.  He is gaining no income but has to pay a steady stream of $20-40 rents on everybody else’s undeveloped properties as he circles the board.

Donnie proposes selling shares in his Boardwalk and Park Place holdings to other players.  A couple of cash-rich players are interested, but Donnie values his holdings at double what he paid for them, so any investments by other players would be significantly diluted.  No one accepts the deal.  Donnie is becoming visibly irritated.

A couple more trips around Go, with no one landing on Boardwalk and Park Place, has Donnie on the verge of bankruptcy.  This situation, plus aunt Nancy landing on Free Parking and claiming the $1600 that he has paid in interest, has clearly unnerved Donnie.  Nancy offers him $1000 for a 50% interest in his holdings.  He is too angry to reply.

The next time around Go, Donnie keeps the $200, increasing his loan to $1200 and his interest payment to $240.  This $200 is consumed by rents he has to pay rounding the board again.  Next time past Go, he keeps the $200 again, increasing his loan to $1400 and interest payment to $280.  More to the point, he cannot pay the $240 due now.  He has $13 in cash.  He is not happy.

Several family members suggest that they call it a night.  Donnie is determined to continue.  He asks Nancy if she will still pay $1000 for 50%.  She says that things have changed and she needs 90% for $1000.  He responds that he can never win if he agrees to that.  She replies that he cannot win, but he won’t be a bankrupt loser.

Uncle Vladmir blurts out, “No one wants to be any kind of loser!” He pounds the table with his beer mug.  Everyone is startled, then distracted by one of the grandchildren crying.  Vladmir reaches under the table and provides Donnie a wad of cash.  Donnie filches the Baltic Avenue card from the bank and hands it, also under the table, to Vladmir.  Collusion at its best.

Chaos is emerging.  Nephew Bernie, who isn’t playing the game, asks to buy Vermont Avenue for real cash, not Monopoly money.  Donnie take the real money and deposits the equivalent Monopoly money in the bank.  He asks if anybody else wants to buy cards for their favorite properties.  Nancy observes, “I guess we won’t be playing Monopoly again.”

The hostess suggests they break for dessert, placing two large pies, one apple and one pumpkin, on the side of the dining room table.  Donnie grabs the two pies, one in each hand.  He blurts out, “I am going to spit on these two pies if Nancy does not agree to the 50% deal.”  Nancy responds, “You will ruin everybody’s dessert, everybody’s evening, just to avoid losing?”  He replies, “I told you the I would make Monopoly great again.”

Note: Thanks to colleagues who provided creative additions to this story.

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