Elizabeth Phillips,1866–1948: Hotels on Boardwalk

When the power went for better part of a week during Super Storm (not Hurricane) Sandy, our household was thrown back to earlier, more primitive diversions than television or the internet.   Among these was Monopoly.

I’d only vaguely remembered just how irritating a game it really was after the first dozen or so rotations.  Memories of irritated, not to say angry, young children who were left out on the street despite having hotels on Board Walk and Park Place.  What kind of crummy game was this, anyway?

Turns out, anger and irritation was the whole idea.

That is to say, that was the whole idea of the original game.  ‘The Landlord’s Game’, the first iteration of the thing, was the brain child of Elizabeth Phillips (née Magie) who wanted a means of explaining to children the alarming disparities under unbridled capitalism.  Winner takes all and in a very nasty manner.

Her inspiration was Henry George, who saw the answer in a single tax on land.  It was a popular economic movement back in the day and has proponents even now.  Not my business to enter the argument of wise or foolish, enough to say that Ms Phillips agreed whole-heartedly and wanted to do something to further the enterprise.  The Landlord Game was it.

It didn’t get far outside the acolytes of Georgism, even less so during the boom years of the twenties.  She finally sold out the thing to Parker Brothers for $US 500 – not bad money in 1932,  by the way, which may have salved a few consciences, assuming there was conscience to begin with.

Me, I’m just glad the power came back on and no more Monopoly.  I had forgotten how much I really dislike that game.

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