What connection could there be between a social reformist and an immensely popular American classic board game? You may be familiar with the Monopoly board game. However, most people are not quite knowledgeable about the Quaker woman by the name of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie-Phillips – the person behind the classic pastime activity. But before people started calling it Monopoly, she first called her creation as The Landlord’s Game.
The Philosophy of Henry George
Way back in the 1800’s, Lizzie Magie became inspired by the teachings of Henry George – an advocate of the “single tax” principle on land. Henry George argued that the government should levy only one tax on land that is still in its natural state. Charles L. Hooper, an engineering-economist from Stanford University, explains Henry George’s belief on land taxation like this: (Reference)
George was not simply trying to design a system of taxation devoid of untoward consequences; he felt that virtually all economic problems arise from “the fact that the land on which and from which all must live is made exclusive property of some.” His goal was nothing less than to make all land common property, but he realized that, “[i]t is not necessary to confiscate land; it is only necessary to confiscate rent.”
What has this have to do with Monopoly, you might be wondering? It will become apparent in Lizzie Magie’s reason for creating the board game in the first place. Her main reason is to spread those aforementioned beliefs of the political economist. In Edward J. Dodson’s article How Henry George’s Principles Were Corrupted into the Game Called Monoply, an excerpt from Lizzie’s essay was cited, to show how steadfast she was in her ideals in relation to Monopoly: (Reference)
“What is the value of our philosophy if we do not do our utmost to apply it? To simply know a thing is not enough. To merely speak or write of it occasionally among ourselves is not enough. We must do something about it on a large scale if we are to make headway. These are critical times, and drastic action is needed. To make any worthwhile impression on the multitude, we must go in droves into the sacred precincts of the men we are after. We must not only tell them, but show them just how and why and where our claims can be proven in some actual situation…”
With a simple game, Magie-Phillips hoped to make the system of land-grabbing and all its after-effects realized by the populace.
The Commercial Version of Monopoly
The Parker Brothers, however, bought out her patents with only $500; giving her no royalties, while agreeing to change nothing about her game. However, they did the opposite of what was agreed in the end. Before they even made a deal with Magie-Philips, Fred and George Parker bought a game from a certain Charles Darrow – former heater salesman who was currently unemployed at that time. He claimed to have “invented” and played a game called MONOPOLY – a board game that was based on The Landlord’s Game.
So prior to buying out Magie-Phillips, the Parker Brothers purchased Monopoly from Charles Darrow, making him rich when it sold over 200,000 copies in its first year on the market. The only downside is that Magie-Phillips’ vision of sharing her hopes for the nation slowly faltered into the abyss.
Despite a controversial origin for Monopoly, it is interesting to learn that it was inspired from something bigger and significant than its sales. It may seem hard to believe that a game for sheer amusement was created out of such ideals. Nonetheless, playing Monopoly is something that people have enjoyed playing throughout the years.
We have different monopoly games at our amazon store. Check out the links below.
Insights? Comments? Come join the discussion below.