The Free Market

Good Essays
Topics: Monopoly, Economics
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The Mises Institute monthly

Volume 24, Number 6
June 2004
Monopoly: Parker Brothers Gets It Wrong
By Benjamin Powell and David Skarbek
You have surely played Parker Brothers’ board game Monopoly. It has been published in 26 languages and in 80 countries around the world. Since being introduced in 1935, in fact, an estimated one-half billion people have played it. It has taught the multitudes what they know about how an economy works.
The problem is that the game seriously misrepresents how an actual market economy operates. To review, in the free market, Mises wrote, "Neither the entrepreneurs nor the farmers nor the capitalists determine what has to be produced. The consumers do that. . . . Their buying and their abstention from buying decides who should own and run the plants and the farms. They make poor people rich and rich people poor. They determine precisely what should be produced, in what quality, and in what quantities. They are merciless bosses, full of whims and fancies, changeable and unpredictable."
That’s the real world. In the game Monopoly, owners of land and houses and hotels, through acquiring their possessions by luck, are flattered into believing they are masters of the universe, extracting profits from anyone who passes their way. There is no consumer choice and no consumer sovereignty. This is not a small detail. The entire raison d’etre of the market is missing, and thus the real goal and the guide of all production in a market economy.
Consumer choice is replaced by a roll of the dice. The player then becomes passive. Landing on property owned by another person creates not a mutual gain but a loss. In this way, trade is portrayed as "zero-sum." The elimination of consumer choice leads to the belief that businesses profit only at the consumers’ expense.
In the real world, when consumers choose to purchase items from businesses, there are always expected gains from trade. Two people voluntarily act in their own best interest

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