There are Better Games Than Monopoly
I’m a huge game player.
My family owns at least a hundred board games: Ticket to Ride, Splendor, Dominion, and many more. Although I play for fun, a side benefit is that games sharpen your real-world strategy skills. (LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman said that obsessive game-playing as a kid helped him build his personal fortune.)
Games can also make you a better investor, because so many games — especially modern games — involve some kind of in-game money. They give you a feel for “money mechanics,” or the hidden laws that govern the universe of money.
But there’s one game that we do not play: Monopoly.
Now, I loved Monopoly as a kid. My friends and I would play these epic games that would last for weeks, rendering the dining room table unusable until we were finished. And if you remember Monopoly, that could be a very long time.
Part of the reason that Monopoly took so long was that we played with the “Free Parking” rule: instead of paying all your taxes and fees to the bank, you put them in a pot in the middle of the board. When someone landed on the “Free Parking” square, by luck, they won the pot.
Hasbro, the makers of Monopoly, doesn’t recommend playing with this rule, because it makes the game intolerably long. This is why our childhoods were filled with Monopoly marathons: every time someone was close to winning, another player would hit the Free Parking lottery, extending the game for another two weeks.
So why did we play with Free Parking? Sure, it was fun to hit the jackpot. But more importantly, it felt terrible to lose to the most powerful player.
It didn’t seem fair.
I vividly remember that feeling of one person amassing more and more wealth, buying up the most powerful properties and upgrading them until the rents were unpayable. Do you remember the terror of rolling a six and landing on Boardwalk with a hotel?
If we wonder why capitalism has run amok in our society, the widening gulf between the rich and the poor, maybe we should stop encouraging kids to play Monopoly.
Seriously. I love competition, but the point of Monopoly is to get as rich as possible, raise rents, and drive your opponents to bankruptcy. Thank you, Hasbro.
The Rise of the Super-Rich
Few of us want to live in a society where the rich continue to get so rich that they drive everyone else to financial ruin. Yet this Monopoly dynamic is playing out, right now, in real life.
To distill this 704-page magnum opus into a sentence, Capital shows that wealth inequality is getting worse. The game of Monopoly is playing out, in real life.
If you let the above numbers sink in, it’s pretty sobering: The top 10% earn half of the income in the U.S., while the bottom half earn just 20%. It may help to see this as a chart:
Since World War II, the top 10% are sucking up more and more wealth; the top 1% even more so.
Sure, we all kind of know that: every time we see a billionaire blast off into space, we’re reminded that the rich are getting richer. What Capital really brings to the table is the explanation of why.
Why? Why, as a society, do we choose Monopoly over more cooperative games like Settlers of Catan?
Like Einstein’s theory of relativity, the central premise of Capital comes down to one equation:
r > g
In simple language: when the rate of return on wealth (r) is greater than the rate of economic growth (g), the rich get richer and the Monopoly board tilts in their favor, driving everyone else to bankruptcy.
In other words, the wealthy will always use their money to make more money (in the form of higher rents, offshore investments, and so on), but when these profits exceed the growth rate of the entire economy, the balance of wealth moves inexorably to the rich.
Although this is exactly what happens in Monopoly, there’s one problem: we don’t want society to work like Monopoly. Unlike the game, which we hope will come to a merciful end, we want society to continue. We don’t want the top 10% to own most of the world, while the bottom half owns nothing.
Instead, we want some kind of wealth redistribution, like the “Free Parking” rule in Monopoly. Kids understand this. Why don’t adults?
This is where blockchain can help.
One World, One Money, One Tax
I have previously proposed that we move to a “one world, one money” system: a blockchain-based digital currency, used by all nations, overseen by a global bank like the IMF. (More details here.)
“Isn’t that bitcoin?” you ask.
I don’t see bitcoin fulfilling this vision, at least in its current incarnation. The price is too unstable to use as a currency. But bitcoin will be used as the model.
This is the solution to our problems of wealth inequality: a digital currency, that can be used worldwide, overseen by a global bank.
Like bitcoin, but better.
Think about it: we live in a global economy. We’re all connected. We all use money. So why shouldn’t we all use the same money?
To be clear, we can still have our U.S. dollar, but we now have a global currency besides.
This currency can be overseen by a global bank like the International Monetary Fund, which already coordinates the movement of money between nations. We already have the institution.
And now, thanks to bitcoin and digital currencies, we have the technology.
This idea is not new; in fact, it was originally proposed by the great economist John Maynard Keynes, in the aftermath of World War II. He wanted a global currency that was managed by a “bank of nations.”
Keynes spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to call this new global money. One of the ideas they floated was “unicorns.” My colleague Chuck Coffey has suggested we call them “Unicoins.” I like that. It’s cute. “Unis.”
Unis will have world-changing advantages. They will make payments between countries faster and cheaper. They’ll help us better measure money flows between nations.
And it gets better.
Unis will allow us to narrow this growing divide between rich and poor nations — and the rich and poor in America — by allowing us to implement a global wealth tax. In other words, we tax the rich, at the same progressive tax rate, no matter where they live or hold their wealth.
Digital currencies are programmable. The tax, in other words, can be programmed in. No more tax dodging or hiding your wealth offshore.
A global digital currency, with this global digital tax, is the solution to this growing divide between rich and poor. It will make it clear where the money is going, since the wealthy often hide their money in other countries. And it will provide a set of global rules for the global economy.
It’s the best and fastest way to flip r > g into g > r. To redistribute the returns for the rich into the growth that benefits everyone.
When we move r into g, we invest in healthcare and education for everyone.
When we move r into g, we can invest in more businesses and entrepreneurs.
When we move r into g, we enable “social mobility,” meaning it’s easier for all of us to move from lower to middle class, and from middle to upper class. We share the wealth.
Few of us want society to operate like Monopoly, which is why we actually have anti-monopoly laws.
We need to share the wealth, because we fundamentally believe in fairness. We understand when one company, or the one percent, take over the world, it is increasingly difficult for others to play.
A global digital currency, with a built-in global tax, will let everybody play the game. That reinvests the rich’s returns (r) into growth for good (g).
For paid subscribers of our newsletter, we’re releasing a series of “Investor Mindset” podcasts — think of them like guided meditations for investors — to help you reprogram your brain to build health, wealth, and happiness.
Our latest episode is on helping you cultivate the virtue of Fairness. Click here to download Episode 12.
TLDR: A global digital currency, with a built-in global tax. It’s only fair.
John Hargrave is the author of Blockchain for Everyone: How I Learned the Secrets of the New Millionaire Class, the bible of blockchain investing.