Not even widely beloved board games are immune from the left’s ruthless politicization of daily life. The newest edition of the Public Broadcasting System series American Experience delves into the history of the famous board game Monopoly in “Ruthless: Monopoly's Secret History.”
But not content to relay the sordid history of how Parker Brothers-anointed game “inventor” Charles Darrow ripped off previous versions of the game, including a socialist version by Lizzie Magie, the makers had to shoehorn misleading anti-capitalist ideology in, falsely conflating capitalism with harmful monopoly power and reducing them both to “greed.” Never mind that the actual game play of Monopoly has little to do with capitalism.
Within the first two minutes we hear brief voiceovers from a series of talking heads, all spouting jeremiads. Brief biographies follow their quotes from “Ruthless…”
Bryant Simon: In America, we've created a myth that capitalists like competition, but no capitalist wants competition. What all companies want is monopoly.
(Simon is a history professor who argues that Monopoly reflects American racism.)
Patrick Jagoda: This story about Monopoly is filled with ironies. I mean, this is one of the things that makes it so compelling. It's not just the twists and turns, but the fact that it is a game about capitalism that was created to teach people about something completely different.
(Jagoda is a specialist in game studies at the University of Chicago.)
Kate Raworth: The dynamics written into the rules of this game were never intended to be the rules. It should come with a health warning, like a packet of cigarettes. ‘You are playing a twisted version of this game.’”
(Raworth is a left-wing economist.)
Later on, game designer Ashlyn Sparrow forwarded hopelessness along with up-to-date woke-ism:
Monopoly makes it easy to imagine that you can, you know, accomplish your goals, accomplish your vision, you can start a business, and you don't have to think about what you look like, where you come from, that you're from a different class, from a different race, have a different gender, have a different gender expression. You don't have to think about any of that at all, right? And that is the problem and the myth that Monopoly continues to just push forward.
What this left-wing wall of unanimity ignores: Of all forms of economics, capitalism is most focused on results and the least on who you are. It is the most class-blind, color-blind, sex-blind economic philosophy around, closer to a meritocracy than the socialism most commenters here would likely prefer.
Another portion of the show featured unsubtle interruptions from children playing the game, meant to show the inherent unfairness of capitalism -- er, Monopoly.
Raworth: Why is this game the game that we remember and loved and wanted to play? And the traits it brings out are ruthlessness, greed, acquisition, accumulation, no pity for your opponent. And the irony is that we're drawn to playing it.
Kid playing Monopoly: “I have the most money!”
Lindsay Grace, gaming scholar: It is a zero-sum game, and so the kind of rhetoric there is that there can be only one victor. And I think that's an interesting metaphor of the way that our capitalist system works in the United States.
Kid playing Monopoly: “You got lucky.”
Near the end, journalist Mary Pilon summed up the “game of capitalism,” which Ruthless producers apparently think is rigged:
Monopoly is tied to so much history and so many memories for people, that belongs to everybody. But I think that the myth of Monopoly does obscure a lot of realities about this country, about class, about race, about gender, about how our current, dare I say, game of capitalism is played, and has been for centuries….