mardi 4 novembre 2008


"The greatest casualty of today's unfolding crisis is the belief that bankers are performing a needed function in today's world"

I have not been following the US election that closely. I merely reiterate the fact that Obama is going to win easily and that the Republicans will be wiped out. I have been a bit slack over the last few days, blog wise, because the US election will soak up the only reader I have's time, and we've been travelling up and down France the last few days.

Anyway, I came here, really, to say something unconnected to the elections. In the latest 'Private Eye', a reader sent in a photo of part of the rules of the board game 'Monopoly'. I like board games, on the whole, but there is something gross about Monopoly. I'm sure you know the format. A board whose edges are divided into ten squares that represent places in London (or more recently anywhere else). These places are ranked in order of socio-economic status. Old kent road is the first square on the round and is the poor areas, and one can 'buy' these places cheaply but they don't generate much rent. Plus, for some reason, this part of London is represented by the colour brown. The rest of London's districts are represented in different colours culminating in the royal blue of Mayfair, coming in at a whopping £400. The aim of the game is to buy places and by luck of dice and cunning to bankrupt all the other players.

The game was banned in the USSR. During the cold war, one thought of this as further evidence of the madness of Soviet-style communism. Now, it's time to rethink. The game does encourage greed, individualism and to win at all costs competiveness. True, I've played games when, people have subverted the ethos of the game and lent money to eachother and so on, but mainly the game is been played out in an atmosphere of increasing hostility and mistrust. It is a training for tomorrow's thrusting capitalists; if the system is around that long of course.
In the current crisis, the game's rules look eerily quaint.

The photo in Private Eye is of a question in the rule book that asks 'What happens if the bank goes bankrupt?' The reply is apt. It reads 'The bank never goes bankrupt. To continue playing use slips of paper to keep track of each player's banking transactions - until the bank has enough paper money to operate again.'

The hidden moral of that point is that one can play without banks. Since real World finance is just a game as well, why not let them all go bust in real life? "The producers, savers, entrepreneurs who had previously accepted the banker's credit based money as legitimate are now discovering they were but suckers in an opaque and cleverly constructed street game, sic Wall Street's, designed to defraud the unsuspecting and vulnerable onlookers and players. "

But Obama will carry on the Republicans' work. Nothing will change. Expectations will be raised briefly but the loaded dice will be rolled again and people will be forced to play the same old game. Unless. . .