American Socialism – A Game

Let’s play a game.

Take a Monopoly board, or something like it. House rules and all that. This works best, by the way, with upwards of four people. We’ll repurpose Monopoly almost in its entirety for this little exercise. Also, you might want to get yourself more dice.

So, Monopoly involves advancing spaces around a square board, purchasing property from a single bank, paying tax to that bank periodically, and charging other players money when they’re unlucky enough to fall on property you own. With more money, you can throw down houses and later hotels on the properties you own a streak of and, in return, charge exorbitantly more every time a player lands there.

In our game, we’ll do something similar. Let’s instead have property—and now loans, too—issued from a single bank, like in the original, but this time we’ll have money administered, taxed, and collected by the government. The government will also pay for charges to certain properties, but more on that later. Property rent will be handled differently, as will the paydays received from passing your starting point, the nature of the money you use, and, ultimately, even the object of the game. Important modifiers must also be introduced.

The first thing to be understood about this game is that it is largely a navigation of taxation. You have a lot of perks—like some free stuff that the modifiers give to every player, mostly across the board—but it comes at the expense of such a heavily-regulated structure of payment, taxation, debt, and interest that it turns into a confusing headache pretty fast. (You might be wondering why you’d want to play this game. Well, bear with me.)

Taxation is the overall blood of this game’s machine. Where Monopoly was ruled largely by the chance of the dice, our game has to be a bit more rigid; the easiest way to do this is to run everything—every debt paid, every service rendered—through a system of taxation and dispensation. Certainly not to the point of the State OWNING the means of distribution and production—I mean, that’d be a pretty boring game!—but a middle ground should be reached. Taxation works out well and forms a coherent enough system (if not altogether logical sometimes) that everything balances out in the end.

So, the good parts first: where does the tax go? What does this government do with it?   Here’s where the modifiers come in. Every player gets to roll a few dice at the beginning of the game to establish their Education, Health, and Employment statuses. In an ideal world, after all, everyone has a right to free access to education and healthcare, a right to employment, and let’s not forget that some system of social welfare should be available to anyone down on their luck, right? Sure!

For the game’s purposes, your Education modifier implies that every player has taken advantage of the free public university options available to all potential real estate investors, which means you have a one in six chance of actually having the benefit of a university that dispenses quality education affords to its clients. In other words, at the beginning of the game, you’d roll a die and if it landed on, say, one, then presto! that free university education actually helped you some tangible way—you’ll rack in an extra 10% on every paychecks from passing Go. Miss that one and, well, sucks for you that your now-ubiquitous university credits didn’t translate into anything that helped you get a better job.

The Healthcare modifier is only going to be useful for some of your chance cards. After all, disaster could strike at any time—pretty much completely by chance. But remember, when that life-threatening illness hits you or you end up in a coma after a car accident, it’ll be great when you aren’t the one left holding the bills for all that treatment! A 1:3 chance roll of the die will decide whether you actually receive treatment, though. If you don’t, then there are penalties associated with your play after the accident(s).  But don’t worry, the waiting list can only be so long, so eventually they’ll get around to you.

Lastly, your Employment modifier determines the size of your paycheck every time you make a revolution around the board—determined, of course, by the great and powerful six-sided die and a simple multiplication set afterward.

That’s most of the free stuff. What about the taxes themselves?

Well, that’s basically the game.

Play commences not unlike traditional Monopoly. Roll some dice, move some squares, land on properties, decide whether or not to invest, repeat. There are a few key differences, however. The properties you buy accrue rent income regardless of whether another player lands on them or not. They are essentially money trees that grow more the more you invest. Sounds great (or broken, depending on your love of the original game)—except that the government demands its share of the profits. Sales tax is applied to every transaction of property—whether from bank to individual or between individuals, a certain amount (around 5%) of the property’s value goes to the government immediately. Also, if you’re purchasing property through a bank (and not from another normal player), closing costs are due to the bank as well (depends on the property, but usually around 10%). Then, property tax (about 10% of the value) is due once every revolution, all at once, for every property a player owns. Remember, should you invest more heavily in your property, its value goes up, as does its tax.

Further taxes are placed upon your ‘paycheck’—that bit of money guaranteed to you ever revolution? Yeah, that’s taxed in spite of your Employment and Education modifiers. This is your income tax, and while it’s due every time your paycheck comes in (just like property tax), it’s applied to your overall income that revolution. Cue the tax brackets! There’d be an accompanying chart to help you navigate that—it’s a little muddy, but don’t worry, if you’re making less than an exorbitant amount of money, then you shouldn’t have to worry about paying anything more than about 50% of your earnings to the State.

This covers the basic properties. Utilities and railroads are a bit different. The players that own these facilities get money directly from the government due to how heavily subsidized these industries are, in addition to these facilities generating a small income of their own.

So you have sales taxes for the properties you buy, closing costs, property tax, and a general income tax. All of this sounds like you should still be able to make a ton of money and basically win the game with deals and driving your competition into bankruptcy, right? No! That isn’t how it works at all, you filthy one-percenter! Listen: the government happens to have racked up tremendous debt in the past several years. The precise number of that debt depends a lot on the number of players, but for the sake of argument, we’ll just throw a really big number out there… say a few billion (far more reasonable than the actual debt of the US Government, certainly, but astronomical for a game whose most expensive property probably won’t be worth more than a grand even after a hotel sits on it).

Now you could say, “why should I, a player-entrepreneur and real-estate mogul, care about the national debt? That’s the government’s problem!” And you’re right, it is the State’s problem, but remember that any problem of the State’s is a problem of yours, citizen. All that debt is racked up due to a massive government deficit doled out to welfare recipients and the unemployed, but also because the lowest income tax bracket (one that you have no way of making it into once you purchase your first property) isn’t, in fact, a tax bracket at all but rather a stipend bracket in which money is given away freely to these working folks—on the government dime, no less—with hope that they stay working right where they are… otherwise they’d end up unemployed, and receiving other money—on the government dime—for staying at home and sending out a couple applications once a week… or worse, on welfare, receiving money—on the government dime—for… staying home…? No, that can’t be right.

Anyway, such trifling details don’t matter.

Yes, mister entrepreneur: you are the top ten percent! If you play the game well enough, you’ll even make it into the top one percent! And the more money you make, the more you’ll be taxed—even proportional to your income—until you’ll be dishing out close to ninety percent of your gross income in order for the government to write checks to the people less fortunate than you are—many of whom are probably even paying you rent on some of the properties you own.

Give or take, every time the first player makes a complete revolution around the board, the federal deficit goes up—because discretionary spending on handouts and programs increases with each new child born into poverty! That cranks up the debt even more! Again, why does that matter to you?

Because the State has the power to print more money. That means inflation! Every, say, ten turns or so, the government revs up those presses to pour some more Monopoly money onto the board—well, mostly just into the bank who then distributes it to the players through adjusted prices and rates. Naturally, your tax brackets also adjust over time, and—if we wanted to be a bit more brutal about things—the bank would maintain an firmly gripped fiat over interest rates on the properties you’ve bought with a loan but don’t necessarily have the money to pay off completely yet. If we’re going for more realistic rules, then the properties themselves would be worth significantly more than your typical Monopoly board prints on its squares, or, alternatively, you’d make significantly less off of rent payments since in our scenario they accrue regularly instead of merely by chance.

The long and short of it: the more money you make, the more of that gets handed over to the government to support the invisible populous who could be paying your rent, the less valuable your money gets, and the less likely you’ll ever be able to make even a dent in the overhanging debt of the game. Does this sound like a game that can be won?

Now, I fully admit that this exercise contorts the theory behind the forms of American Socialism pushed by the harder Left segments of our politico establishment, but that’s because I didn’t want to trouble with the notion that other nation-states exist which would require the funding of a military (more debt), or that a more centrally-planned State would establish precedent for the government to effectively do whatever it likes at the expense of its own citizenry purely on the basis that it is stronger and more organized than they are. And I didn’t really want to get into the minutiae of daily living in an environment utterly controlled by a mismanaged, broke, bureaucratically incompetent government that sees fit to manage healthcare the same way it’s managed its public school system, but I think you get the idea.  The game of wealth redistribution is one that chases its tail.

But hey, this is just a game—and not even a real one, at that!  Trying to market this would be a nightmare, unless I downplayed its flaws (like how it can’t be won) and played up how much free stuff the game gives to you simply by playing it.  I might make a few bucks in the short term, but everyone that played it would realize pretty soon that it was a load of bunk, and they’d probably discourage their friends from getting themselves a copy.  Not to mention how much of a headache it’d be to play this at parties.  I probably wouldn’t even make back the investment of the material and marketing costs.

Maybe it would be better if we just assumed that there’s a reason this game doesn’t exist.

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