Stratification Monopoly

So after reading Neal Boortz's article in the previous post, you might think that this kind of thing only happens in public grade schools [sic]. Sadly, you would be mistaken.

Last summer, I enrolled in an introductory sociology class for shits and giggles. The professor was, as I expected, a hard leftist, but amiable and respectful to students with contrary opinions.

The syllabus was divided into two parts: the first, a micro-level study of small groups and the face to face interactions among humans, and the second, a macro-level study of large groups and whole societies. Coming from a background in economics, I was somewhat surprised that sociologists use the same micro/macro distinction. And just like in economics, I enjoyed the micro-level parts and strongly disagreed with much of the macro-level.

The main focus of the macro-level was social stratification resulting from race, gender, and class divisions. In order to better understand class division and the unequal distribution of income and wealth, we played a game called Stratification Monopoly.

The following is part of an essay I wrote about the game:

Stratification Monopoly and regular monopoly are identical in all respects but one: in Stratification Monopoly, instead of all players starting the game without any properties and gradually acquiring them as they go around the board, all properties are distributed at the beginning of the game, and they are distributed unevenly.

Anyone familiar with the standard game should be able to predict the results of Stratification Monopoly simply by reading the rules. Unlike regular monopoly, there is no element of surprise or luck, because all available properties have already been distributed, leaving no opportunity for a poor player to reverse his* position. Unlike real life, there is nothing for the poor players to offer the wealthy players so that they can all benefit; rather, the poor players exist solely as an inevitable resource to be exploited by the minority bourgeoisie.

It is for this reason that Stratification Monopoly fails as an adequate representation of the inequalities of capitalism and instead serves only as an oft repeated myth of Marxist propaganda. Real life is not a zero-sum game, where in order for one player to win, another must lose. Wealth is not a fixed amount; wealth can be created, as one can clearly see if we compare the amount of wealth in the world today to the amount of wealth in the world two hundred years ago. Marxists deny this point, and instead put forth a theory of exploitation, arguing that all concentrations of wealth are a result of expropriation. Thus, a voluntary exchange between two parties is not voluntary at all; the poorer party is necessarily being exploited by the wealthier party. Marxists apply this same faulty argument to international trade, arguing that wealthier countries win while poorer countries lose. Ignore for a moment the lack of empirical evidence for this claim as well as the inconvenient fact that poorer countries explicitly state their desire to trade. Marxists just accuse these dupes of suffering from ?false consciousness.? The wonderful thing about a conspiracy theory is that anyone who denies it must be a part of the conspiracy themselves. It is non-falsifiable and nonscientific. So much for ?scientific socialism.?

As part of the essay, we were asked to suggest solutions that would fix the inequality in Stratification Monopoly:

Rather than invent my own solutions to address the inequality in Stratification Monopoly, I will simply use two solutions conveniently provided by Marx and his followers. First, applying Marx?s famous dictum, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,? an obvious solution is to simply eliminate all instances of inequality wherever and whenever they appear. Clearly, all players should begin the game with equal income and equal wealth. But that still leaves open the possibility that inequalities will emerge later in the game, as some players may get lucky and become rich and some unfortunate players will be unlucky and become poor. And as we all know (or think we know) from real life, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Therefore, we must go one step further. Every time a player purchases a property, the purchase must be unanimously agreed upon by all players. Further still, this player would not actually own the property, as private ownership is the root of all evil. Rather, the property would be owned collectively. Every time a player passes go and collects $200, or in any other way receives some sort of cash benefit, this money would be redistributed equally among all of the players. Similarly, every time a player lands on luxury tax or in some other way faces a cost, this burden must be suffered by all, equally.

Just by looking at these rules, one should already be able to tell that no inequalities will ever occur, and the players will therefore be able to enjoy the board game version of socialist utopia for all of eternity. It sounds like a very exciting game to me. Oodles of fun.

A second solution to address inequality - and unlike the previously mentioned utopia solution, this one has actually been put into practice ? is a People?s Revolution, wherein the proletariat ? in this case, the poorer players ? rise up and forcibly destroy the bourgeoisie ? in this case, the wealthier players. As Marx wrote,

    [B]y "individual" you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out of the way, and made impossible.

    - The Communist Manifesto [This was required reading for the course]

And:

    [S]o long as other classes continue to exist, the capitalist class in particular, the proletariat fights it (for with the coming of the proletariat to power, its enemies will not yet have disappeared, the old organization of society will not yet have disappeared), it must still use a measure of force, hence governmental measures; if it itself still remains a class and the economic conditions on which the class struggle and the existence of classes have not yet disappeared, they must be forcibly removed or transformed, and the process of their transformation must be forcibly accelerated.

    - After the Revolution

If the bourgeoisie player does not willingly allow the other players to ?sweep? him out of the way and ?transform? him, he will be ?purged? or sent to the ?Gulag.? In the Gulag, you do not pass go. In the Gulag, you do not collect $200.

We were also asked to suggest solutions that would fix inequality in real life:

In order to implement these changes in real life, we would need a proletarian revolution. As Marx wrote,
    [Communists] openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.

    - The Communist Manifesto

We would need a powerful government operated by a single ruling party, unburdened by such bourgeoisie notions as democracy and the rule of law. We would need a vast bureaucracy to command and control the economy. We would need to abolish all laws protecting free speech and an independent press in order to prevent ?counter-revolutionary? forces from gaining ground. We would need to establish a secret police force and encourage people to spy on their neighbors in order to scare them into doing what they are told. Under no circumstances would we let people entertain the idea of dissent. We would need to establish ?reeducation? camps in order to brainwash non-believers. Most importantly, we would need to be willing to kill hundreds of millions of our own citizens, as Marxists have already proven themselves more than willing to do. In short, we would need to establish a tyrannical dictatorship operated by a ?Lenin? or a ?Stalin? or a ?Mao? or a ?Pol Pot? or a ?Castro.?

Why anyone who is familiar with the history of Marxism in practice would want to repeat these horrors is beyond me. To borrow from Marx?s concept of ?false consciousness,? perhaps they are so blinded by ideology and their hatred of capitalism that they are unable to comprehend the fact that their own ideology has led to more death and suffering than any other in recent history.

* Note: when the professor returned our essays, he crossed out the "his" in this sentence and told me that I should either use gender neutral terms or his/her. Well, screw that. As a member of the master gender, writing with gender inequalities is one of the last bastions of oppression we have left. I say, enjoy it while you can, before it becomes a hate crime.

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Note: when the professor

Note: when the professor returned our essays, he crossed out the "his" in this sentence and told me that I should either use gender neutral terms or his/her.

Arrghh! In English, as in many other languages, the male gender pronouns double as the neutral gender pronouns, and people who get huffy like that are only showing their ignorance. I guess he would have preferred to sacrifice verb/pronoun agreement and use "their"?

And by the way, by any

And by the way, by any meaningful standard, males are not in fact the "master gender" of the human race. Females can have (female) offspring without males, if necessary; males cannot do the same.

Qiwi, I don't think his

Qiwi,

I don't think his objection to non-neutral gender pronouns is a result of ignorance; rather, it is a result of political correctness. Some radical left feminists take this even further and change the spelling of words like woman to womyn and human to humyn. Yes, it is completely ridiculous.

Looking back, though, I could have written the sentence as follows: "...leaving no opportunity for poor players to reverse their positions."

Even if the "reason" is

Even if the "reason" is political correctness, I think it is still a display of ignorance. It's a case of confusing symbols with reality, a serious failure of reasoning.

Micha, You forgot to tell us

Micha,

You forgot to tell us what grade you got on the essay! :)

Qiwi, Yes, the essence of

Qiwi,

Yes, the essence of political correctness is a confusion of symbols with reality. I don't know if I would go as far as to call it ignorance though; people can view the importance of symbols very differently.

Cap'n,

If I recall correctly, I think I received a high B or low A on the paper. As I said, he was a fair professor, despite his Marxism.

If the bourgeoisie player

If the bourgeoisie player does not willingly allow the other players to ?sweep? him out of the way and ?transform? him, he will be ?purged? or sent to the ?Gulag.? In the Gulag, you do not pass go. In the Gulag, you do not collect $200.

pretty devastating. the essay deserves a full blown a based on that paragraph alone.

Oops. Micha, very

Oops. Micha, very entertaining post. Love it. You've made my morning, and I wrote more on the next thread comment, before realizing I was in the wrong place.

Not much more, and all similarly in praise.

Cheers!

Interesting report, but I'm

Interesting report, but I'm afraid your confidence in your own view of the world might make it difficult for you to address some important contemporary facts. For example, why have wages in the US been more or less stagnant since 1972? Why are the percentages of very wealthy and very poor people growing, while the middle class is shrinking? Why are so few new jobs being created in the current 'recovery'? Marx can help you answer these questions. I don't think Adam Smith can.

I think we're all aware that there were gulags and people were killed in the name of socialist revolution. Utopian fantasies have a way of becoming quite destructive when they try to live in the real world. But that in no way diminishes the insights offered by Marx into the way capitalism actually works. If you want to expand your understanding -- rather than fight pointless political battles between 'left' and 'right' -- you'll have to open yourself up the criticisms of both left and right. No one has a monopoloy on truth -- not even the Wall Street Journal.

We would need a powerful

We would need a powerful government operated by a single ruling party, unburdened by such bourgeoisie notions as democracy and the rule of law. We would need a vast bureaucracy to command and control the economy. We would need to abolish - "all laws protecting free speech and an independent press in order to prevent ?counter-revolutionary? forces from gaining ground. We would need to establish a secret police force and encourage people to spy on their neighbors in order to scare them into doing what they are told. Under no circumstances would we let people entertain the idea of dissent. We would need to establish ?reeducation? camps in order to brainwash non-believers." -

- this exists in a capitalist system now!