Imagine the moment when you realize that a leftwing feminist has successfully injected anti-capitalist views into your culture, via an unassuming household staple. And you’re just sitting there like, “I wanna do that.”
That’s how I felt reading about the original creator of what is today known as Monopoly.
Yes, I’m talking about the famous board game; the one that takes eons to finish. It was created by an anti-capitalist feminist in 1903, and it’s stuck around ever since.
You might not know that its origins were nefarious, or borderline propagandist. I surely didn’t. But that’s the genius behind it.
This woman created a board game that has survived for over a century. It was her way of injecting her views in the broader culture. She didn’t get the glory or money, but her ultimate goal was successful: To create a board game that would communicate the monopolistic cutthroat system that she loathed.
It wasn’t preachy, it wasn’t even apparent that the game was a lesson on how horrible capitalism is (according to the feminist chick of course).
Her game is another example how to properly influence culture. It’s a blueprint for you and me on how to spread our own ideology, without coming across as cheesy or in-your-face.
The Origins of the Monopoly Board Game
Before it was Monopoly, the famous board game was called The Landlord’s Game, the creation of a progressive feminist living in Washington DC in 1903. The Landlord’s Game was the culmination of a world she saw as ever more monopolistic and disproportionate. Income inequality was rampant, corporations were in control. The problems of her era were vast.
After what was probably a buildup of resentment toward the system, Elizabeth Magie (Lizzy for short) started to brainstorm a board game one night after a day in the office. As a stenographer, she didn’t seem like an obvious choice for spreading awareness of capitalistic oppression. Her avenue for spreading that awareness was even less obvious.
The circular aspect of the game was itself unique (as most games were linear drive during that time). Along with allowing players to circle the board, she had the recognizable features of the now famous version of Monopoly; “Go to jail,” buyable properties, taxes, wages, and railroads.
Lizzy got the game patented in 1903. The game was published through the Economic Game company, and became popular with leftwing intellectuals and college campuses. It gained popularity throughout the next few decades ultimately ending up in the hands of Charles Darrow, who is now credited as the original creator of the Monopoly board game.
Lizzy’s version was bought by Parker Brothers as a tactic to rid the market of any potential Monopoly competitors. She later figured out that she wasn’t credited for the creation of the game and sued the game company.
In the end, Lizzy Magie and her original game faded into obscurity. Both Parker Brothers and now Hasbro downplay Magie’s status as original creator, refusing to include her in their official history of the game.
Lizzy Magie’s Subversive Message
“It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life’, as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem[s] to have, ie, the accumulation of wealth.” – Lizzy Magie,
The message of Lizzy’s original game was apparent in the rules themselves. She created two ways to play the game, an anti-monopoly and monopoly set of rules. One was based on the creation of wealth where all were rewarded. The other based on establishing monopolies, ultimately crushing opponents to win.
Nowadays, it’s the monopolistic version that’s survived (it’s what makes sucking your sibling’s wealth dry so fun). But the inherent dualism, and tension of two competing philosophies in her game shows the craftiness of her message.
Unless you were a leftwing capitalist hating intellectual, the chances of you discovering the underlining message were slim. The chances of the dynamics of the game affecting your overall outlook on monopolies and the market were not.
Along with this underlying message was also a hidden tribute to her political hero, the economics Henry George. George’s writings on taxing wealthy landowners and putting the ownership of natural resources in the hands of the public inspired the game.
His influence on Magie shines through in her description of The Landlord’s Game:
“It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences.”
Apparent VS Camouflaged Messaging
The effectiveness of Lizzy Magie’s messaging is in how she crafted it.
She camouflaged it, purposely weaving it into the dynamics of the game. There was no manifesto, rhetoric, or obvious intent. It’s how the game garnered so much popularity. The political and philosophical foundations of the game were not surface level. It’s how families and friends from all backgrounds could enjoy the game, like the Quakers.
If her political motives were apparent, it’s doubtful the game would’ve gotten as much traction as it did.
No one likes playing ideological in-your-face games, except for those who identify with that ideology.
When was the last time you watched a leftist documentary or played a video game that touted communist ideals? Yeah, I thought so.
Lessons from Monopoly’s Underlining Anti-Capitalistic Message
If we’re going to spread the ideas of Freedom, we’ve got to get it into the broader culture. Hopefully this is obvious. Change comes from society, not government.
But to influence society, you need a well-crafted message. Lizzy Magie’s original version of Monopoly is what a well-crafted message looks like.
If you don’t like capitalism and monopolies, create a game where competition and monopolies are seen in all their savagery. Have friends and families crush each other via monopolistic and cutthroat tactics. Magie turned the game into a microcosm of the cruelty of capitalism by using the competitiveness of families and friends.
So from looking at her original board game, here’s a few lessons on how to craft your politically-inspired “stuff.”
- Camouflage the message: don’t push it in people’s faces, don’t let them know they’re participating in an ideologically inspired movie, game, song, etc.
- Weave the message into fabric: this isn’t something you paste on top of what you’re making. The moral of the story shouldn’t be sitting there. It should communicate without party affiliation.
- Focus on the craft more than the message: basically, make it good. Make something someone would want to participate in regardless of the message. The message is worthless if the carrier is boring and subpar.
- Don’t preach to the choir: the choir doesn’t need to be reminded. You’re trying to influence culture. You’re little club isn’t culture.
- Rely on humanity to communicate your message: Lizzy crafted her game to utilize human competition to show off the savagery of monopolies. She didn’t write down why she thought monopolies were bad, she let the players exhibit it. Don’t explain your message, instead, communicate it through the actions of people.
- Create something people will enjoy: building on the previous point of focusing on the craft, you’ll want people to enjoy what you’ve created. If it reeks like an ideological soaked rag, no one will want it.
Conclusion: Be Lizzy Magie, Not Dinesh D’Souza
The best example of the opposite of what Lizzy Magie’s strategy is, is the works of Dinesh D’Souza.
D’Souza is a conservative political commentator, Christian apologist, and filmmaker. He co-directed 2016: Obama’s America, which aimed to connect Obama’s early influences with how his decisions as president.
Other documentaries of his include, America: Imagine the World Without Her, and his newest film Hillary’s America.
All though I appreciate D’Souza’s efforts, his strategy is ultimately flawed.
His documentaries preach to the choir, and stay in the realm of conservative political propaganda.
Unlike Magie’s board game, designed to be both fun for the whole family and incorporate lessons of savage monopolies, D’Souza utilizes in-your-face tactics. His work reeks of conservative rhetoric.
And it’s this very type of messaging that won’t influence Americans or culture.
His work is seen as a plain political attack. It’s obvious he’s pushing a very specific message, and that he’s of a particular worldview.
Magie’s board game was neither of those things. She kept her political leanings undercover. She created a game that communicated a specific message devoid of an obvious political ideology.
Americans will not accept our message of freedom if it’s shoved in their face. Longform political attack ads (which is basically what D’Souza’s films are) won’t influence American culture, much less win them over.
So what do you think? Do you prefer Lizzy Magie’s strategy over D’Souza’s? How would you inject your views into culture without being in-your-face? Leave your comment below.
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