Monopoly and Taxes

By James Kwak

A couple of weeks ago, Planet Money did a podcast based on a game of Monopoly. One of the participants was Russell Roberts, who professes to hate monopoly because it teaches the wrong lessons about business and the economy. At one point, Roberts said he would prefer the game if it had a progressive income tax with transfer payments to poor players. “As a result of that, you could get kids to resent taxes at an even earlier age.”

But Daniel Hamermesh, who likes Monopoly, called him on it. Hamermesh pointed out that if you had a transparent system of taxing the rich and transferring the money to the poor, players in the aggregate would be neutral, and might even understand the whole point of taxes and government spending.

Our national hatred of taxes is based on Roberts’s opinion times 300 million. The anti-tax electorate doesn’t realize that many if not most of its members are net beneficiaries of the tax system. If you have a progressive tax system (where the rich not only pay more in taxes, but pay proportionally more), then the tax burden is falling disproportionately on a minority of the population, and hence the rest of the population should be better off. (There’s an assumption here I’ll come back to.)

But people don’t realize this because, like Roberts’s hypothetical child encountering the tax system for the first time in Monopoly, they only see the tax side of the equation. Leaving aside poverty programs (since those do only affect a minority), they forget about Medicare (“keep the government away from my Medicare”), subsidized student loans, national security, police and fire services, public schools, roads, consumer product testing, clean water, parks, unemployment insurance (the middle class lose their jobs, too), the invasion of Iraq (which was wildly popular back in the day), bailouts of the financial system, and all the other things they get from the government. (If you count tax expenditures as spending, the list gets longer, and includes the mortgage interest tax deduction, the 401(k) deduction, and the employer health insurance exclusion–all of which disproportionately favor the wealthy.)

Now, the assumption is that the government is not wasting people’s money, and the intelligent counterargument is that because of government waste (due to political meddling and the lack of the profit motive, among other things), a significant proportion of tax revenues simply go up in smoke. The counterargument is that instead of giving the money to politicians to spend, people should keep it and give it to private companies that provide goods they want. So, for example, if a road needs to be built, some company will build it, and will then charge people who want to use that road.

For some types of services, this might be more economically efficient, in the sense that less money will be wasted on roads that people don’t actually want. (For other types of services, like invading Iraq, it wouldn’t work at all.) But it also means that people will only get what they pay for; that is, the poor and middle-class majority of people will no longer be able to benefit from the taxes paid by the rich minority. So for the median taxpayer, there’s some quantifiable proportion of tax revenues the government would have to waste before taxes as a whole become a bad deal. Yet many people’s starting assumption is that taxes are bad for them.

There are many mysteries about Monopoly, and actually people have been modifying the rules for decades. The thing that I wonder about is the $200 for passing Go. Isn’t that the welfare state in its purest form–money you get just because time passes?

Update: Russ Roberts responds.

74 responses to “Monopoly and Taxes

  1. If you have a progressive tax system (where the rich not only pay more in taxes, but pay proportionally more)

    Except the rich — i.e., those who own the most stuff — do not pay more in taxes. The richest actually pay the least, both as a proportion of their income (“investment”, aka. “passive”, aka. “parasite” income) and as a proportion of their assets.

    The income tax never made much sense to me. Why tax the people who are earning money rather than the ones who are sitting on their a**es reaping the benefits of their legacy wealth? Wouldn’t it make more sense to tax the purchase and ownership of luxury goods, especially those nobody could possibly need? (And estates, of course. Inherited wealth is the least honest of all, next to traders’ profits.)

  2. We should tax consumption, not production.

    James Kwak – I’m surprised that you left out the most important thing out tax money funds: the legal system.

  3. The real point of Monopoly, is that Wall Street emulates it. For example, I read the Business section, then the Environment section, because I have kids. I need a sustainable planet.

    Wall Street is backing Coal and Oil. To Dead Industries with deadly results: Russian Wild Fires, US Southern States in Drought, Peak Oil, Peak Population, Peak Water and Climate Change. Wall Street will “win” a pile of Worthless Money, just like the “Winner” in Monopoly, if the World is Not Sustainable.

  4. I’m your typical tax-and-spend lefty, but doesn’t this analysis ignore the deadweight loss associated with taxation? Would’t it be more realistic to deposit, say, 20% of tax payments back in the bank and redistribute the remainder?

  5. I’m your typical tax-and-spend lefty, but doesn’t this analysis ignore the deadweight loss associated with taxation? Would’t it be more realistic to deposit, say, 20% of tax payments back in the bank and redistribute the remainder?

  6. “Now, the assumption is that the government is not wasting people’s money”

    (1) Yes; that’s why you give them the minimal possible – just enough for roads, clean drinking water, etc. You don’t give them money to pretend to alter human behavior.

    (2) Even if they don’t literally waste it, routing the money from producers to DC and back has so much frictional loss that you might as well set fire to half of it.

  7. As we know, nothing government does could ever come close to the level of waste inherent in parasitic oligopolies. The finance, health insurance, and weapons sectors are just the most extreme examples.

    So anyone who’s serious about removing economic bottlenecks and obstructions and filling in ratholes would start by eradicating all oligopoloy rackets, purging the economy of all rents, and obliterating all significant concentrations, which by definition represent market failures.

    All sectors are mature, and according to the rules of “capitalism”, all sectoral profits should have dwindled to the barest minimum by now, and most long ago. (IT has recently gotten there, as we see with e.g. Google’s official “coming out” as a racket with the Google-Verizon pact.)

    As for Monopoly, for it to reflect reality one player should start with far more cash than the others, the rich player should get to use loaded dice, and the focus should be on how everything depends upon the luck of the dice. Part of the banker’s job should be to lecture each player, every time the dice come up poorly for him or well for the rich player, that the dice actually reflect one’s hard work and virtue.

    Hopefully having the full absurdity and moral obscenity of it all so starkly conveyed would afford lessons about the way the real life system really works.

  8. The game ends when one player has all the money which is essentially where we are now with the top one percent having all the wealth. But instead of starting a new game the’re saying we like it this way and bringing in the military. Read the news from Panama;http://www.eurasiareview.com/201007296141/panamas-unraveling-democracy-the-social-cost-of-martinellis-chorizo-law.html

  9. “The anti-tax electorate doesn’t realize that many if not most of its members are net beneficiaries of the tax system. … But people don’t realize this because … they only see the tax side of the equation.”

    Plenty of folks (probably Roberts) clearly see where the tax money goes – the many programs you mention, which certainly benefit them – but still oppose current tax rates and government programs on a purely libertarian basis.

    Surely there are public goods that are better provided by the state rather than a private market (e.g. the judiciary; I agree with redleg) but I think it’s reasonable to argue over the extent of the state’s provision of those goods.

  10. Blunt Instrument

    James, I hope you are right that most people do not understand they could be net beneficiaries from the system. American’s natural skepticism of collective power and preference for individual rights and private property ownership (arguably the real reason for our hatred of taxation) is one of the few things that keep us strong.

    “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury”

    – Alexander Tyler

  11. If you are going to assume that government is wasteful, you need to also consider the possibility that the “private” equivalent might also be wasteful. It is hard to see why you would think that Social Security does a worse job at customer service than, for example, Verizon, or is more wasteful than AIG.

    There is nothing magic about “the profit motive” that prevents corporate bureaucracies from making poor decisions based on bad information, or individual employees from pursuing their own profit at the expense of the firm, its customers or society as a whole. If we didn’t learn that from Burke and Adam Smith, we should at least have learned it from Leeson, Enron, Lehman, AIG, etc.

  12. Want to know practically everything there is to know about monopoly. Read Henry George’s “Progress and Poverty.” That’s what the board game was created to describe, in small part.

    Among George’s “fans”: Samuel Clemens, Leo Tolstoy, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein.

  13. Want to know practically everything there is to know about monopoly. Read Henry George’s “Progress and Poverty.” That’s what the board game was created to describe, in small part.

    Among George’s “fans”: Samuel Clemens, Leo Tolstoy, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein.

  14. Love it!

  15. Maybe this is how the game ends.

  16. Blunt Instrument

    The magic is in the markets. In a competitive market economy wasteful companies eventually go out of business. Government has no competitors for its services. Without a mechanism to punish bad decisions, they will continue unabated. The result is more bad decisions and eventually, bad outcomes.

  17. Actually, the top 1/10 of one percent owns about forty percent of all financial wealth; the bottom ninety percent owns nothing beyond home equity, which these days is negative for anyone who bought after 2002.

    To play the game accurately you need 1,000 players. Nine hundred start with nothing and must pass GO for several years before they can buy Baltic Avenue, even if Mr. Big gives them mortgages. Ninety-nine players start with one deed with a house and mortgage. Mr. Big starts with all the cash and all the remaining properties. Also, you need a few modern hazards: dui arrest, speeding ticket, drug find in your car during traffic stop, Reserve call up and dispatch to Afghanistan. death or dismemberment during target practice (ours or theirs), hospital stay for routine procedure, STDs. Ideally, players should get one chance every four years to elect one of two charismatic blowhards trumpeting change in the Game rules, also need new windfall squares: scholarship to law or medical school resulting in huge uptick in each reward for passing GO.

    In his novel, JR, William Gaddis describes a hysterical monopoly style game called Split, orchestrated around divorce rules. His leading character Gibbs invents the game while drunk and afterward cannot remember the idea, which he is certain could make his fortune of only he can remember the details.

  18. James,

    I believe you misunderstand the whole “Pass Go” matter. When a person passes “Go”, it is because he has worked ever so hard to earn those fat rolls of the dice. To propose that some of these hard-earned dollars ought to be left to the community…well, then don’t be surprised if the wealthiest of these “high rollers” are disincentivized from rolling the die at all! (Atlas may well shrug.)

    Best
    Alex

  19. You’re wrongly assuming a competitive market economy.

    No such thing has long persisted, nor could long persist, without significant stabilization from the public sector.

    Moreover, there is a mechanism to punish bad governmental decisions; they’re called elections. But it would probably be useful to inquire as to your examples of bad government decisions which are not at some level the result of undue influence from the overly-moneyed classes.

  20. Er… huh?
    Presently the government spends more than it collects in tax revenue. The only in-game equivalent would be a helicopter-drop for the players. Unless you assume the money is vanishing into thin air (which, in the case of military contractors etc., might not be too bad an assumption…)

  21. Born in D.C., I visit relatives and when they talk about their great economy (look at the numbers), my reply is ” Yes, because we’re sending you our money. We’re broke.

  22. Blunt Instrument

    “No such thing has long persisted, nor could long persist, without significant stabilization from the public sector.”

    It would probably be useful to inquire of your examples of significant public stabilization of markets that has improved competition.

    The problem with elections as a mechanism for restraining government is the problem of incentives. Because the majority of voters pay very little tax, they are not directly punished by bad decisions. They have no incentive to change.

    I agree that capture is a large part of our problem. Concentrating more wealth, power, and influence in the hands of fewer elected officials will only exacerbate that problem.

  23. Henry George is up there with Keynes and Veblen. Those three are the only ‘economists’ whose work remains worth reading. Of course, no one in economics ever mentions George or Veblen any more. I doubt Bernanke could identify either of them.

  24. It’s a wonderful world.

  25. This almost feels like Kwak is pushing for replacing a lot of the income-redistributing programs with Milton Friedman’s negative income tax.

  26. Jake, you need to remember this and copyright this addendum to the rules.

  27. As Dr. Phil would ask. “How’s that working out for you?”

  28. “It would probably be useful to inquire of your examples of significant public stabilization of markets that has improved competition.”

    There are plenty of markets in which government intervenes to promote better market results and improve competition, but I’ll take an obvious case: food supply. Because of the USDA and the FDA, consumers are assured that most products meet a reasonable safety standard. This allows small brands to survive, because absent that standard, the public could not trust anything but the most prominent national brands, which would squeeze smaller suppliers even more than they already are. Similarly, by establishing floors for the level to which a producer can degrade its product, government intervention cuts off a “rush to the bottom” and allows higher-quality products to be sold without undermining the competitiveness of companies that supply non-tainted meat. It’s not at all difficult to find similar instances where government intervention improves market outcomes. (I should note that “stabilizing” wasn’t really the right word; markets left alone generate monopolies, which are extremely stable, just not good for anyone who isn’t the monopolist. Competitive markets are a precarious balance which requires nudging.)

    “The problem with elections as a mechanism for restraining government is the problem of incentives. Because the majority of voters pay very little tax, they are not directly punished by bad decisions. They have no incentive to change.”
    …Surely your worldview isn’t so narrow that you think taxes are the only way that bad government decisions might affect people??? Inadequate environmental and industrial oversight (BP), financial market deregulation (the last fifteen years), deregulation of electrical utilities (CA a few years back) — and those are just the domestic decisions! — these obviously have fallout that affects people regardless of tax rates…

  29. James, you buried your lede and Russell Roberts should save his Ayn Rand crap for a teabagger convention. As Enzo noted, Monopoly was derived from the work of economist Henry George (with some IP theft along the way).

    “Lizzie Magie belonged to a tax movement led by Philadelphia-born Henry George; the movement supported the theory that the renting of land and real estate produced an unearned increase in land values that profited a few individuals (landlords) rather than the majority of the people (tenants). Henry George proposed a single federal tax based on land ownership believing a single tax would discourage speculation and encourage equal opportunity.”

    “Lizzie Magie wanted to use her game, which she called “The Landlord’s Game” as a teaching device for George’s ideas. The Landlord’s Game and Monopoly are very similar, except all the properties in Magie’s game are rented not acquired as in Monopoly and instead of names like “Park Place” and “Marvin Gardens” one finds “Poverty Place”, “Easy Street” and “Lord Blueblood’s Estate”.”

    http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa121997.htm#Magie

  30. Ever listen to Martin Wolf — he regularly podcasts for the Financial Times? Couple of weeks ago he suggested taxing land value. He said our “leaders” can’t be counted on to do it but that “I can always hope.” That was the first time in years that I saw such a prominent economist suggest something truly game-changing. Of course he attributed the idea to someone writing in the 70s — the 1970s. LOL

  31. so lets tax what creates the jobs? which is the sales of goods and services? that way we have less jobs because there will be less sold right?

  32. CBS from the West

    “…scholarship to law or medical school resulting in huge uptick in each reward for passing GO.”

    It’s probably going to be difficult to get you to feel sympathetic towards doctors, whom you presume to be rich. But here are some facts:

    Scholarships to law or medical school are very rare today, largely a thing of the past. Today medical education is accomopanied by a huge pile of loans. After medical school, you go on to a residency (at least 3 years, maybe 5 or even 7), and you will typically not earn enough to make the payments on those loans. So there is “forebearance” during which you do not pay and the unpaid interest negatively amortizes as additional principal. By the time you are done with training and ready to earn that uptick in each reward for passing Go you are truly an indentured servant for decades to come. And, by the way, if life deals you some hardships after that, you cannot discharge these debts in bankruptcy.

    Why do you think so many of today’s graduating doctors flock to the highest paying specialties? It’s the only hope for climbing out of the debt trap.

    I’m not complaining for myself. I went to medical school back when loans were rare and scholarships plentiful. It’s still that way in Europe. (In fact, in Europe you get a living stipend while in medical school and tuition is minimal or free. In return, you don’t get to make mega-Euros in practice–but you live quite comfortably as a physician there.) But it should come as no surprise that the current system provides strong incentives for new doctors to milk the system for every buck they can squeeze out of it. It is part of the foundation of the corruption that is rotting our health care system from within.

  33. As events have clearly shown, consumption is unsustainable. To oversimplify, taxing consumption will reward savers and formation of capital while promoting sustainability. It also has the potential to be simpler to collect and more fair – if you don’t want to pay then don’t buy things.

  34. How about deposit Government money in a government bank rather than private banks i.e. sovereign money? Save money on interest…

  35. +100

    Instead of loaded dice, the banker should be able to change the rules on the fly. Even make one other player “second’ the rule change but allow the banker to buy that vote with a brib— er campaign contribution…

  36. I hear you Dr. CBS, but the upper end of the salary scale is head and shoulders above most of the rest of society once/if you escape peonage. except pediatrics – they net about the same as engineers.

  37. This game almost perfectly demonstrates the flaws in Mr Roberts world view, it’s no wonder he is not a fan of the game. He doesn’t like the aspect of luck? If wealth were distributed in a monopoly game as in real life, and you played with 100 people. At the start of the game,
    One person would own; Boardwalk, Park Place, Short Line RR, Pennsylvania Av. North Carolina and Pacific. 99 people share the rest of the board.
    It’s your roll. Best of luck in the “free market”

  38. Blunt Instrument

    This is a Reply to JS (above)

    My example of bad government decisions was consistent with the spirit of my original post – efficiencies of competitive market economies versus efficiency of centralized command and control. I co-opted the term “bad decisions” from the original poster in my reply. It should have read “inefficiency”.

    My worldview does not necessarily equate less government interference with “bad decisions.” Arguably, it was the EPA’s excessive oversight that limited BP’s liability exposure and possibly led to their decisions to take more risks in their drilling. It was also government regulations that prevented more and better ships from aiding in the cleanup. We can also argue about the extent of the financial market deregulation versus government interference (backstopping of financial firms) that led to / exacerbated the crisis.

  39. Dr. CBS, you are right. I hold nothing against doctors; they are trapped in a corrupt, bureaucratic, drug addled, malpractice targeted nightmare, and as you say, hostage to education financiers. Many are supremely skilled and work themselves to death. In general, I admire them.

  40. Every qualified med student should be on scholarship. Start with general practice.

  41. Taxing consumption is not fair. Lower income people spend a larger percentace of their earnings on consumption than higher incomes, out of necessity not choice. If you can barely make ends meet you’re consuming every last penny you make, but not because you’re spendthrift. That’s why taxing consumption has always been a favourite of the radical right, it favours the rich.

  42. +1 vote

  43. “without a mechanism to punish bad decisions”

    It’s called voting and, even if imperfect, it’s still the best humanity has discovered, far better than the market (how many political crises has the US suffered in the last century and how many financial and what was the comparative cost?).

  44. “If you have a progressive tax system (where the rich not only pay more in taxes, but pay proportionally more)”

    Absolutely not true when you include our regressive payroll taxes.

  45. It’s easy to only tax consumption at levels above the poverty level. See the proposal here if interested:

    http://www.fairtax.org/site/PageServer

  46. There are valuable services provided by government, so a conversation about deadweight losses is meaningless unless you consider the consumer surplus of government services. I know – the right wing wackos don’t thing there is any value to government. But I’d argue that security is valuable. And the creation of systems that private enterprise could never create is valuable (the interstate highway system, rural electrification, the Internet).

    Tax-and-spend is more responsible than the borrow-and-spend nonsense favored by Republicans.

  47. Too true!

  48. “Today medical education is accompanied by a huge pile of loans. After medical school, you go on to a residency (at least 3 years, maybe 5 or even 7), and you will typically not earn enough to make the payments on those loans.”

    That’s why so many of our talented young people go to Wall Street instead! So much money, so little moral responsibility.

  49. One of my profs at U Chicago argued that government should only print money and provide defense. He even argued for private police, to which I relpied, “Oh, like they have in Sicily?”.

  50. Whether it was too much government action or too little, we agree these were bad government decisions whose affects were felt by low-income/low-taxed people, in non-tax ways which are sufficient to prompt voter response.

  51. “The magic is in the markets. In a competitive market economy wasteful companies eventually go out of business.”

    Why do so many people think that the simplistic ‘perfectly competitive markets’ model applies broadly to the economy? It breaks once you add in economies of scale or scope, patents, agency problems, and a host of other things that characterize the real world.

  52. Blunt Instrument

    You are also taking my comment out of context. The “bad decisions” in my post referred to inefficiencies in government. A company cannot hire redundant workers that do not increase productivity without suffering a loss in profits. Government does not have a similar self-correcting mechanism to limit excess costs. Increases in cost result in increases in budget requests and increases in future expenses. Without end.

    The 14 years of Republican control of congress and massive increases in government spending suggest that voting may not be the corrective mechanism to stem that particular problem.

  53. reply to JS
    I never suggested that “taxes are the only way that bad government decisions might affect people”. My response was in context of my original post regarding government inefficiencies and waste. My point was that Government spending cannot be controlled by voting. Individual voters have little direct incentive to have the Government control spending. The Republican congress from 1994 to 2008 apparently realized the same thing and acted accordingly.

  54. Most people do not understand that the quote attributed to Alexander Tyler is fictitious.

    http://www.snopes.com/politics/ballot/athenian.asp

  55. “Because the majority of voters pay very little tax, they are not directly punished by bad decisions. They have no incentive to change.”
    vs.
    “[I disavow that] Taxes are the only way that bad government decisions might affect people.”
    Them’s some pretty fine distinctions. The first statement indicates that paying little tax is sufficient to remove a person’s incentive to change government, which strongly implies that they aren’t affected enough by bad government decisions/inefficiencies/whatever to care about their government.

    Anyway:
    ” A company cannot hire redundant workers that do not increase productivity without suffering a loss in profits [. . .] The 14 years of Republican[s. . .] suggest that voting may not be the corrective. . .”

    Your comparison is based on “libertarian free market (theoretical ideal)” vs “government (actual practice)”. It’s no surprise which way that comparison goes — free-marketism would have very few adherents indeed if its theoretical ideal couldn’t beat democracy in practice. If you’d like to compare practice to practice, however…

  56. It’s not just about the poor, it’s mostly about the middle class. Consumption taxes are inherently regressive.

    As for the FairTax proposal, according to a report by the President’s Advisory Panel for Federal Tax Reform, it would increase the tax burden on everyone earning less than 200k a year. The proposed rebate (which btw shows that the proponents realize the tax is regressive) wouldn’t change that. Even the proponents of the plan acknowledge that the rich would pay less taxes and their response is that it will lead to higher growth in the long run. Now does that ring a bell or what…

  57. An ever-increasing budget is not something the voters will fail to notice for long. It’s not the same mechanism as in a company but there is a mechanism. Based on the result (political stability vs financial stability) I’d say that, even if slow moving, democracy is a far better control mechanism than the market. Try to vote Goldman Sachs out of existence…

    What exactly has the market done for the massive flaws of financial institutions that wrecked the world economy? How about the redundant bonuses of the executives of those institutions?

  58. I remember from my old school days that there was a good sound “objective” reason for having a progressive tax system similar to the one we (US) have and NOT having a flat tax system. I am having trouble remembering the rationale. Could someone either explain to me the rationale in a professorial tone (least partisan as possible, not so technical as to require a PhD) or point to me a website that explains it? I remember that in the US history, there were certain objectives in mind that flat tax system was ill-suited for. I vaguely remember that before prohibition, there was no income tax – only alcohol tax pretty much.

    Thank you.

  59. Great idea. We can all learn more about it by following the progress of public banking at http://publicbanking.wordpress.com/

  60. “Even if they don’t literally waste it, routing the money from producers to DC and back has so much frictional loss that you might as well set fire to half of it.”

    Actually, RJ, for quite a while, it’s been working the other way. DC subsidizes the private sector in every industry you can think of, and programs that actually benefit the public (roads, education, health care, consumer safety to name only a few) get short shrift.

    The Fat Cats are not about to reform themselves, and our political “leadership” has been completely bought off. So the only ones who can change this are the 300 million folks who see our nation declining right along with our personal circumstances.

    For just one example of what’s at stake:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/18/business/18motts.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=mott%20union&st=cse

  61. Russ–you da man!

  62. Actually, that’s in the new healthcare “deform” — one of the good parts.

    Medical students who specialize in primary care and promise to practice in an underserved area for a specified time get FREE MEDICAL SCHOOL.

    Of course, if it remains a secret, it probably won’t accomplish much.

  63. Thanks, everyone. I aim to please!

  64. Larcen,

    These don’t speak to how steeply progressive the tax should be, but are some of the main arguments:

    (1) Automatic stabilization. As the economy overheats, taxes are effectively raised, helping to limit inflation and bubble germination. As the economy cools down, taxes are effectively lowered, providing a natural stimulus.

    (2) The law of diminishing marginal returns – Adam Smith’s argument. The better off you are, the less valuable an extra dollar is to you. (If you make $20,000 a year, an extra $5,000 means a lot to you. If you make $200,000 a year, it probably doesn’t mean very much to you at all.) Thus, you maximize societal wellbeing by levying a progressive tax.

    (3) From a public choice theory perspective, it helps to balance the natural advantage of the monied in lobbying for loopholes or expansions. (i.e., the only groups that have been very successful about adding loopholes to the tax code are unions and the upper-middle class and up – think about how low the capital gains tax is, or how very nice health plans covering purely cosmetic procedures and gym memberships could be written off, or mortgage interest deductions on second homes.)

  65. yes yes yes

  66. John Merryman

    What gets overlooked in Monopoly is that when one person owns everything, the game is over and then starts again. In real life, this is called debt repudiation, or revolution.

  67. I agree with SteveBreeze: the biggest difference between Monopoly and the economy is nothing to do with tax, but the fact that Monopoly has a fair starting position.

    Also, sometimes the winners of Monopoly acknowledge that luck played a role in their win.

  68. With all respect: I think James Kwak’s characterization of taxes is wrong. He presents it as a progressive tax system (where the rich pay proportionately more). But this is true only for income taxes (and possibly for property taxes). If all taxes are included (payroll, sales taxes, etc.) the system is at best neutral, and probably slightly regressive.

    (The only study I know is from the 1970’s, and things have become more regressive since then.)

    People scream about income taxes and property taxes… but not about payroll or sales taxes. Sadly, the screaming is always focused on taxes that affect the rich most.

  69. How is inherited wealth from an estate dishonest? In most cases this wealth has been accumulated through hard work and has already been taxed by State and Federal agencies as income to the primary person that created the estate. How many times do you want to tax the same income ??

  70. We tax income every time it’s a new person’s income. I mean, every company’s income was taxed before when it came from somewhere else. By your logic we shouldn’t tax earned income of any kind.

  71. Creative Anarchy

    As often as it is fair to. How about we tax a luxury estate every time police patrols that are lavished on the wealthiest neighborhood leave a lower income home vulnerable to crime? How about we tax that estate every time zoning or development regulations in the city are bent in order to pander to the needs of the wealthiest citizens? A tax each time the wealthiest neiborhood’s public schools are given programs or resources that would never be considered for the poorest. How about a tax on your pornographically huge estate each time that your honest inheritance costs the public what they are supposed to be entitled to for the taxes they pay. Suddenly the very meager taxes the rich are charged seem like a pretty generous deal.

  72. Creative Anarchy

    Until the tax rate reaches 100% someone will be happy to grab the dice from the high roller if you believe that they would ever pass up a roll. If you want to talk about hard work maybe your ilk should stop advancing the moronic notion that those who work the hardest in our society will suddenly drop what they’re doing and whine that the going is too hard because they are forced to work hard for their income. That’s in insult for people who break their backs and sacrifice everything to pay their bills.

    Also Altas shrugging is a horribly mismatched image. The world isn’t riding on the back of people who’s income is taken out of the paycheck of the working class. If A wealthy industrialist can’t cope with how hard his labors are there are thousands waiting in the wings to take his job, many more qualified. If the guy who repairs your sewer decides he’s had enough, nobody is taking that job. If he shrugs you’re not not flushing anything.