giovedì 22 agosto 2013

The holy crusade of (some) Italian politicians against Monopoly (the game, of course... what did you expect?)

Italian comedians have invaded the Parliament. No, I am not talking about the many terrible jokes told by Mr. Berlusconi during uncountable official meetings. And no, I am not referring either to Beppe Grillo, the founder and leader of MS5. This time the scene is all for seven, almost unknown, members of the Democrats, who amidst the very difficult moments their country is living spotted the very cause of all economic problems of Italy, and Europe, and perhaps the whole world!

I will admit I still have serious issues taking this seriously. I checked the calendar again and again, and being almost sure today is not April Fool's Day, I beg you, dear readers, to follow me for a couple of minutes more.

FACT: today seven members of the Italian Democratic Party (PD) sent a letter to the US Ambassador. The letter (which you can find hereafter, unfortunately in Italian only), is a vibrant declaration against the new version of the classic Monopoly game by Hasbro, called Monopoly Empire.

Hasbro's sins, according to our seven Italian champions, are found in having based such game on the stock market (rather than on the old, reassuring real estate market). Moreover, players cannot go to jail anymore.
In authors words (I do my best here to translate them in a comprehensible English. But trust me, the original letter is written in bad Italian as well): “Monopoly […] celebrates again the turbo-economy that gave rise to the 2008 financial crisis, bearing the misguiding message that, in case of breaking of the rules, no one is punished.” Then something more is written about all this being opposite to Obama's policy which is against Wall Street speculators (they use a nice definition: “the usual sharks”), and about Monopoly being “a game that for generations has been providing young people basic literacy in how markets function” (!!!).

Some random comments come to my mind:

1) Monopoly is an educational game? I did not know! But then, this would explain many weird opinions, so common among the Italians, about economic matters. For example, that demand does not count that much (you pay a higher price because there are more houses in some place you randomly step into, not because you WANT to buy something there in the first place; same for utilities and railways); wages only depend on how total wealth is divided between groups of workers (just as in Monopoly, where there is no production at all); you can go to jail by randomly stepping on the wrong curbside; the economy is just a series of dice throws, and you can do nothing about it.

2) What should the US government do about it? Looking at the Italian policies enacted in the last 40 years, I can only imagine what our seven champions have in mind (and please pay attention to this sentence in the letter: “... we ask you to evaluate the opportunity to take measures as competent authorities...):
  • put the Hasbro CEO in jail (in a real jail, maybe in a cell just next to Bernard Madoff);
  • enact a Law that forbids boardgames not to include jail. Also, no stock markets should be allowed in games! The economic education of our children is at stake!!
  • stock markets are bad, real estate investments are ok. Well, in Italy maybe this is true, as the stock market never really developed into something resembling a developed country, while investments in real estate (“nel mattone” as Italians use to say) is an evergreen, and the backbone of much of the national savings.

I will look forward to a similar initiative against Risk board game (war is bad! People die!), all sport videogames (they give the false impression you can win a football match just by sitting on your sofa and pressing plastic buttons!), and I would also start seriously reconsidering Operation...