The Secret History of How Monopoly Was Originally an Anti-Capitalist Game

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Today, the game Monopoly and its iconography are a symbol of wealth and excess.

The mustachioed and monocle-wearing Monopoly Man stars in a brilliant Saturday Night Live skit in which Jon Lovitz portrays him as a criminal lawyer with a penchant for Get Out of Jail Free cards. He is lampooned at a fancy soiree by Jim Carrey in "Ace Ventura When Nature Calls." Shortly after the 2008 Financial Crisis, Mr. Monopoly could be seen on the signage for Occupy Wall Street, and several artists and comedians have incorporated him in their imagery questioning the recent economic downturn. Even famed bond investor Bill Gross invoked the game and its messaging in his January investment outlook, proposing that a new version involving central banks and Quantitative Easing be introduced.

However, Monopoly was originally conceived as a protest against capitalism, rather than a rallying cry for it.


The game's story begins with Lizzie Magie, a left-wing feminist who received a patent for her "Landlord's Game" in 1904, more than 30 years before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly. The game was designed to explain and spread the ideas of the economist Henry George. 

George and his followers were among those observing the rise of new monopolists -- Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan -- to name a few, and questioning their role in society. An amount of wealth was being created that America had never seen before and George was among those questioning its creation and distribution. George's book, Progress and Poverty, was a best-seller when it was published in 1879 and he regularly spoke to sold-out crowds.

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