Who Owns the Land?

When I was a 20-something my family received a copy of the board game Monopoly as a gift. Being all varying levels of anti-capitalists, but certainly united in not being fans of rich guys in top hats and interminable games based on acting like tycoons, we were all quite satisfied with our decision to save the various game pieces for use with other games (especially those from the departed and sorely missed [update: actually resurrected!] Cheap Ass Games, for which you always had to provide your own game pieces, dice, and counters) and toss the rest in the garbage.

Imagine my embarrassment to learn, at a recent conference on community land trusts, that Monopoly was first invented under the name The Landlord Game to illustrate the problematic effects of private land ownership and the system of rents. Continue reading

Reverse Robin Hood

Last fall I was at a conference in Detroit held in a hotel attached to a casino.

“Did you go onto the casino floor?” my boss asked me. Along with our room keys, we were given tokens to spend in the casino. I admitted I hadn’t. “You really should,” he said. “It’s the most astoundingly depressing thing. No one looks like they are having fun.” When you’ve recently had a tour of some of Detroit’s hardest hit neighborhoods, that’s saying something. Continue reading

The Great Austerity Error

Back when I used to go to journalism conferences, I remember there frequently being workshops offered on the theme of “math for journalists.” In other words, how not to screw up, or get tricked by, nuances of percentages, ratios, and statistics. We could all always use a brush up on those things, but I remember being surprised and disheartened at how many people who went into journalism came from the self-professed math hating or scared of numbers camps. Continue reading