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Musical Chairs and Other Games

There have been some news stories recently about elementary schools moving to prohibit the game of tag. Some think it is too rough, and leads to scraped knees and elbows which interfwere with the educational experience.

I'm not particularly troubled by kids playing tag. (I get a kick out of Thom Hartmann's radio signoff: something to the effect that democracy is a participation sport. Tag! You're IT!)

But from time to time I think about another children's game, and what it means. The game is Musical Chairs. Remember? It is a "party "game, which starts with all the participants sitting on chairs, which have been placed back-to-back in a double row. The music begins, an adult removes one chair, and the children circle the chairs until the music stops, at which point the children scramble to claim a chair. Someone doesn't get one, and is eliminated from the game. The process continues, until there are two children and one chair, and the child who is closer or bigger or faster becomes the winner.

What a way to run a kids' party! (Not much better than ring-around-the-rosie, which is said to commemmorate a plague that killed many children.)

And what a way to run a society.

It puts me in mind of the game we introduce them to when they're a bit older, the board game Monopoly. The premise is a bit different, but there are similarities. In Monopoly, there are always the same number of properties, but one pays an increasing price to visit them as the game goes on, eventually resulting in the bankruptcy of all but one player, who is declared the winner.

Interestingly, the game on which Monopoly is based, The Landlord's Game (patented in 1903) was designed to promote an alternative to our current system of winners and losers. Instead of properties named for streets in Atlantic City, it had such properties as

Mother Earth
Soakum Lighting System
Lonely Lane

Easy Street
Poor House - Public Park
Water Franchise
Lord Blueblood's Estate: No Trespassing - Go to Jail

Absolute Necessity: Bread - Taxes $5
Absolute Necessity: Shelter - Taxes $5
Absolute Necessity: Clothing - Taxes $5
Absolute Necessity: Coal - Taxes $5

A later version of the Landlord's Game (1910) had these addresses:

Beggarman's Court
The Bowery
Wall Street
Royal Rusher R. R.
Gee Whiz R. R
Rickety Row

Boomtown
Fairhope Avenue
Grand Boulevard
Shooting Star R. R
Slambang Trolley
Rubeville
Lonely Lane
Goat Alley
Easy Street
George Street
P. D. Q. R. R
Speculation
The Pike
Market Place
Cottage Terrace
Broadway
Fifth Avenue
Wayback

D. F. Hogg's Game Preserves
Lord Blueblood's Estate
Soakum Lighting System
Slambang Trolley
Central Park
Maguire Flats

The Farm
Poor House
Madison Square
Luxury
Public Treasury
Johnson Circle

Oil Fields
Farmlands

Coal Mines
Timberland
 
Fairhope Avenue is a reference to Fairhope, Alabama, a community which even today is run on Georgist principles. George Street is a reference to Henry George. "The Pike" and "Goat Alley" could be references to a woodblock in Bengough's Primer. Johnson Circle is a reference to Tom Johnson, mayor of Cleveland. (See Mason Gaffney's paper New Life in Old Cities for background.)

 

Some Links to further information about The Landlord's Game

http://www.geocities.com/henrygeorgeschool/landlords-game_origins.html
http://tt.tf/gamehist/mon-index.html
http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bllandlordgame.htm
http://www.antimonopoly.com/game_history.html
http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/collections/games/board_games/monopoly/index.html
http://www.patricktaylor.com/game-monopoly
http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/patc/monopoly/
http://www.geocities.com/rainforest/3046/monopoly.htm
http://www.adena.com/adena/mo/mo06.htm

Don't miss the game rules at http://www.geocities.com/henrygeorgeschool/landlords-game_rules_1910.html

 

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