Very cool piece from the Times titled Monopoly, Milton Friedman’s Way.
The other thing taken as seriously in that dorm was free-market economics or, more precisely, Milton Friedman, the University of Chicago economics professor. This was a house that frequently invited Professor Friedman and his wife, Rose, to sherry hours. House members ran a snack bar in the basement of the dormitory called Tanstafl, an abbreviation of a saying favored by Mr. Friedman, that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”
Mr. Zelenty owned the greatest of treasures any of us could imagine because it combined those two passions. He had asked Mr. Friedman to sign his Monopoly board at one of those sherry hours. The Nobel laureate did so, writing, “Down with” above the game’s name. We didn’t play on that board. No one ever played on that board. (Mr. Zelenty said he still has it and wants to donate the relic to the university one day. “It’s in a place of safety more than a place of honor,” he said.)
I want a Monopoly board autographed by Friedman! So how did Uncle Milt modify the rules of monopoly?
We decided that Monopoly was hostile to a free market because it restricted the number of houses or hotels one could buy. We voted that a player could buy as many hotels as a property could physically bear and rents would be raised proportionally.
But the bank soon began to run out of money. So we did what any government would do. We began printing more of it, by scribbling $500 on scraps of paper. We printed a lot of money.
Prices shot up, which we all knew, even in that inebriated state, was the consequence of expanding the money supply. (After all, the great economist told us, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.”)
The inflation became so extreme that we eventually voted to alter the rules again: we’d cut the money supply. Any money we printed that came back to the bank would be taken out of circulation.
A severe depression kicked in, of course. Prices plummeted and it was a race to liquidate assets. One by one the players quickly went bankrupt, and sometime around 4 that morning the game was over.