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Critics of capitalism often decry the “greed” that animates successful entrepreneurs. The real problem, however, is not the amount of money made by people at the top; it is the systematic suppression of people at the bottom. The real-life equivalent of the Monopoly player who has to mortgage all his money-making assets to pay his debts is the hand-to-mouth day laborer who, unable to pay his car insurance, loses his car and, unable to drive to his job, is unable to pay his rent. The villain here is not necessarily the avarice of the banker who loaned this poor fellow his money in the first place. It is the unstable dynamic of a system that mercilessly drives some people down to the bottom through a succession of cascading misfortunes. To experience the board game version of this kind of misery vortex in Monopoly is to appreciate the advantages of the welfare state, which, when it is functioning properly, does not just take money from rich people and give it to poor people. It also softens the iterative feedback dynamics within the system so as to ensure that minor nudges—a lost job, a criminal conviction, a divorce, a medical setback—do not create feedback effects that ultimately produce a full-blown personal catastrophe. Job training, public health care, a humane justice system, community housing and support for single mothers are examples of programs that can achieve that effect.
Jonathan Kay (Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us about Life)