Why Life Really Is Like A Twisted Monopoly Game: Part 1

What’s the link between Brexit and the price of a tin of Baked Beans? The short answer is money. That seemingly simple thing that the rich have lots of and the poor not so much, which actually turns out to be kinda confusing. For starters, take the Brexit vote. It happens and then the pound sterling loses value. Suddenly Britain’s currency is worth less in the world and it gets pricier to import goods, so businesses put their prices up to recoup the loss and the consumers end up having to pay more on everyday goods. Meanwhile, the Bank of England recently edged a little closer to raising interest rates, which would make it more expensive to borrow money, again making it harder for everyday folk to take out loans. But what does all this financial malark mean? Well, here’s an over-extended metaphor involving Monopoly to try to explain it.

You’ve got your typical game of monopoly with plenty of players, lots of streets to buy and a bank dishing out money. So far, so simple, but now imagine that the board gets bigger. As the game progresses so new streets are built and one player, Mr Top Hat, wants to build an epic new street full of shops, houses and hotels. Mr Top Hat doesn’t have enough cash under his mattress so he approaches the bank to take out a loan. Mr Bank is pretty excited by this new development and decides to issue the loan. Hurrah, Mr T-H has the money (the credit) but is also in debt to the bank because he’ll have to pay it back with interest. Mr T-H builds the street and it’s epic. Other players buy houses and hotels on the street and Mr T-H makes a bunch of money. He pays the bank back with interest and pockets a tidy profit. Now, the other players are so impressed by Mr T-H’s success that they start doing it too and take out loans to build streets with cool amenities on them. Mr Bank sets a favourable interest rate (i.e. making it easy to take out money) and things start booming. However, because the board is growing the money supply needs to grow as well and Mr Bank creates some more cash (just like that!). More money in the economy gets Mrs Supermarket excited and she puts her prices up meaning goods become more expensive. So Mx Average Jo suddenly has to spend more money on a tin of baked beans. This whole process of rising prices and falling purchasing power is called inflation.

The players keep nipping around the board and the board keeps growing in size, as does the amount of money in the game, so inflation keeps going up too. However, too much inflation is not a good thing so Mr Bank decides to increase interest rates to make it harder to borrow money. The point of doing this is to keep inflation rising at a steady and manageable rate. Of course, it’s alright for Mr Top Hot, who is very rich, but not so good for Mx Average Jo who will have to wait for another burst of growth to inspire a drop in interest rates. But the irony of this all is that whatever Mr Bank does inflation is always increasing and whether Mrs Supermarket puts her prices up if there’s more money in the economy or Mr Bank puts interest rates up because there’s too much money in the economy, the one who loses out is always Mx Average Jo. Economic growth and inflation are two sides of the same coin. Now, what about Brexit, fluctuating currencies and economic recessions? That’s Part 2 and involves an important new player, Mr Speculator.

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The Dildo Dilemma

My friend has a problem: her favourite vibrator broke. She absolutely loves that hunk of reverberating rubber and it has brought her great comfort for many years. Like a top teddy or a preferred mug, she’s very fond of her dildo – it’s more than just an object, more than just a piece of consumerism, it is something with which she is intimately acquainted. Naturally, my friend looked to get it repaired but soon discovered the cost of repair was more than buying a replacement. Thus, the dildo dilemma.

But is that really a dilemma, you might well ask. Why not just buy the new one and save some cash? Indeed, this does seem like the obvious option as Ann Summers has reduced the Rampant Rabbit in their summer sale and now it’s only £25.90. Meanwhile, after all the faff of finding someone who doesn’t discriminate on ‘small item’ repairs it turns out their starting cost is £30 per item. Quids in, right? Unfortunately, it’s not so simple because my friend is also an avid environmentalist. She likes nature, y’know, trees, rivers and the like. She also hates pollution and waste but our consumer culture tends to produce a lot of that. Things aren’t built to last anymore instead they’re designed with ‘built-in-obsolescence’ which basically means their shelf life is shorter. And the weird thing is that this actually makes business sense because you’re more likely to fork out more cash to buy more stuff so the economy can keep churning.

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This premise, that the economy must keep growing, is right at the heart of our economic theory. It’s got a long history but the combindation of 19th century industrialisation, mass production and a couple of world wars ensured the US became an economic powerhouse. However, when the wars stopped and there was less money to be made from producing tanks and bombs the US switched to mass producing consumer goods like cars and ironing boards. Yet the premise of the economy was the same: produce, consume, produce, consume, ad infinitum. It’s a system riddled with paradoxes and my friend doesn’t want to add to the mess by throwing yet another dildo on the rubbish pile. Our seas are already full of plastic rubbish, our air teeming with pollution and our earth riddled with land-fill sites.

But we can’t put all the blame on my vibrator-loving friend. The environment is all of our responsibilities but whilst we shouldn’t waste stuff it would be great if our governments and corporations could actually initiate some planet-friendly economic policies that aren’t dependent on unsustainable levels of consumption. If my friend does end up buying a new dildo it won’t spell the end of the planet but what a better world we would live on if we perfected making things that lasted rather than churning out yet more unreliable iPods and bombs. And for those of you yet to get your hands on one of those Rampant Rabbits here’s a link to the Ann Summers sale.

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