At the HACT House Party last week, I ran a workshop in which we examined the UK housing market in the context of a game of Monopoly.

The famous board game Monopoly is a land and property speculation game, in which the object eventually is to own all property and bankrupt all competitors. It is simple, and old-fashioned – prices by modern standards are simply unbelievable. But it conveys some important messages regarding our attitude to property.

In this picture, the Monopoly board is set up in rather an odd way.  To find out why, read on here.....


  1. Good article up to a point.

    "as before, but it would additionally charge rents on property (the Bank doesn't do this in the normal version of the game) – it would have to do this to avoid eternal money printing."

    The UK *is* printing money through property, and has been doing for about 30 years.

    I also don't understand with SMR why we can't have different salaries for jobs with more social value. Right now we have well paid jobs like that but also even better paid jobs in finance which have no social value.

    Really the analogy falls down. In monopoly you start with enough money to buy a property and the money you get for going round the board (working) is proportional to the cost of the property. If you want to simulate the UK in monopoly you need:

    * debt to push up prices way beyond the starting money and Pass-Go money
    * one player starts with more money and can roll four dice and select between 1 and 4 of them for their go
    * the same one player doesn't have to go to jail when they land on that square
    * property prices rise throughout the game even further from the Pass-Go money
    * if you are over 60 participants under 60 have to give half their Pass-Go money to you

    It does appear that you are trying to get to grips with how screwed the next generation is, and not before time, so that is to be commended, but I think it's worse than you think.

    tl;dr the UK is printing money via debt via property because it's failing. It's pulling forward demand using the semi-legitimate (to insane economists) housing market as it collapses.

  2. As I said in the post, there are all manner of dodges that would enable the game to continue. Mine was not an exhaustive list by any means. You've come up with a few more. Good - that was sort of the point.

    1. Sure, but I just don't see *any* economists talking about UK housing as printing money. You guys will do anything to avoid it. Sub-prime lending in the UK was never analysed. The next generation are utterly screwed by pensions and housing as the govt looks to appear solvent by paying people out at the front of the queue in what is a slow-mo bank run on GBP.

      Without property price rises where would the UK be now? Dead in the water IMHO. Would you agree with that?

      Property prices are capturing all productivity increases and then some. All UK wealth appreciation is sunk into property. If this continues how can living standards ever rise?

      It's great to see someone talking about this. I just don't think you see how bad it is because of your age. I think your generation are unable to divorce themselves from their comfortable lifestyles with pensions, homes and savings and look through the eyes of the youth.

      ps why not mention the history of monopoly as "the landlords' game" designed to illustrate the flaws in our monetary system?

    2. You assume I have a house, a pension and savings. Yes, I do have a house. But I have very little in the way of pension provision and no savings whatsoever.

      You assume I never come into contact with young people and know nothing about their concerns. But I have teenage children (actually my son is about to leave teenagerhood). And I work with young people in my day job.

      All you know about me is my age. But you have added a whole heap of assumptions - or rather prejudices - to your view of me based upon my age. How ageist of you.

      You don't do the cause of the young any favours by making enemies of the middle-aged - especially those who, like me, are very concerned about the future of young people and trying to do something about it.

      I'm really rather hurt by your remarks.

    3. And yeah Frances - I'm shooting the messenger :-)

      Good to see someone *start* to talk about this utter mess. When the kids realise what's happening it won't be good for the boomers+.

    4. "When the kids realise what's happening it won't be good for the boomers".

      What an unpleasant remark. I really don't like your attitude towards older people. All you are doing is promoting inter-generational warfare. Let's have some constructive comment, please.

  3. Ben,

    I have deleted your comment because it breaks the rules of this blog,which you will find on the "About This Blog" page (tab at the top). This is my site and I do not tolerate rudeness to me or to anyone else here. You may re-post your comment without the personal attacks and the rudeness.

  4. Sigh. My main point, for the third time, was that the UK would be dead in the water without 15 years of printing via housing.

    I'm not sure how you can divorce the above from inter-generational issues. The UK is maintaining the appearance of solvency by continuing to dish out false living standards to those at the front of the (age ranked) queue. Even Merv King, in a rare moment of honesty, said he was amazed at the passivity of the young.

    Had Merv posted that here would he have been censored? It's very "Nu Labour" to censor posts based on "no blame, systemic failure, etc ,etc".

    Is the passivity of the young that Merv noted because the majority of the Media is controlled by older people who censor? Discuss!

    1. If you had read any of my previous work, Ben, you would know that I have frequently written about these very issues. I have also engaged in extensive discussion about them, both in comment threads on this site and on public media. The disenfranchisement of the young is a considerable problem. I don't have a simple answer to it. Neither, it seems, do you.

      Of one thing I am certain, though: the sort of antagonism towards older people that you display will not in any way help to resolve these inter-generational problems.

      Regarding your question "Had Merv posted that here would he have been censored?": I resent your suggestion that I censor things I don't agree with. Again, you show your ignorance of my work. I never, ever censor constructive criticism, however much I disagree with it. I delete comments that contain gratuitous insults (as yours did) or which are simply off topic.

      Please do me the courtesy of finding out more about my work before posting any more criticisms of what you assume I believe.

    2. Ok let's forget this loop we appear to be in.

      1. would the UK be solvent if they hadn't printed via housing in your opinion?
      2. I think we can resolve the intergenerational issues by crashing housing *really* hard, but if the answer to 1 is no then we are stuffed!

    3. 1. "Solvent" is not a meaningful concept for a currency-issuing sovereign. And I'm not sure what you mean by "printing money via housing". House price rises have distorted growth, giving the impression of a growing economy while the supply side - especially in manufacturing - has stagnated due to lack of investment. If that's what you mean then I agree. But it isn't correct to call it "printing money".

      2) No, crashing housing really hard is not a solution to anything. As I have already written about this many times, I'm not going to explain why again here. Please read my work. Here are links to some of my relevant pieces:

      And at Pieria:

      These are I think the most relevant posts. There are many others.

    4. I've read these already.

      I do agree with your conclusion though you don't state it in the same terms:

      "So we cannot force down house prices, we cannot force up real incomes and we cannot vastly increase the fiscal deficit. "

      Basically here you seem to be saying that:

      1. you cannot benefit one group without harming another - agreed
      2. that the UK is so reliant on house prices that even harming one group would cause the whole hose of cards to fall

      You say high house prices are a disaster for the young but we cannot lower house prices because the boomers+ must all get their pensions. Ergo the UK has already failed as the pyramid scheme collapses but appears solvent as those at the front of the queue get paid (for now).

      If it hadn't failed my solution would be:

      1. crash house prices
      2. let the banks fail
      3. let real work matter again
      4. boomer+ haircut time

      But we can't do this because the UK is a fake economy built on printing money via houses. There is no "real" economy of substance to fall back on. It's already over.

      ps I also reject that sovereign currency issuers are always "solvent". The UK is not solvent and it's manufacturing a soft default via QE which surprise surprise won't be paid back!

    5. If you've already read these, then why are you asking me to explain again?

      I am not as negative as you about the UK economy. I don't think it has failed and I think it is possible to find a solution that benefits everyone. But it it seems to me you aren't really interested in what I think. You've already made up your mind.

      You do not understand QE. It is not any sort of default and it does not have to be "paid back".

    6. Yes, perhaps the state of the UK is where we differ. We also differ in how badly the young are getting stuffed. It's an absolute disaster in the making and today's youth are denied information on how bad it is by all UK MSM, barring the odd Newsnight article from the late (in BBC terms) Paul Mason.

      I agree with Merv (on this *one* thing only): I can't believe the youth are simply accepting it.

      I guess the "6 months for taking a bottle of water/jeans" puts them off, plus the massive surveillance state and permanent records via the internet.

  5. Frances, I think that Ben is actually talking a lot of sense. For the record, I am a boomer with a house, pension provision and savings. However, not least because I have children, I think this country is devouring itself with its utterly insane obsession with house price inflation. This is expropriating the young to fund the unsustainable expectations of the boomers. It can only end in disaster unless older folks like us accept that things have to change. Capital gains tax on main residences would be a good start: on what other leveraged investment are people allowed to make unlimited tax-free money? And yes, I also believe in a mansion tax. These steps are just a badly needed start.

    And I don't buy your constant attempts to persuade us that QE is not inflationary. All fiat currencies die through debasement and Sterling is no exception. If it were, you would have discovered perpetual motion....take it from me that you have not.

    1. Please identify yourself.

      I don't disagree with your suggestions. I objected to the tone of Ben's remarks. Angry he may be, but shooting down older people like you and me who recognise the problem and want to do something about hit is not remotely helpful.

      The fact that the savings of older people are, by-and-large, tied up in property makes this a very difficult problem to solve. If the savings of older people are forcibly expropriated by engineering a massive property price crash, who is going to pay for elderly care? Yes, it will be the young. Ben should be careful what he asks for. And as for "haircutting boomers" - not all "boomers" are well off. What about the 40% or so who will be on the basic state pension? Does Ben want to cut their basic pension? If so, are they supposed to starve? Or work until they drop? How is that a fair resolution of the problem?

      Replacing one zero-sum game with another is not a solution. We need a win-win.

      Regarding QE - in one form or another, QE has been used now by various countries for over 20 years. Show me the inflation it has caused. Just show me. The fact is that there zero evidence that QE is inflation.

    2. gah...."the fact is that there is zero evidence that QE is inflationary".

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. I have deleted your second comment in accordance with my comments policy (see "About This Blog"), which states that I do not post Anonymous comments unless they are signed. I asked you to identify yourself and you have not done so. This is discourteous to me and to other people reading this. As I deleted one of Ben's comments because it did not comply with my comments policy, it would be quite wrong of me to let you off.

    You may re-post your comment with an identifying name.

  8. It would improve the quality of this thread if you were less tetchy. You give "Anonymous" as a profile option so in what sense have I not signed? What are you looking for? A pseudonym

    1. Please read my blog comments policy in "About This Blog", which explains clearly the reason why I accept Anonymous comments, the conditions I apply and why. If you are not willing to say who you are, I don't want to talk to you.

  9. The rules of Monopoly say:
    "The player who mortgages property retains possession of it and no other player may secure it by lifting the mortgage from the Bank."

    The only way the free parking squatters could re-enter the game is if the monopolist goes bankrupt, exits the game, and his mortgaged property auctioned off. In your story, you have the monopolist continuing on in the game.

    1. Oops. It seems the way the Coppola family plays Monopoly has a subtle rule amendment. However, I did suggest the Bank could sell off the monopolist's mortgaged property (if only we had taken this approach to bank bailouts!). The Bank probably wouldn't need to sell all of it, though - in which case the game would re-start with the monopolist only having to redeem property rather than buy it, which would give him an advantage.

  10. Thank you, I will but believe me, it will be no loss to me not to talk to someone as prickly and self-important as you.


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