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Monopoly turns us into capitalist vultures

Monopoly has been much in the news lately—not because the Obama Administration has suddenly assumed the guise of a vigorous anti-trust cop (fat chance!), but because the toy company Hasbro is making a conspicuous change to its flagship board game. In a contest held on Facebook over the past month, Hasbro invited the public to decide the fate of one of Monopoly’s classic tokens—the little metal figurines that represent each player on the game board. After more than 10 million votes poured in from fans in 120 countries around the world, the firm announced yesterday that, by will of the people, the old flat iron would be replaced with a new token in the form of a cat.

But what does Monopoly actually mean to all those millions of voters, aside from being a perennial diversion for families forced to endure rainy summer days indoors? Last fall an article in Harper’s magazine by Christopher Ketcham examined the peculiar history of Monopoly, a game that has, over the past 110 years, been periodically repurposed to teach a number of often conflicting lessons about economics.

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