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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8828/the-board-game-of-libertarian-public-policy/

The Board Game of Libertarian Public Policy

October 22, 2008 by

With economic crisis, an imminent election and the looming holiday season bearing down on us, there’s a good opportunity for all good, respectable libertarians to make their case to a frustrated public. But we won’t win over hearts and minds with books, lectures or even conferences. Let’s face it: We need a slicker marketing pitch.

After consulting with some of the folks here at the Mises Institute, I think I have the perfect idea for educating today’s young people about what it truly means to be a libertarian. Now this is still in testing (and I’d love feedback) but I’m pleased to present what I hope will be the first mass-market libertarian board game: KOCHOPOLY.

Okay, sure, I “borrowed” the basic Monopoly concept from Parker Brothers. But in my version, all of the “properties” have been replaced by non-profit organizations funded in part by the Charles G. Koch Foundation. Players compete to become the most respected libertarian in America by seeing how many organizations they can “fund” while driving their opponents out of the movement forever.Here’s a crude mockup of the Kochopoly board (which you can also view at this link):


The hierarchy of the traditional color groups loosely correspond to the Koch Foundation’s funding levels over the past several years (i.e. the light purple group receives less then the green group.) Here’s a rundown of the groups and their classic Monopoly counterparts:

Dark Purple:
American Prosecutors Research Institute (Mediterranean Ave)
Independence Institute (Baltic Ave)

Light Blue:
Goldwater Institute (Oriental Ave)
Texas Public Policy Foundation (Vermont Ave)
Foundation for American Studies (Connecticut Ave)

Light Purple:
Heritage Foundation (St. Charles Place)
American Enterprise Institute (States Ave)
Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty (Virginia Ave)

Environmental Literacy Council (St. James Place)
American Legislative Exchange Council (Tennessee Ave)
Youth Entrepreneurs of Kansas (New York Ave)

International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics (Kentucky Ave)
Intercollegiate Studies Institute (Indiana Ave)
Institute for Justice (Illinois Ave)

Pacific Research Institute (Atlantic Ave)
Reason Foundation (Ventor Ave)
Federalist Society (Marvin Gardens)

Bill of Rights Institute (Pacific Ave)
FreedomWorks (North Carolina Ave)
Institute for Humane Studies (Pennsylvania Ave)

Dark Blue:
Mercatus Center (Park Place)
CATO Institute (Boardwalk)

Smithsonian Institution (Reading)
Harvard University (Pennsylvania)
National Salvation Army (B&O)
George Mason University (Short Line)

Philanthropy Roundtable (Electric Company)
Rand Corporation (Water Works)

The “Free Parking” corner is now the Libertarian Party, because nothing happens in either space. And of course “Jail” is the Mises Institute, because what self-respecting libertarian would voluntarily come to Auburn, Alabama?

Like the original game, there’s a central banker who dishes out fiat currency. There are no houses or hotels to build, however; now when you “fund” all the organizations in a color group, you can hire Research Assistants and Endowed Chairs – just as soon as you reimburse the Central Bank for the cost of their student loans. If your spokesman (token) lands on an organization controlled by another player, you must make a “donation” instead of paying rent. There are still Chance cards, but I’ve replaced Community Chest with Market Based Management ® cards. (Everything is spelled out in greater detail in my “Official” Rules of Kochopoly.)

I still haven’t figured out what all the Chance and Market Based Management ® cards will be, but you can view a few samples at this link. Feel free to offer additional suggestions in the comments.


Brent October 22, 2008 at 10:47 pm

This is great! Long overdue!

Susie October 22, 2008 at 10:52 pm


brian October 22, 2008 at 11:15 pm

I’m not sure how I feel about the premise of this game. I worked at one of those think tanks (non-CATO), and I failed to see any pressure from donors to take any position.

The policy positions were more moderate than Mises positions because they were designed in hope that they would be swiftly implemented, to “chip away” at the bureaucracy, rather than taking the, albeit more direct, step of blowing the bureaucracy up entirely.

Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks…

Alex Peak October 23, 2008 at 12:01 am

I’d like to see a game that actually teaching people about Liberty. I don’t see how this lives up to the task.

Book 'em Danno October 23, 2008 at 1:29 am

Outrageously funny. Please finish and get to production before holidays.

I am an IHS alum btw. They had a Rothbardian instructor on the staff when I attended.

Pasi Matilainen October 23, 2008 at 3:23 am

I share Alex Peak’s concern. This game is just another Monopoly clone, no matter how you twist the names and labels. However, the idea of a libertarian board game is a good one, and I don’t say that just because I’ve been thinking about it for quite some time already. :)

I’ve been planning a version of the Monopoly myself. However, my focus has been the monetary policy. In my board game, you could play it in two different ways: with or without the central banker. In the former case it would more or less resemble Monopoly. However, in the latter case, the amount of money in the game would be constant. The idea is that playing two games in a row with different rules would instantly illustrate the benefits of and obliterate the myths about sound money. If anyone is interested in this project, please find my contact info at my website.

DS October 23, 2008 at 6:19 am

“The policy positions were more moderate than Mises positions because they were designed in hope that they would be swiftly implemented, to “chip away” at the bureaucracy, rather than taking the, albeit more direct, step of blowing the bureaucracy up entirely.”

How’d that work out out? That “chipped-away” bureaucracy was already invigorated by the Bush administration and will explode in all its glory in the Obama administration.

It looks ike the Faux-Free-Market solutions of libertarian-lite idea factories like the CATO institute were barely implemented in the form of “de-regulation”, didn’t have much effect on anything because they were compromise half-measures. And yet still the MSM, the leftists and a good bit of the public will still end up placing most of the blame on Laissez-Faire even though CATO and the Republican party never got anywhere near that concept.

The alternative would be to offer real libertarian solutions, risk having them ignored and remain blame-free when the government manipulated world we live in crashes to the ground – as it is now.

CATO ended up with the worst of both worlds – in years ahead it will be completely irrelevant AND it will be sitting there with completely compromised libertarian principles. Nice.

Mark Addleman October 23, 2008 at 8:40 am

This sort of intra-philosophy sniping is pointless and, potentially, destructive. Yes, it’s true that Cato Institute is more statist than the policies advocated both here and on lewrockwell.com. That’s hardly the point.

Given the advanced stage of statism in our society (evidenced by the unquestioning belief that most folks have in the power and right of gov’t to do whatever it wants), I believe the proper yardstick to measure every libertarian organization, is how successfully they educate the populace in the ideas of liberty. I’d much rather measure success in how much liberty is regained but I don’t think most people have had their eyes opened to the power of freedom yet. While there has been some gains in liberty, I don’t think anyone can serious argue that, by the measure of liberty regained, the entire libertarian movement is anything but an abject failure. We are only in the first, educational phase of a larger strategy. To that end, I believe that every organization advocating liberty, whether in its whole or piece by piece, moves us forward.

Freedom in its glorious totality resonates with many people. It frightens others. For them, we need to describe freedom in a piecemeal way not in an effort to deceive them from the ultimate goal, but to show that each small step forward helps everyone. The larger libertarian movement should have as many varied educational outreach efforts as effective.

For those advocating a step-by-step approach, it helps to have watchdogs checking that each step is actually moving us forward. When Cato missteps, they should be corrected. Adopting a more libertarian than thou attitude probably isn’t the best way to get the message across, though.

Gabe October 23, 2008 at 9:13 am

While it is true that intra-movement attacks are a diversion of energy from the overall goal of a smaller government. It is questionable to even include pro-murder people like Barnett and others as any sort of libertarian. The interventionist and pro-neo-con support at CATO and other institutions has been a real negative for the over all freedom movement as you now see free-markets being attacked as representative of a Bush-Cheneyian idea. I think we have all seen some good papers and many good people come out of CATO. it would be nice if those freedom lovers at CATO would be opne about the damage that people like Barnett have done.

Mark Addleman October 23, 2008 at 9:22 am

Hi, Gabe -

Yes, I agree that pro-neo-con support is bad anywhere. It’s damaging to the libertarian brand when it comes out of libertarian-branded organizations like Cato. That should be fought tooth and nail.

As an aside, I wonder if part of various freedom movements’ branding problem is orientation. I think that some people feel like the goal of libertarianism is to shrink gov’t. Other people have the goal to increase freedom. Of course, those two goals are pretty much two sides of the same coin but a person with one orientation will fight different battles than someone with the other.

Rob October 23, 2008 at 9:29 am

I was ‘converted’ and ‘converted’ more people by reasoned arguments destroying the legitimacy of the state, the immorality of political voting, the Austrian approach to economics, etc. than any rhetoric about downsizing the state or getting the government out of this or that specific area.
Any particular criticism of state power in one area will ultimately come down to the question of the legitimacy of the state in any/all areas. Reading Nock, Rothbard, Lefevre, Watner, Spooner, Rockwell, La Boetie, Spencer, et alia, has allowed me to address this final argument bridge. Never got that ammo from reading Reason or the Cato Journal.

Nick Dranias October 23, 2008 at 9:37 am

Lay off Goldwater. We had one of your scholarship students intern here over the summer and I don’t think he caught the Koch cooties.

There is zero influence from donors here, including Koch.

Dividing liberty alliances right now makes zero sense. Focus your guns outward.

Gabe October 23, 2008 at 10:16 am

While I was personally more convinced of the evilness of most government activity by reading Rothard, Bastiat etc. I have found it useful to argue on a issue by issue basis to convince other people of the wrongness of government actions. The people I can’t convert always want to argue about some specific problem with how a theoretical anarcho-capitalist society would work. Of course these people aren’t convinced when I say that “if any one person knew all the details of a perfectly functioning anarcho capitalist society, then that would be an argument for a dictatorship government to get it put in place.”

These people usually won’t read Rothbard or Bastiat, becaue they usually aren’t that interested in this stuff.

Greenspan himself says in his new book that his thought proccess evolved like this. All taxes can’t be immoral/theft becasue if we didn’t have taxes we wouldn’t have roads or a military. Therefore, he seems to conclude, he starts down his prgamatic road to being the interst rate czar and doubling payroll taxes to help fund a bipartisianly supported ponzi scheme. In his mind, all of these “exceptions” to freedom are laudable practical comprimises.

The infuriating thing for people like me, who do recognize that pointing our guns inward is destructive, is that it was these same people like Greenspan, Barnett, CATO who had a great opportunity to unite and point the intellectual guns at the establishment last winter…instead they chose to attack Ron Paul….was ron paul 100% pure in all of his stump speaches? not really….was he a better advocate of freedom than Greenspan or CATO or Barnett have ever been? yes!

For many libertarians this tells us that we can never count on help from CATO, when it is most urgent they will shoot freedom in the back as we try to present liebrtarian ideas to millions of people.

UncleSim October 23, 2008 at 10:23 am

Anyone remember the Monopoly-like game, I think from Milton-Bradley, called Easy Money? Better improvement options than Monopoly, but the same basic premise. What about PayDay?

As far as teaching libertarian lessons, I like Texas Holdem’s lessons about marginal utility, and time preference. Sometimes a card is a winner, and sometimes a loser, depending on the timing and the other cards. And best of all, no one there will argue with you that the value of a card is dependent on the labor that went into making it, or that it is worth the same thing this hand as it will be next hand, or that further regulation is needed to maintain individual card values. There must be more libertarian lessons in poker, but I’m still a student of both, so I’m surely missing some.

In addition, no one breaks the rules, and even if someone could, the player would merely be rejected from play, rather than submitting the other players to new rules that only make the game less worth playing. Plus, there is already vast online gaming capacity for almost anyone to learn to play for free.

If anyone wants to play with another Libertarian, look for me on PokerStars as UncleSim, and say hello.

Gabe October 23, 2008 at 10:28 am

How does the Goldwater institute write so much about economic growth while dancing around the topic of monetary policy and the methods by which the value of money is stolen from the general public and given to those with the power to benefit from the Federal Reserves monetary creation license?

It is like writing a enclyclopedia about bathtubs without ever mentioning anything about the drain or the faucet.

Gabe October 23, 2008 at 10:51 am

Do you think monetary policy has anything o do with “economic prosperity” or “constitutional government”?

Those are twe of the three topics you guys categorize your three areas of research in. I find it hard to believe that no one at the Goldwater has ever thought to write about monteray policy implications in both areas.

What about foreign policy strategies?

The obvious way these topics are left out of all research on your website in spite of their tremendous importance does leave me to wonder if this was a conscience decision possibly made at the top by one or two people.

That way they can just screen all employees to exclude people who desire to write about foreign policy or monetray policy….then the people who are hired will admantly defend the idea that they are free to research “anything they like”.

It is amazing how some can be completely imprisoned without even being aware of the cage they are in. The best slaves are those who actually like to be slaves.

Kevin October 23, 2008 at 12:13 pm

In virtually all video games that deal with economics, the player is inevitably the dictator – they are given unlimited control over what to build, where to place roads, how goods are to be allocated, etc. I suspect that this is because a game that simulated participating in a true market economy would be boring to play.

Railroad Tycoon 3 is a refreshing exception – it’s a great simulation of starting a business, dealing with debt, managing expansion, and so on.

JOHNNY GALT October 23, 2008 at 1:42 pm


Craig October 23, 2008 at 2:00 pm

No place for the IRS?

Michael A. Clem October 23, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Um, exactly what is libertarian about it? Acquiring properties, maybe, but the purpose of monopoly is to monopolize the board and drive all your competitors to bankruptcy. In the libertarian-desired free market, that’s an impossible goal, even if the market participants want to do it. Such monopoly is only possible with government power and privileges, which are very anti-libertarian.

J-No October 23, 2008 at 3:00 pm


There is a game called Patrician (multiple versions) that simulates a true economy. Not sure how it would be classified in terms of its economic model.

Dennis Rumer May 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm

FreedomWorks? Obviously someone didn’t do their research. The Koch brothers hate FreedomWorks. n fact, Citizens for Sound Economy split into FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity after a fight with the Koch brothers in 2004. The Koch brothers have never given a dime to FreedomWorks.

Mr. Bennet October 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm

“But, Lizzy, you look as if you did not enjoy it. You are not going to be _missish_, I hope, and pretend to be affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”

There will always be hope for freedom, if someone remembers to laugh.

Daniel Maxwell October 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm

“In virtually all video games that deal with economics, the player is inevitably the dictator – they are given unlimited control over what to build, where to place roads, how goods are to be allocated, etc. I suspect that this is because a game that simulated participating in a true market economy would be boring to play.”

Aha. So very true. Another good example is the PC game Victoria. Despite the existence of laissez-faire parties in the game, like the Democratic Party (pre-Bryan), the only difference is when they are in power you cannot build railroads or have protective tariffs (anything higher than 13% or so). You can still fund infrastructure like massive subsidizes to improve coal plants, etc.

DS October 23, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Um, exactly what is libertarian about it? Acquiring properties, maybe, but the purpose of monopoly is to monopolize the board and drive all your competitors to bankruptcy. In the libertarian-desired free market, that’s an impossible goal, even if the market participants want to do it. Such monopoly is only possible with government power and privileges, which are very anti-libertarian.”

I thought the same thing, until I remembered literally day’s long Monopoly tournamnets with my friends when I was a kid. They never ended with one player monopolizing everything and driving everybody out of business, they usually ended in a repetitive stalemate until everybody got bored and went outside.

Albert Gallatin October 24, 2008 at 12:21 am

I like the idea of a good game that gives you an opportunity to learn libertarian ideas and principals. This is something we need as a teaching and education tool.

I used to play the original Sim-City, when it came out. I enjoyed the ability to set up a city with my pre-planned topography and then build… I quickly became disenchanted though when I found that there were few free market solutions to the game, as it was based on the belief that there is a “right amount” of taxes to fund utopia.

You had to have schools, cops, prisons and all the big state projects. You were making it big when you could get the military to come in and build a base near your city… Yeah! wooo-hooo! big time baby…

I would love to see something like Sim-City with enough options to show that freedom does work.

Anyone know of something like this?

Kind regards,

- Al

Tao - Starlit Citadel October 24, 2008 at 4:52 am

Hmmm, I don’t know off-hand of any games that promote freedom and liberty directly, but I do know where you could ask – http://www.boardgamegeek.com have a ton of board game geeks who could point you in the right direction.

And if, as I suspect, there’s nothing around that does that directly (certainly I can’t think of any game that deals with gov’t sizes); you could get their help in making one. There are even legitimate game designers who comment frequently on the site.

Just some games to get you started though, there’s a new game – Bill of Rights (http://boardgamegeek.com/game/36232) that has players play as competing lobbyists/interested parties trying to get their own agenda’s into the creation of a new bill of rights. An amusing concept and certainly a good way of teaching people about the problem of politics/multiple agendas/lobbyists/etc.

For a good supply chain / economic game – try Container (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/26990). It has some interesting rules (you can’t buy or ship your own goods) that creates an artificial economy each time it’s played. It’s quite possible to wreck the economy (too many factories producing, not enough shipping occurring, too many loans, etc.) and while you could be doing well, you could fail due to everyone else (not buying from you, etc).

Michael A. Clem October 24, 2008 at 10:29 am

they usually ended in a repetitive stalemate until everybody got bored and went outside.
The original “bored” game, eh? Our games usually only lasted a few hours. It eventually became clear who had all the money, and we’d just concede the game instead of playing to the bitter end.

Kochhead October 25, 2008 at 8:33 am

You forgot Loyola University, where Walter Block is–according to your perception of this process–now dancing on Koch’s strings. But I guess you won’t go after him for taking Koch money since he’s an in-house guy.

I could also mention the fine work that Tucker and Woods have done with Acton.

Or Mason, where Mises Institute books and QJAE articles appear on many syllabi even at the graduate level.

IHS printed up shirts this summer with Rothbard’s picture. Talks on anarchism are not uncommon at their summer seminars.

But I guess you don’t have room in your siege mentality for the idea that the individuals at these institutes represent a wide range of views, regardless of whether they receive funding from a common source. Realizing that would certainly cut back on this sort of acrimonious nonsense.

Helmuth Hubener October 27, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Kochhead, the point of the game, as I see it, is to poke fun at the amusing fact that there are these billionaire brothers with their fingers in so many pots. The railroads seem to be all institutions where their donations are a negligible drop in the bucket. It is not as if the Kochs are controlling Harvard! Nor George Mason, as you rightly assert.

As for games teaching liberty. There is a game called The Welfare Game that my family owns which is vaguely similar to Monopoly, but only very loosely (it’s not a clone). The object of the game is to acquire as many household appliances as possible while avoiding the repossession company. That game is very amusing and pro-freedom (anti-socialism/dole anyway). The cards are things like “Your dog has puppies. Claim 3 additional dependents! Receive $300.” Quite funny; yes, quite funny. It is one of our favorite games. Fittingly, we bought it on the free, that is, gray, market: a rummage sale. The game at http://www.welfaregame.com may be related to it somehow, though the game board is totally different.

So if you’re looking for a free-market-type game to gift for Christmas, you might try purchasing the game at the above address, though I have no idea if it’s as good as the version we enjoy.

Barbados Dagny June 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Dear S.M., I stumbled across your board game looking for a libertarian game designer for an interactive web site showing how much one is owed from corrupt and wasteful government projects (wars of choice, foreign aid to dictators, etc.) to be called the Refund Cash Register. I will come back and review your game in its entirety and feel it can be a highly useful product (if I’m not too late to if it’s already been published). My only negative is that I believe Monopoly is copyrighted and I don’t know if one can just create a new game with new details and it won’t violate the copyright. Regarding Cato and the other “libertarian” scholarship governments relied on to remove all regulation, I remind people that civilization requires minimal regulation, like red and green lights at intersections to avoid crashes. The Bush “free marketeers” threw the baby out with the bathwater and Obama is making things worse by bailing out instead of allowing businesses to fail that made stupid choices.

Lacy February 17, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Can you fix the pic? cheers :)

Cori Krumroy November 12, 2010 at 12:25 am

Interesting…I am gunna have to look into this a little more

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