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I’ve been a fan of Monopoly all my life.  Getting brothers and sisters, let alone parents, to play this long game has been hard.  Whenever I had the chance, I would play.  One year for Christmas I got Deluxe Monopoly, the board, box, and various parts of the game wrapped separately so I would have plenty of presents under the tree.  I own a book about Monopoly that gives secrets to the game, among which is the hint to buy orange and red properties, statistically the most landed on spaces. 
 
Before I had real money to speak of, I decided to budget when I played Monopoly.  I kept a ledger and gave myself a $200 allowance each time around the board.  The allowance rolled over, but this budget was not the best strategy for Monopoly.  Property is, as you might expect, key in Monopoly.  (Allowances reduce spending power when the most properties are available.)  In Monopoly, finishing the game is important.  Long term strategy requires that you invest cash now in the future, planning to finish the game as the only player not bankrupt.  Stopping earlier cheats the strategists. 
 
Learning financial principles and investment strategies can be useful, and Monopoly is a versatile tool.  We know there are versions of Monopoly for all sorts of things, changing the wording and the pictures on a board to match a theme: Golf, Disney, Dinosaurs.  Some of these, like Lord of the Rings Monopoly, even offer optional new rules.  Inspired by these game-twisting ideas, my friends and I have come up with some of our own new rules.  Far different than “house rules” (using Free Parking as a lottery), these are made to challenge the way you strategize, and how you think about capital, commerce, and taxes. 
 
Here are a few Alternate Monopoly Rules. —  All games must be finished.  Early terminations necessarily end in a draw, with no winners.  Versions are meant to be played one at a time, and not combined.  However, feel free to modify these rules for your own use.  Unless stated, all rules are as printed in the Monopoly Rule Book.  As a general rule for inventing alternate rules, keep things simple. 
 
Inflation
Every time you pass Free Parking, your cash will be assessed and 25% will be returned to the Bank.  Properties will not be assessed.  Your salary upon passing GO remains the same. 
 
Ultimate Portal (Aughenbaughs)
Use 2 Monopoly Boards, preferably with slightly different cards (vintage, specialized version).  Landing directly on Go on either board shoots you to the opposite board.  Also switch the chance and community chest cards from the two versions.  When a Chance or Community Chest card tells you to go somewhere, go there on the opposite board.  Everyone starts on one board. 
 
Swiss Bank Account
Play like Ultimate Portal with these additions.
Any cash COLLECTED while your piece is on the SECOND board goes into a Swiss Bank Account.  The player may take cash out of that account at any time, but cannot arbitrarily add money.  Income Taxes and Bankruptcies cannot touch any cash in the Swiss Bank Account.  It stays there through the whole game, even if you are bankrupted in the main game.  At the end of the game (when only one player in the main game has any money), the initial winner adds his main game money to his Swiss bank account.  If his total is greater than the balances of his opponents in their Swiss bank accounts, he wins. 
 
Criminal Justice
When you roll three doubles, get a “Go directly to Jail” card, or land on the “go to jail” space on the board, if you do not have a “Get out of Jail free” card with which to bribe the judge, your game is over.  You are capitally executed and your assets are returned to the bank in full. 
 
Wartime/Draft
All taxes are doubled.
If you land directly on any of the four corner squares, you have been drafted.  Roll the dice to determine your fate:
1-Tour of Duty.  Sit out 3 turns.  Come back (to GO) exempt from future service and any taxes.
2-War Hero.  Same as 1 with $1,000 bonus.
3-Casualty.  Game over.  Return assets to the Bank.
4-Draft Dodger.  Sit out 3 turns.  Resume play from GO.  If on any turn afterwards you land on a street property, you may buy any unowned properties in that color group.  If you subsequently land on Go to Jail or get a Go to Jail Card, your game is over.
5-Amputee.  Sit out 1 turn.  Resume play from GO.  All future turns, roll both dice and divide by 2, rounding up. 
6-Did not Qualify.  Proceed with game as normal. 
 
Socialist
At the start of the game all properties are shuffled and dealt to the players.  All rents are the prices posted on Indiana.  Chance and Community Chest cards that involve spending or receiving money apply to everyone.
 
Triggered Socialism
If at any time the least propertied player has 3 or more properties LESS than the next richest player, EVERY player must return his lowest-priced property to the bank.  
 
Economic Stimulus
Pay taxes and fees to Free Parking.  If anyone lands on Free Parking, the pot is divided evenly among all players, with remainders going to the player who landed on the space. 
 
Jubilee
Every time a 7 is rolled, all mortgages are automatically forgiven.  Every 7th time around the board, all rent is free. 
 
Savings Discrimination
Every player must spend money on each trip around the board.  If he completes a circuit without spending money, he must pay a fine of $50 to the bank. 
 
Debt Incentive
If you own a mortgaged property, you do not have to pay any taxes.
 
Foreclosure
If a player lands on a mortgaged property, he may pay 110% of the mortgage value to the bank and acquire that property. 
 
Libertarian
Taxes and jail are cancelled.
 
Mobster
Make up your own rent.  If you own a property, you have 2 options.  You can charge a tenant the printed rent.  Or you can make up your own rent, at which point you have a shoot-off with the tenant.  You each roll one dice.  The higher number wins.  Winner (landlord or tenant) collects the made-up rent from the loser.  In case of a tie, both players pay printed rent to the bank.
 
2012
Put a sticker on a community chest card, and one on a chance card.  Shuffle both decks (separately).  Play Monopoly as usual.  When the special Chance card is drawn, 2012 has arrived; the End of the World has come.  Clean up the game.  There are no winners.  If you draw the special Community Chest card, you can play it as written.  Or you can keep it as a Cycle Card.  If the holder of that card so chooses at the End of the World, he can play his card.  Instead of the world ending, it merely begins a new cycle or phase.  The game is still over, but assets are summed and a winner is declared. 
 
Freaky Friday
Whenever doubles are rolled, players keep their same pieces but all assets shift clockwise (to the left).  No new rents are paid as a result of the exchange until the next turn.
 
Insurance
Optional: Each player has the option at the beginning of the game of receiving a reduced Go paycheck of $150 as insurance against Utilities and Railroads.  The extra $50 goes into the middle of the board and pays Utilities and Railroads charges unless there is no money in the pot, at which point the rents/fees are still charged at $0. 
 
Mayor
When someone rolls a 12, he becomes Mayor.  He holds the special mayor piece.  Property improvements (houses and hotels) are half price to him while he holds that piece.  Mayors are exempt for the duration of their term from property assessment cards.  The next person to roll a 12 is elected the new Mayor.  No special privileges are retroactive.  
 
Feel free to share your own special rules in the comment section!
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
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Proverbs 22:7, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

 

The Bible is fairly clear that debt is a bad idea.  The Jews were allowed to loan money to each other, and even to take a deposit – but they could not charge interest.  Only outsiders were to be a source of profit to the Jews.  Proverbs teaches that giving to the poor is much better than lending to them; it is compared to lending to God, who will “repay” the generous man. 

 

Proverbs 19:17, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”

 

Luke 6:35, “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.”

 

With this in mind, I have chosen to be neither slave nor master, borrowing nor lending.  I don’t have a credit card, bought my car with cash, and prepay my auto insurance every year.  The most money I owe is paying my share of our family cell phone plan each month, and I try to never get even a day behind.  As a result I have a no credit rating, but I defy an economy built on spending tomorrow’s dollar.  Isn’t it rather foolish of them to base trust on the fact that people are NOT responsible enough to save money ahead of time? 

 

I don’t want to lend money, either.  But living in modern America, to have any sort of normal life one must have a bank.  Banks are institutions that take my money and your money and loan it to others in order to profit from the interest.  The banking crisis of 2008 was precipitated by a ratio of loans to interest received that was too disproportionate to maintain a profit.  The expenses of banks were not being paid by the interest on loans because too many loans were “bad.”  Payments were not being made.  Banks can’t reinvest foreclosed property immediately.  Their funds became tied up, invested in non-liquid assets.  And this is not a bad thing except that they had been too greedy, and left insufficient cash in hand to meet the demands of their customers.  Some of their customers were the depositors, some the borrowers (small businesses were a big concern; apparently they function on future dollars almost exclusively), and many bank clients are paradoxically both.  That this is bad for the economy as a whole is becoming more and more evident. 

 

The practice of profiting from loans (associated with shady characters for centuries) to people in need is hurting individuals as well.  Obviously to give an interest-free loan, or even a “hand up” gift in hard times would be much preferable financially.  Traditionally this would be done relationally, by capable friends who would be able to assess the legitimacy of the need and the efficacy of the gift.  To those not in need loans ought to be less available.  Politically and economically the Levitical law on charging interest to foreigners corresponded to the idea of duties (benefiting the people directly, rather than the government).  To participate in the God -directed and –blessed economy of Israel, a Gentile could borrow money from a Jew, but the Jew was allowed to charge him for this privilege, taking the form of interest.  (This is as covered in the law; it is plausible that Jews could charge other things like duties or rent for market space.)  I suppose that business loans resemble this category, but it is not sound business to rely so heavily on borrowed cash. 

 

Here is where I would like to introduce the concept of investment.  What is commonly considered investment today is more accurately called “speculation.”  It is a risk, calculated or wild – a gamble.  Either a bank is taking a risk on a loan, betting that the interest yield will be profitable and that the debtor will not take off with the money; or an individual or institution is throwing money into stocks hoping the value of the stocks will go up, and that they can sell at a higher price in the future.  Investment is different.  Investment relies on dividends for profit.  Dividends are a share of the profits less than the total profits divided by all the “shares” of stockholders, so that some of the profits may be reinvested in the company for continuing productivity, like farmers not selling all of their produce, but saving some for seed and planting a portion of it the next season.  Sound investing is to give (as in not expecting or requiring the money to be returned) a sum to a company that one believes will be making profits long enough that dividends will meet or exceed the amount of the investment.  This happens over time. 

 

Another type of investment is in assets, which ought to appreciate through supply and demand.  This property ought to have inherent worth by reason of usefulness.  A few common kinds of investment are land, houses, and gold.  A person may also invest in a service, like education, which makes his skills greater and his labor more valuable.  Investing this way does not always require the sale of the investment to profit.  There can be “dividends” on this as well: rent money from rental property, use of a house or farmland, or application of the skills acquired through education. 

 

I understand how the sale of stock arose, and how useful it is.  I’m not opposed to that being an option.  It should not, however, be the common practice of banks, investment companies, or sound long-term investors.  There would be two reasons to sell stock: 1) You can no longer afford the investment.  Liquidity is more essential to you than long-term profit.  2) Your share in the company is losing value in a way that makes you think that no profit will ever proceed from it again.  In this instance, to sell is to take advantage of another investor, profiting from selling them an asset worth nothing.  Like loaning money or running a casino, it is preying on the risky ambitions of foolish men.  It ought to be legal in a free market, but it is not moral. 

 

All this to say that the ideal bank for me would be one that does not loan money, nor speculate in stocks.  Picture a community of people.  Many of them have money to spare, which they wish to store in a safe but accessible location.  They get together and store their money in a bank.  This bank is managed by a man who guards their cash and processes transactions: deposits, withdrawals, checks, debit cards, transfers.  To pay for his services, the depositors allow him to use a portion of the total money in the bank to invest.  At least a portion of the dividends, if not all of them, would pay for the building, the administrative fees, and the banker’s salary.  The investments ought to be diverse, and published to the depositors for review.  If there was sufficient concern that the investments were imprudent, the depositors could attempt to advise their banker or transfer their money to a more trusted banker.  Depositors would understand that not all of their money would necessarily be available for withdrawal or transfer at once, but at a contractual set period after such a request is made.  As always, more deposits are an insurance against a misjudged investment or a large withdrawal.  If the investments are consistently successful enough, a bank may offer its own dividends to all of its clients, or to those whose deposits are large enough (this is done today through “interest-bearing” checking accounts). 

 

This is slightly simplified.  A larger bank would obviously employ more than one investment manager, for example.  I don’t know all the laws involved.  Many banks, I believe, were begun by one wealthy man (or a few partners) who put up his own money to ensure both initial liquidity and sufficient funds to participate in the market at a profitable level.  In fact the whole idea is similar to a trust, in which multiple parties get together in order to make investments too large for their individual capital.  (If I wanted to invest in gold, I am pretty sure the smallest portions I can buy in a portfolio situation are ounces, so if I don’t have enough extra cash to buy one ounce, I cannot invest in gold.  But if my brother and I pool our investment money, we could afford the ounce and participate in that market.)  Trusts are strictly regulated by contracts defining shares, inheritance, selling out, and management. 

 

I don’t think owning stock in a company should be restricted to corporations or investment firms or banks, nor should it take an expert to understand the buying and selling of stocks.  There is a place for the investment firm that lets investors manage their own portfolios as well as for an investment bank such as the one I describe.  If a client is benefiting from the bank-like services of an investment firm, it is fair enough to let those employed by that company control the investments made, even if in the form of creating a list of acceptable investments or advising on investments (veto power), for the security of their business and thus the continued availability of the demanded services. 

 

My idea here is not brand new.  Think of what banks are called.  You can still find some today called such and such “bank and trust,” or “investment bank.”  I want a bank that does not loan money, and one that does not speculate in stocks.  Do you know of any? 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Obviously there is an economic crisis.  The world is unable to borrow money.  As a result countries have stopped trading money.  People have stopped spending money.  Within weeks businesses will stop paying money to employees.  Unless something changes. 

 

The government of the United States has already acted.  They passed a $700 billion bill that, along with unnecessary tax cuts to special interests, relieves stupid and irresponsible bankers and investment agencies of their risk.  Initially confidence was back up, and the stock market regained some of its points.  I don’t know what else to call it, because there isn’t inherent value in the stock market, or money. 

 

Now the economy has regained its sense.  The people of the United States, those whose money fuels the investments and liquidity, told the government not to pass this imaginary money bill (a huge loan taken out by the US Congress in the name of the US people).  Now they are still not confident, still right that the bailout bill was the wrong thing to do.  The Congress went ahead and stole our free market.  So the stock market crashed more than it ever has before. 

 

The world is in turmoil, because most of the world owns stock in our financial stupidity.  Of course looking out your window no one seems to be in turmoil. 

 

I have been in tears.  Yesterday morning, watching news of voter fraud and financial collapse, an eerie thought crossed my mind.  Much like the compulsion to watch the news all day on September 11, 2001 and remember every event and emotion, I thought I should remember these days and their news, as though recording the last days of an era, an ideology, or a country. 

 

I’m generously predicting complete socialism in America in 3 months.  My dad says it could be sooner.  So, as a matter of fact, does President Bush.  The government has acted and will continue to act, he says with regards to the economy and the failing markets.  Our country may soon be socialist. 

 

That is, if country still means anything. 

Today the G7 world leaders are meeting to compose a unified plan for a unified global solution to the economic crisis affecting people internationally.  “In an interconnected world, no nation will gain by driving down the fortunes of another. We are in this together. We will come through it together,” Bush said. “There have been moments of crisis in the past when powerful nations turned their energies against each other or sought to wall themselves off from the world. This time is different.”

My friends don’t know who to vote for in the presidential election.  They’re discouraged with the options offered by major political parties.  We all know that neither candidate will accomplish much of anything toward fixing the massive problems in our government and economy (financial markets and health care), nor will they actually do much of anything for the social interests of people (education, immigration, abortion, and marriage).  The best answer I have is that it won’t matter what we vote.  Our government is rapidly running away from republican principles, the Constitution, and even its national existence. 

Have a good day. 

(My personal philosophy is that whatever is out of my control is in God’s.  He has the future thoroughly planned, and has revealed the end of the world in His word in several places.  What’s more, my personal welfare and provision is securely in his good hands, not ultimately in the government’s.  Whatever happens, however discouraged I may be by world events, I can trust His sovereignty, goodness, and grace.) 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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For a few years there has been a Sylvan Learning Center near my house.  Driving home from church Monday, I noticed that it is now empty and “for lease.”  Whoever owned that franchise location probably felt like they had a good geographic.  The neighborhoods nearby have plenty of kids whose grades tend to teeter on the passing line.  Whether English wasn’t their first language, so they’re playing catch-up at school, or if they’re simply not disciplined enough to learn and do homework, students in this part of the world could really use some one on one tutoring. 

 

But more, it would appear, was necessary for the success of the business than identifying a need and providing the solution.  First of all, there had to be interest.  The parents of the students had to care about their grades and the solution Sylvan offered.  Secondly, the parents had to have the currency to pay for supplemental education: the currency of money and of time. 

 

Five minutes home from church ought to be a short period in which to fit analogies for life, but one struck me.  At our church I see several high school girls who need older ladies to care about them, to spend time with them, to ground them in faith, and to guide them to maturity and godliness.  So a friend and I, under our youth pastor, are offering a small group.  This would also enable the girls to get to know each other and encourage each other.  But most of the girls aren’t coming.  Either they don’t have the interest, or they don’t have the currency of time to invest. 

 

What’s the solution?  Should we close up like Sylvan?  Is our tactic wrong? 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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My brother and I were talking the other night and I had an insight (being only informally trained in economics – I could have been taught it if I’d just taken a class).  But I don’t know if there’s a name for it.  So I’m asking. 
 
I heard an ad for investing in gold.  The price per ounce has gone up a lot in the past couple years, and is understandably predicted to continue to rise.  Right now I think the commercial said the going price is $700 an ounce.  But while I might have $700 free cash to invest waiting for the gold to increase in value, I’m not allowed to buy gold one ounce at a time.  So there is a minumum amount of money I have to have before I can participate in investment.  Buying a home is very similar.  Debt makes money more available in larger amounts (paid back in smaller increments), thus raising the minimum line. 
 
Bartering went out of fashion because having one cow didn’t work as a trade for one spear, since the cow was really worth say, 300 spears.  So we have capital, money, to be the fluid in between and prevent us needing a minimum number of available cows to trade in order to participate.  Capitalism, therefore, should have fixed the minimum line problem. 
 
But then we add inflation (caused by debt on a national level), which depriciates the money someone below the minimum line has, so that they are, rather than gaining worth by saving money, actually losing ground.  They must continue going to work (as an employee, most often) just to get enough money to survive – if that.  And there’s no way out.  This is the modern equivalent to serfs, or the slave class. 
Marx saw this, I assume (never read Marx myself), but his solution doesn’t solve anything.  It emphasizes inflation and simultaneously erases any home of overcoming it through investment.  Marxism is like bailing water from a still-sinking boat. 
 
So what’s it called, the minimum line to participate in investment that would protect your income? 
And what should we do?  
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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