By Paul Brinkkemper
Have you ever tried to explain to someone how money is created as a loan by banks? Then you most likely came across misunderstanding, disbelief and apathy. If the movement for monetary reform is to gain influence among the general public, we have to educate many people. To be effective we must find persuasive ways around the common psychological defensive reactions. To do this, we have created a board game called Money Maker to make it fun and easy to understand the banking system. In Money Maker every player becomes a bank that can create money, similar to how a modern fractional reserve bank works. While playing, players subconsciously create a credit boom and watch it fall apart in a big bust. In the end, only the richest player wins, but all players walk away with a fundamental understanding of our broken banking system, and if they pay attention, some pointers on how the system can possibly be improved.
What are the common reactions to hearing how banking works?
If you happen to have a conversation with friends or family on the workings of the monetary system, you may recognise one of three common reactions:
- Many people simply do not care. “All that banking is very complicated, and abstract. I have better things to do with my time. Why bother? I don’t understand how it works, and I am not able to change it anyway.” An apathetic public is unlikely to catalyse any improvements in the money system.
- Misunderstanding is also a very common reaction when talking about how the banking system works, especially when talking with trained professionals. When speaking about the money system with a banker or an economist, there is almost a Babylonian confusion where people use the same words but attach different meanings to them. Especially when using the word money. M0; M1; M2; M3; TMS, are a few of the many different definitions of money. It is very difficult for people to work together if they do not have a shared vocabulary of the tools at hand.
- Disbelief is very common among people who have a certain degree of education or training on the subject. It can be very difficult to let go of a worldview that you have held onto for a very long time. “Why would this person talking about money creation now here tell me the truth? Surely, if it was that important, I would have learned about it in high school. Or otherwise I would have read it in the newspaper or heard it on television” is a typical reaction. We even met one journalist who was not allowed to write about money creation in his newspaper because “money creation is the topic of conspiracy theories.” When you cannot talk about something, it becomes nearly impossible to solve any issue related to it.
Why should we focus on changing the minds of people who don’t agree with us?
These reactions are what one might consider part of the cognitive dissonance that people employ to keep their worldview intact. Psychologically, we need to keep our worldview intact to function in the world: doubting the existence of gravity every five minutes can be troublesome. But if our attachment to our current worldview is too rigid, it can prevent us from learning new things and evolving.
From the perspective of the monetary reformers, this cognitive dissonance lies as a great psychological defensive barrier between our group and the public at large. If we are to influence the greater public, we will need to find a way around this psychological defensive barrier. This is exactly why we have created the board game Money Maker.
How do you play Money Maker?
You play an investment banker in a city during the renaissance. All players start out with some money and an infinite amount of credit that they can create. There is a market for production and consumption goods, commonly referred to as ‘work’ and ‘food’. Every turn the players can bid on investments, the highest bidder wins the investment. Investments cost a certain number and type of goods to build and produce a certain good every turn. Players can pay for goods and investments with money or credit. At the end of a players turn, a roll of the dice determines the influence of credit on the economy and whether there is inflation or a credit repayment event is nearing. During a credit repayment event, all players must repay their outstanding credit with gold coins. Players that repay their credit successfully, increase in credit rating and can employ a higher leverage. Insolvent players that cannot repay their credit must borrow from solvable players. In the end, the richest player wins.
How does Money Maker explain complex economic concepts?
Money Maker is a microcosm of the Fractional Reserve Banking System, so very early on players figure out that they can spend more credit than they have money to buy the best investments. This leads to great increases in the price of investments and goods: the psychology of credit causes a credit-fueled boom. Without realising it, players learn about the credit-fueled boom and bust cycle.
Eventually, the credit must be repaid. Players who have spent too much credit need a bail out from their more careful competitors. These competitors can exploit the need of these indebted players to demand interest or the properties of indebted players in exchange. In this way, players learn about the importance of solvability and liquidity.
Without focusing on the exact terminology, Money Maker highlights the importance of the concepts behind solvability and liquidity.
When players repay their credit successfully, their credit rating improves. A higher credit rating means that they can spread out their credit over more places. This reduces the chance that they need to repay all of their credit at once. A higher credit rating means that players can create more credit and that the credit boom enlarges. This helps players learn about the workings of leverage.
In the game box, there is also an easier version of the game where players play without being able to create credit. To play Money Maker without credit is similar to a full reserve / sovereign money banking system. Players then see that there is no more boom and bust cycle, and experience the stability that comes with this. There is also a possibility of a debt jubilee in the game, which allows the players to experiment with how a mass cancellation of all debts would affect the economy. This shows players how the money system can be reformed to work differently.
And what do people think of it?
Playing Money Maker is a great way to introduce people to the workings of the banking system because it is an engaging way of learning. Rather than learning from a book, players are experiencing it in a game. Since the parallels to the real world are obvious, you can hear players say things like “You are a total Greece, so deep in debt” or “you are a real Goldman Sachs, profiting of others misfortune.”
Most importantly, playing Money Maker is a great way to get around the common psychological reactions against hearing how the banking system works. Any misunderstanding amongst players is quickly resolved by consulting the rulebook. For the duration of the game there is a suspension of disbelief. This suspension then carries over into the real world at the end of the game. Since players have seen the fractional reserve banking work in miniature, they can easily imagine it working similarly in the real world. Instead of exhibiting apathy, players are engaged in the game and trying to win. They experience that their actions can have a positive impact on the outcome. And most importantly: they experience that the money system is a system that exists by consent, and that if they play by different rules, the money system can work much simpler and be more stable for all players.
To learn more about money maker, you can find out more at www.moneymaker.games, or get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.