And not even our ‘best & brightest’ can see outside the matrix.

Last week, I flew to NYC for corporate leadership training among 42 bright-eyed, overachievers handpicked across 10,000+ employees for our potential as future leaders of the business.

(Hey, if you’re going to live in the matrix, may as well do it in style).

From the USA, Europe, and Asia, we spent the first day in a simulation designed to illustrate human behavior in a society that stratifies us economically and politically.

Developed in 1969, the game is called “StarPower”.

Players are encouraged to advance through society by acquiring wealth through trading. The first round combines chance and skill, as we randomly draw chips of different value that can be combined to earn bonuses. We trade amongst ourselves to gain advantage before the round’s tally.

My initial draw is a dud – dang! – a mix of midrange and low-value chips.

My best trading strategy is to offer the midrange for more low-value chips. If I can accumulate four- or five-of-a-kind, I’ll get a respectable bonus.

Scurrying about, I have little trouble finding colleagues willing to make a deal. It’s a win-win.

After round #1 we are divided into three groups, upper, middle, and lower class. My score of 20 lands me among the elites. Vindicated.

At first, it feels good. Pins are passed out, prestigious red squares for the wealthy, blue circles for the middle class, and lowly green triangles for the poor.

The screws begin to turn

For round #2, the scales are quietly tipped, weighting the distributions in favor of the squares. The real experiment is now on, and the lab rats — us — are blissfully unaware.

My 2nd draw is stacked with gold chips. Wouldn’t you know it?

Feeling lucky, I see no profitable way to trade. Suspiciously, most of the other squares also sit tight, while the middle- and lower-class buzz around seeking betterment.

Scores are cumulated, and the groups are largely unchanged. The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. A few shuffle on the fringes, but mainly the gaps just widen.

The room is skeptical, but we’re assured the game is merit-based. Comforting words, they’re hard to swallow. Most of us squares know we didn’t use skill to grow our advantage.

Once a blossoming community alive with shared optimism, now that the wealth gap widens, each group conspires only with their own, like Star-Belly Sneetches.

A new twist

Next each group is offered “bonus points” to distribute to 1-3 members by majority rule. Various strategies are contemplated to protect our advantage over the circles.

It’s time to interject…

“Guys, the game’s only objective is to accumulate points individually through chance or trade, not to act as a group. The only ethical thing to do is to throw out the bonus points”, I declare, importantly.

Like squirrels arriving to a block party, my comments are easily ignored. Groupthink has set in.

We need to keep the squares on top, the group buzzes.

Our bonus points are split to the top and bottom earning squares, pushing the top further from reach, and bringing up the bottom to hold down the circles. The mob has spoken.

Meanwhile, the circles and triangles each elevate one player, dropping two squares from the upper echelon. There’s immediate pride to see one of their own anointed.

It — and the gratitude of the chosen one — fade quickly, soon replaced by resentment and guilt.

The final straw

For the last round, the squares – not the circles or triangles – are given authority to change the rules to our heart’s content. No holds barred.

This is where regulatory capture is supposed to set in; in most simulations, the squares tilt the rules more in their favor. And frankly, if the money was real, we probably would have.

Given the stakes are so low, we’re only slightly more altruistic.

A few proposals are discussed to level the playing field. We suspect the game is rigged, but aren’t sure. Some squares feel guilty enough to propose a reset to zero.

If the chips carried real worth, say $5,000, $50,000, or $500,000, I doubt they’d be so eager.

In the end, the squares cannot agree on changes. Enough of us are content to believe the game is fair, keep the same rules, and look the other way.

In most simulations, greed runs rampant among rule-makers like Kentucky bourbon in, well, Kentucky. The result? The game usually ends in rebellion.

Head’s roll from the guillotine, like 1793 France.

According to the distributor, StarPower teaches us that-

    • Power is seductive; we are more vulnerable to the temptation to abuse it than we realize. It can make the world better or be terribly destructive.
    • What seems fair to those in power is not likely to seem fair to others.
    • Persons who are promoted rarely remember those they leave behind.
    • In any system, there needs to be checks on power, or it will be abused.
    • If rules do not have legitimacy, they will not be obeyed.

The postmortem

What followed was the corporate deep-dive, a window inside the minds of America’s ‘best & brightest’. What did we think?

Mostly, it was felt the simulation reflects the society we live in today.

The group pointed to (a) the cost of college education, (b) discrimination in hiring, and (c) that it takes money to make money. People with means have built-in advantages, they concluded.

Sure, those are real, but I think they missed the better analogy.

Life today isn’t like the game. Life today is the game.

The real problem isn’t that people who have earned stacks of chips through chance or trade will use those chips to benefit themselves and their children.

The problem is the goddamn gold chips are tossed in a bag and handed exclusively to the squares.

Below is an illustration, friends.

The US Central Bank – the “Fed” – has a monopoly on creating chips (money). They do so from nothing, right out of thin air, like ancient wizard alchemists, and only because a society largely misdirected or pacified allows them this magic wand of authority.

Since 2008, these wizards have created more than $3 trillion, quintupling the supply of chips. In the last four months, they cooked up another $400 billion in new chips-

This is funny money – new chips that didn’t exist until they hit a keystroke. What do they do with all these new chips? They purchase treasury debt to drive up financial assets (bonds, stocks, and real estate).

Who owns these assets?

The squares do. The top 1% own 50% of financial assets, and the top 10% own 90%. All the new chips flow right onto their balance sheets, just like that.

Presto.

They tell themselves (and you) that the economy needs this, even that they are heros to the common man – the courage to act – but it’s just a giant game of circle jerk.

The uber-squares get uber-wealthy blowing credit bubbles that end in bust, crippling Main Street with debt-defaults, layoffs, and bankruptcies, while driving up the cost of living for circles and triangles.

Your family runs faster just to stay in place, while they remind you it’s a game of merit. You’re just not doing it right.

Each year, the biggest squares flood more chips into campaign finance to prop up rule-makers, rigging the game even further.

You can call it cronyism, or you can call it StarPower.

Few, not even the ‘best & brightest’ I was privileged to spend the week with, really get the mechanics. They’re all too deep inside the matrix.

The answer isn’t more bonus points, so the plebes can promote a few do-gooders with scholarships. The answer is to make it a fair f—ing game, by taking the chips away from the Federal Reserve.

There’s a thing for that, and it’s in the Constitution. It’s called gold, and it can’t be conjured from nothing by a cabal of self-obsessed squares.

It’s either that, or rebellion.

Do we really expect a voluntary return to gold-backed money? We don’t (though the market will force it someday). So, are we just wasting our breath? Well, we’re not writing to Congress. We’re writing to you. No matter where the country goes, there is much to gain individually by seeing the world through this lens.

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  • By admin
  • Jan 2020 at 5:08 pm
  • 6

6 Replies to “Sorry kids, the system is rigged”

  1. This is absolutely fascinating. Douglas MacArthur said, “history shows no example of a society that underwent moral collapse and did not also go into monetary and social collapse.”
    Ben Franklin said “out constitution is written for a moral people.. Any other people would destroy the constitution as a whale goes through a fishing net.”
    Morality and self-regulation are responsible for maintaining our society. Since a corporation has; no brain, no heart, no soul and, no ethics,,, it is no surprise that the corporate world is a major facet of our collapse.. Morality and ethics are a big inconvenience in business.. The “corporation” is eternal and all-powerful, AND immune from prosecution. It is a god of destruction saturated with power but, lacking in ethics.

  2. So instead of whining about a rigged system why not play the game. Save your money and quit spending it on crap that gives you no ROI. Incorporate and purchase real estate, step into that world and this skewed view of the woe is me will be gone. You will learn about what it takes to run a business, hard work and build something that will take of you and yes other people too. My son is almost 4 and when I buy a piece of real estate I take him with me to explain what I do and that one day he will do this to not only take or his family but to take care of other people. See the thing is there is this fallacy of the 1% of people being this evil crowd of monsters but it isn’t true. What we see on the news are the terrible CEOs that do things to run businesses and livelihoods into the ground. Those people aren’t the owners of the companies. The gates foundation has given more money away than the GDP of many 3rd world countries. Warren Buffet I forget when he did this buy he actually drained his personal accounts one year and gave away all of his liquid capital. I believe it was over 3 billion at the time don’t quote me on that. All I would like to see is less rhetoric about the 1% being evil and a little more truth about what exactly the do for society as far as the amount of money that is given away to foundations and other areas in the form of need. And one last point as far as the 2008 of printing money while I understand not not everyone is happy about the bailouts and personally I do believe in a gold standard. If that surplus wasn’t printed well let’s just say I enjoy being able to flip a switch and my lights turn on. We would have seen a very different America if they didn’t happen.

    1. Great comments, Mark. I think you’ll fit right in here, as that’s what we aim to do. Help people understand, then play the game to win. You would likely agree with most if not all of our Ultimate Parent’s Guide to Money, Saving and Investing. I will send it your way. Our children’s book, “Where does money come from?” is at the printer now and will be ready in about 30 days (if the CoronaVirus doesn’t disrupt supply chains longer than that). We’re not against the 1% (I’m probably in the 1%), but what I call attention to more than anything else is the broken paper money system. It funnels productivity gains away from the working class and to the financiers. There’s plenty of history around paper money, and not only is it unfair and suboptimal, it always ends badly. Very badly. If we avoided the bailouts, major companies would have gone bankrupt, yes, but the assets would have found their way into stronger, better capitalized hands, and the lessons learned. You can’t have capitalism without failure — creative destruction. We only postponed and heightened the reckoning that awaits us. Thanks again for reading and commenting, Mark.

  3. Excellent analogy of the “system”. I agree completely. I am not a young person anymore, I am what you would call a “middle class” individual. The old proverb-“A rich man will never get to heaven” rings true these days. Look at Michael Bloomberg for example. He is trying and succeeding in buying the office of the President. He may or may not finally get there. The point is, money IS, in our society, the most important part of life. And you are right, it should NOT be this way. I only see Financial collapse for the United States coming. There is no stopping it. At this point it is too late. I fear for the future of our grandchildren-it is they that will preside over this collapse. At the end of it few will be left standing.
    Anarchy and civil war may be the result. Time will tell.

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