Wreck-onomy

, , , , , , , | Learning | August 30, 2018

While I never really got on with school as a whole, there is one lesson I had that really stuck with me. It was set up as a game. The class was split into teams; each team was a country. Each country started with $500 of their local currency and some materials such as paper, scissors, or rulers. The countries had to create shapes and sell them to the world bank for profit. The trick was that countries like the USA or UK had lots of scissors and rulers, and even compasses and Protractors — curved shapes were worth more — while the poor countries had lots of paper but not much else.

The game started with the world bank taxing each nation $100 to be collected by the USA. Unsurprisingly, my team’s Ethiopian Dollars weren’t worth much and were all taken, and the US got to keep 10% of the tax. Occasionally the teacher running the game would make up arbitrary rules that more often than not benefited countries with wealth and the tools, such as closing the border to Europe so only the wealthy nations could sell to the world bank, or rejecting certain shapes which had been overproduced while still allowing the wealthy nations to sell their excess stock

Eventually I got sick of being on a losing team, took all my country’s money and materials, and bought my way into the United Kingdom. We raked in the money mass-producing circles. My best friend started to cheat, himself, by stealing from other teams; he even tried to steal from the world bank. At the end of the lesson I asked the teacher why he let us cheat, since he obviously saw me buy my way into the UK. He went on to explain that very often people in poor nations do just what I did, exploiting my nation for personal gain, or, like my friend, steal from other weak nations to improve his own all the while the richer nations reap the benefits.

The class really stuck with me as a great way to explain a lot of how the world economy works, if very dumbed down.

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