Cautionary Tales – Do NOT pass GO!

28th May, 2021

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The woman who was key to the creation of Monopoly was denied of her share of the credit and the profits. 

Lizzie J. Magie (played by Helena Bonham Carter) should be celebrated as the inventor of what would become Monopoly – but her role in creating the smash hit board game was cynically ignored, even though she had a patent.

Discrimination has marred the careers of many inventors and shut others out from the innovation economy entirely. Could crediting forgotten figures such as Lizzie Magie help address continuing disparities in the patenting of new inventions?

Cautionary Tales is written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Ryan Dilley and Marilyn Rust.

The sound design and original music is the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, Mia Lobel, Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Maggie Taylor, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.

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Further reading and listening

The essential book on the secret history of Monopoly is Mary Pilon’s The Monopolists, supplemented by Christopher Ketcham’s article “Monopoly is Theft” and Mary Pilon’s feature in Smithsonian magazine.

Lisa Cook’s articles include “Unequal Opportunity: The Innovation Gap in Pink and Black,” in Wisnioski, Hintz, and Stettler Kleine, eds., Does America Need More Innovators? ,  MIT Press, 2019; “Overcoming Discrimination by Consumers during the Age of Segregation: The Example of Garrett Morgan.” The Business History Review, vol. 86, no. 2, 2012; and Lisa Cook, 2014. “Violence and economic activity: evidence from African American patents, 1870–1940,” Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 221-257, June.

For more on Raj Chetty and the team at Opportunity Insights see Alex Bell, Raj Chetty, Xavier Jaravel, Neviana Petkova, John van Reenen “Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation” and “American InventorsThe Economist 4th December 2017.

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