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Monopoly

March 19, 2011

      If you spending any time as a practicing attorney, you learn quite a bit about human nature, probably more than most people want to know.  I emphasize practicing because this is a fundamental difference between someone with a law degree, someone who write papers all the time for a firm or a judge, and someone who has people walk in and tell him the problems they are in.
      When I was growing up I played Monopoly with my siblings and my parents.  My father was absolutely ruthless at playing the game, and often my parents would battle it out in an effort to beat the other.  I am still not sure if this was pathological or not, I will let the Freudians debate that in endless circles of fixations.
      Often there would be times where deals would be struck in the game once all the properties were already bought.  My father, when he had something you would want would make deals that were very lopsided.  Say you needed Marvin Gardens to finish a set to build houses and motels, he would trade the card he had for two or more of the cards he wanted and cash as well.  You didn’t make the trade, you’d be out of the game.
      From his perspective this was a rational choice a person would make.  Stay in the game a little longer and hope you get lucky.
      What he didn’t count on was that in those lopsided kinds of deals, a different type of strategy becomes enticing.  My father didn’t build any good will by making those offers, in fact he built the opposite.
      When I realized that my chances of winning were poor, but my chances of sabotaging him by either refusing his deal, or by making trades that were beneficial to others, even if they damaged me, I would engage in that behavior.  This would frustrate him to no end.  It didn’t seem a rational choice to him.
      Often people think in terms of winning, but there is another way of playing games and that isn’t trying to win, but making sure someone else loses.   A person has more power doing that, even if they lose, than they have taking a bad deal and hoping to get lucky.
      My father never understood that.  I sometimes wonder if it’s a generational thing.
      Often as a lawyer, your odds of winning are incredibly slim, but you can make the other side regret winning.  You can even make them lose, even though you don’t win.
      Sometimes that’s all the power a client has.

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