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Property Rights.

by Dear Jon
August 16, 2002

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Sort 164_Dear Jon-Property Rights. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

I am a fabulously wealthy, good-looking man. I have dated hundreds of models and supermodels, but I am thinking of settling down. My problem is that I can't find anyone worthy of marrying me. Should I get a major network to host a show where hundreds of women would compete to see if I find them worthy to be my bride?

Rich, handsome and all around better-off-than-you-are

Dear Rich,

If what you say is true, sadly there are hundreds who would line up to be contestants. Your question is, “Should it be done just because it can be done?” I have a feeling that if you are anything like your letter you would not pay much attention to my answer, anyway.

Normally I don’t print letters that are based on robbing the intellectual property of novels, television shows, or movies. In this case I make an exception: In the case of “reality television” featuring contestant brides for an arrogant groom, there is exactly zero intellectual property to steal. I don’t know which network does that and I care so little I am not bothering to look it up, even in the t.v. guide, which is one of the few references I actually use. Therefore, this is commentary on the value of what already exists rather than plagiarizing. More on this issue follows from our regular contributor, “Barnabas.”


Dear Jon,

I know I think of myself as the resident ethicist for this quality journal, but I am seeking a second opinion on a personal issue. Is a pseudonymous columnist guilty of plagiarism when quoting, without attribution, something he or she has written in another persona?

Thank you.


Dear Barnabas,

You have appropriately addressed your letter to the Partial Observer’s only Resident Expert on Everything. You are asking whether it is possible to steal from yourself. If the words have been unpublished, or published without payment, my answer is that you are not guilty of stealing. If your words have been paid for by someone else, you need to give that publication credit.

As far as I know, no one has ever stolen words or ideas from Dear Jon. I am sure that means I am a well-respected professional in the journalistic community.


Dear Jon,

Is the board game "Monopoly"® just a harmless game or is a child's introduction to the harsh reality that one day his or her company will be bought out, his or her net worth will be depleted, and he or she will end up penniless, out on the streets with no value to society?


Dear Gamer,

“Monopoly”® from Parker Brothers® is not for wimps, and the only harsh lessons are for the losers. I love it.

Think about what “Monopoly” really teaches, though. To win at “Monopoly” requires a combination of luck and choice. Circumstances are dictated by the role of the dice, and sometimes the dice bring good things and sometimes they bring evil things. But only the individual player can exploit the opportunities. They can choose to buy the property they landed on, or not. Those who risk the purchase have a better chance over time.

Of course, the game concocts unreal circumstances. My wife and I have never chosen to stay at a hotel like the one that can be found on Park Place. We would not put ourselves into circumstances where we risk losing all of our money and property just to stay at a fancy hotel. So, while time and chance do happen to us all, we have even more responsibility over our choices than do the players of “Monopoly.”

Too many in our culture do choose to live beyond their means. “Monopoly” is an excellent game that teaches the risks inherent in that philosophy. Among those who live beyond their means, it is true that the gap widens between the fortunate and the unfortunate.

“Monopoly” also teaches that friends are a valuable network. The losers at “Monopoly” still eat the chocolate chip cookies on the plate beside the board, because friends are playing the game together. After losing at “Monopoly,” the slumber party continues. No one is thrown outside.

The person who is “penniless, out on the streets with no value to society” has a lot more issues than that they were downsized by a merger. I have known people struggling with unemployment for months, who have gotten by because they had friends who were “winning” but who cared. I have known people with great gifts to bring to society, who bankrupt their value and destroy their friendships through addiction or theft or betrayal or other failure that goes a lot deeper than being downsized. I have seen addicts in recovery who have recovered their value to society and even recovered their friendships and, in this tough economy, are working again.

“Monopoly” teaches a lot of lessons. If it is a “harsh” lesson that a person with five dollars and mortgaged property should avoid visiting a luxury hotel, well, then I guess “Monopoly” is harsh. But when I think of “Monopoly” I think of Saturday evenings playing with my sister while we listened to records, and even though she won some and I won some, we still look out for each other even today.

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Dear Jon Letters: Tips for Dating and Mating
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