Bryan Caplan  

Economics in Candyland

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Teaching Un-Normal Economics... $125 K of premium medicine...

True story:

Last night, I was playing Candyland with my four-year-old sons. The green gingerbread man token is always in excess demand, so the house rule is that the boy who plays green goes second. (It's never too soon to introduce the concept of compensating differentials!) After a game, the boy who just played green (call him Boy #1) briefly left the room, and the following dialogue began:

Boy #2: Can I be green now?

Me: Yes, but you have to go second.

Boy #2: But I want to be green and go first.

Me: Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

Boy #1 returns.

Boy #2: I want you to be green this time.

Boy #1: But it's your turn to be green.

Boy #2: I know, but I want you to be green because I'm nice.

I cracked up, but my kids never figured out why.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Michael writes:

Seems like you don't ahve the compensating differentials set quite right :-)

LOL, going through the same thing tonight with the game Life. Kids are 5 and 8. ;-)

Bill Conerly writes:

My dad did something that benefitted me when I was young. When I started playing chess, he always played to win. He'd spot me a queen and both rooks, then play as hard as he could. The game was fun for him that way, and fun for me. And when I won, I knew that I had beaten a handicapped player, but I also knew he was trying as hard as he could to win. So victory felt sweet.

I had bittersweet feelings when he declared that he would no longer spot me both rooks. It was a moment to be proud of, but I knew it would get harder to win. A good part of growing up.

Tom West writes:

I've always liked that system when playing Chess with my sons. But now I'm down to spotting him a bishop, and I'm not quite certain if my dignity will hold up to him offering to spot me a few pawns in a year or two :-).

My two sons are 5 years apart, so handicapping is particularly important for multiplayer games. We generally have a rule that each time you win your handicap drops (or the other's go up if you're at zero). It means that even when they lose, they know their chance of winning next game just got better. Works pretty well.

The only thing I haven't figured out is when they cooperate to "squish Dad", should I be scolding them for collusion or complementing them for working together. So far the only rule is "no throwing the game to make the other win".

Christina writes:

What lucky sons you have. My dad refused to play games with us, saying "life is a game, and I'd rather play that," and my mom was always too tired.

Brian Prest writes:

When I was young, the front seat of the car was in high demand between my sister and me. We didn't have the "shotgun" rule back then, so my mother said that whoever sat in the back got to choose the radio station--then we argued about who gets to sit in back.

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