Board Game Offends, Amuses, And Educates

Dave Killion — September 14, 2012

Fun for the whole family.


This satirical and anti-liberal game debuted back in 1980, and has gained attention recently as an album of images showing the board, the rules, and some of the game pieces has made its way around the net (see album here). Despite being denounced as callous, sexist, and racist, Public Assistance enjoyed some measure of popularity, and an attempt to ban the game through the courts failed on constitutional grounds. You can find a defense of the game by one of its producers here. From the article –

“Our lampoon was based on street knowledge and common sense. My partner and I saw ourselves more as packaging experts than game inventors. We often told people, “We didn’t invent this game; government liberals did. We just put it in a box.”

I must confess, the album had me laughing from time to time, but the game appears to be more critical of the recipients of public welfare than most libertarians will find fair. After all, poor people respond to incentives just like everyone else, and their conduct is often a rational response to the circumstances they’re in. Our true condemnation is reserved for the coercive government policies that create those incentives. Once we get rid of social welfare, no one will ever have to worry about banning Public Assistance.


Jeremy Maddock says

Actually, it seems the court decision was a lawsuit by the creators of the game, against a government body which tried to ban it from department stores. I think the court was right to recognize the hypocrisy in such a cause:

“This case, however, does not involve attempts by government to censor the unorthodox or the insurgent. Rather appellants ask us to protect them against a letter sent by Brezenoff simply urging various department stores not to carry the controversial product. Apparently, appellants believe the First Amendment shields their own critique from any form of official criticism. In our view, this approach would stand the Constitution on its head. The right to free speech guarantees that every citizen may, without fear of recrimination, openly and proudly object to established government policy. It does not immunize the challengers from reproach. Having boldly entered the flames of public discussion the First Amendment specifically is designed to kindle, appellants now seek our rescue from the sparks of controversy they ignited.”

All in all, the game looks like mildly amusing satirical hyperbole. I doubt it will change anybody’s mind, but people should be free to play it (or criticize it) without being the subject of government censorship.

— September 17, 2012

Dave Killion says

Jeremy: That was a good catch on your part. Thanks!

— September 18, 2012

Leave a Comment

Disclaimer: The articles and opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Libertarian Book Club.