You are the 1%

8 Minute Read
8 Minute Read

If there is one game than can start family arguments and flipped over tables its Monopoly. No other board game seems to invoke the same kind of reaction like the good ol’ Property Trading Game.
If you have ever been in a situation like that whilst attempting some family-together time and shit has hit the fan.

The reason Monopoly can invoke massive frustrations is because it too easily mirrors life. What we see as chance in our daily existence is represented by the roll of the dice. Everything else that goes on within the game is simply a universal law in action.


Physical reality is governed by some weird laws. We don’t know why this is and we cannot escape them, but they are there all the same. Behaviours, both on a personal level and within the collective consciousness of a group or society, are all subservient to these unseen powers.


Nature uses the Golden Ratio. This is a proportion, equalling 1.61803399… Imagine a line, doesn’t matter the length but it has a start and an end. If you touch it in the exact centre, the two halves would obviously equal 50/50 or 1/1. However, there is another place on that line where it has very special properties, a place where if you touch it, would equate the Golden Ratio.
Let’s say your line is one metre long. The point of the Golden Ratio is 61.8034cm along its length. Why here precisely? Its because if you divide the length of the entire line (1m) by its longest side (61.8034cm), it is the same result as dividing the longest side (61.8034cm) by its shortest side (38.1966cm). This division is 1.618 or Ø (pronounced phi).

The Golden Ratio manifests itself and affects us in all kinds of ways. It is also called The Building Block of Nature because it is the proportion that many flora and fauna uses in its growth patterns.

If left to their own devices, and assuming all babies are male/female, rabbits breed in the Golden Ratio. Its the ratio that leaves grows, shells form, it is abundant in the human body – the length of your finger is in the Golden Ratio to the length of your hand. The length of your hand is in the Golden Ratio to the length of your forearm, and many more places, explaining everything from the length of your nose to how tall you are.
Studies have found that those who we appreciate as having ‘movie star good looks’ comes down to how prominent the Golden Ratio is within their facial structure.
We are subconsciously attuned to this ratio. In design, we will automatically choose something that embodies this ratio other something that does not. Commercial products are designed this way, cars, for example, its the shape of your credit card – the longest edge is in the Golden Ratio to its shorter edge. Although this topic is too immense for the scope of this article, it gives us a good example of a law that governs our lives without us even knowing.

The Nautilus. A classic example of the Golden Ratio where each new growth segment is to the proportion of 1.618 of the last.


Another weird universal law is the 80/20 rule or the Pareto principle,[1]The Pareto Principle named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. This states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. For example, 80% of sales come from 20% of clients or 80% of gains are the result of 20% of physical exercise.
Again, the law of 80/20 is some weirdness that we can’t explain, yet has massive consequential outcomes on our lives.


In these examples, the third, and most important law is very similar to the 80/20 rule above but it specifically applies to creative work, and this is Prices Law. Derek John de Solla Price,[2]Derek John de Solla Price a British physicist, historian of science, and information scientist discovered that the square root of a number of people in a given domain does 50% of the work. So, if your company has 10 employees, three of these will achieve 50% of output whilst the remaining seven people will output the other 50%. Or, in a class of 25 students, five will contribute 50% of the work.

Both the Pareto principle and Prices law are very similar and each seems to work around their own parameters. It is also important to note that these are models only and to be used as a rule of thumb, however, in most circumstances, they are quite accurate.

… now back to Monopoly.

Monopoly uses the same principle as also found in other areas of life. One that we cannot escape and one which influences everything that it touches. It appears to be some combination of the Pareto principle and Prices law. Some psychologist straight out calls it Prices law and others feel its more the Pareto principle. Nonetheless, whilst the jury is still out on what exactly it is, its effects are very real and it’s more commonly known as the 1%.

THE 1%

It has been well documented that 1% of the population of society has most of the wealth compared to the remaining 99%. This percentage keeps fluctuating around this figure and the term 1% is a representation and has spurned global movements such as Occupy Wall Street to address this imbalance.
The 1% rule is also manifest in many other areas of life; on the internet, 1% of users of a forum-type website or wiki writes or posts most of the content. The remaining 99% only view.
With classical music, we listen to 1% of composers. Within the entire catalogue of individual composers, we mostly listen to 1% of their own work. Think of this in your own music collection. How much music do you listen to a particular artist, no matter how prolific they are or have been?

The 1% rule is also not a fixed entity. It is scalable and acts as a pyramid with the 1% being the capstone sat on the top.

If we take the top 1% and look closer, we can see that 1% of these has most of the money/sales/contracts/whatever than the remaining 99% of that group.

If we zoom into the 1% of that group, in this case, the 1% of the 1% we find that these have most of the money/sales/contacts/whatever of that group.

Further still, the 1% of the 1% of the 1%, has, even more, money/sales/contacts/whatever of the remaining 99% and so on this goes.
We can use a sports analogy here to demonstrate this more clearly. Think of a participation sport. Football maybe.
Out of all of the members of the public who dream, and try, to make it professionally, only 1% of these does.
So now we have professional teams. Out of these, 1% who has made it from the wider population, only 1% of these are the stand out superstars who maybe score the most goals. And 1% of the standout superstars is the highest paid, or who has the largest commercial endorsements.
The 1% rule is everywhere. It can even be found within cultures where polygynous relationships were tried and were the norm, for a while at least. And yup, even here, eventually 1% of the men ended up with the majority of the woman and so the societal custom always failed. Every time.[3]Sex equality can explain the unique social structure of hunter-gatherer bands[4]The puzzle of monogamous marriage

But when we speak of the unequal distribution of wealth in our own societies, it is easy to miss that we are actually in the 1% ourselves when we expand this pyramid backwards. Globally, if you earn more than $30,000 USD a year, you are in the top 1% of the global population. It is too easy when thinking of the unequal distribution of wealth to only look upwards – “they have more money than me”. But it is important to remember that it works in reverse also. I don’t hear too many people complain that “I have much more money than 99% of other people on the planet”.

But let’s assume that we can distribute all of the money on the planet and equally among all of the 7.8 billion people currently living today making everyone financially equal. It would only be a matter of time before the 1% rule showed itself again and a few would soon amass most of the wealth.

This is Monopoly. A game is always started with everyone on equal footing. Everyone has the same amount of money at the start of the game and everyone is subjected to the role of the dice. It doesn’t matter how long the game is played, or how skilfully, the final outcome will always result when one person inevitably consumes all of the assets of the game – the 1%.

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