Students and members of the public got the chance to relive the birth of the American nation during an interactive lecture by Jeff Jackson, professor of law at Washburn University, that included a unique game on Wednesday night in the K-State Student Union.
Jackson said his inspiration for the game came from his desire to have students learn what it was like to form the Articles of Confederation.
“Learning is better when it’s interactive,” Jackson said. “It’s better than me telling you that nation-building is hard.”
Each person was given a state to represent and list of incentives, or various things their state would want in a government. Players received negative points if the policy debates were not decided in their favor. In the end, the states had to come together and agree on the terms of their new government and decide whether or not to join.
Jackson said Wednesday night’s run-through was one of the best simulations he had seen. Every state managed to end with positive points and only Pennsylvania decided to abstain from the federal government and become their own nation. The best simulation he had ever seen occurred in the Soviet Republic of Georgia and took at least seven hours to complete. K-State’s game only lasted for one hour, with the states debating and compromising until an agreement was reached.
“In the end, it wasn’t a perfect compromise,” said Kerrick Kuder, freshman in political science. “Each state won some and lost some. Everyone had to give and take.”
Kuder, who represented Virginia, managed to receive 80 points. New York won the game with 95 points. Pennsylvania, who refused to join the new nation, had only amassed 10 points by the game’s end.
Melissa Prescott, an instructor in the Center for International and Multilingual Advocacy, represented Maryland and struggled with Virginia and New York on several compromises. In the end, Maryland received 25 points.
“It was frustrating sometimes,” Prescott said. “You have to get what your state wants even if the other states don’t have the same interests. Unfortunately, Maryland is pretty moderate and we didn’t have much bargaining chips.”
The issues the “states” debated at the lecture were some of the main issues the founding fathers faced when they wrote the Articles of Confederation. Jackson had to research each state’s motives and then assign a point system. These issues included the number and division of legislative houses, whether slaves were counted when tallying a state’s population, taxation, land rights, commerce laws and supremacy.
The simulation participants finally agreed that their government would have two equal houses, which included one based on population that counted slaves as half a person. They also decided that taxes would be based on population size, but that those who had slaves could tax less.
Additionally each state would control its own land rights, which was beneficial to those who lived on the western border and could expand into unexplored lands, and commerce was free, meaning the national government could not control state commerce. Finally, they decided to have a no supremacy clause, which hit many states hard. This meant that the federal government was not the highest law in the land.
In the end, the states came together and formed a viable government, according to Jackson. The agreement seemed stable enough that they could avoid a civil war for a long time. He said that other times, when he played this game, the agreement states finally reach often would not last as long.