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Reflections on Westeros

Summary:
Well, it is the May long weekend and a celebration of Queen Victoria but this year it has also coincided with the end of Game of Thrones and its own set of Kings, Queens and associated dysfunctional noble figures.  There has been a lot of angst expressed about how inadequate the final season has been in terms of plot and character development and the reviews are mixed, but I will leave such matters to others. I want to focus on some other things of a more economic and political nature. Aside from the visuals of what appears to be a Rostowian pre-takeoff economy marked by low levels of productivity, low technology and a land centered economy with a feudal type of organization, remarkably little insight was offered over the eight seasons as to what the mechanics of the economy were that

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Well, it is the May long weekend and a celebration of Queen Victoria but this year it has also coincided with the end of Game of Thrones and its own set of Kings, Queens and associated dysfunctional noble figures.  There has been a lot of angst expressed about how inadequate the final season has been in terms of plot and character development and the reviews are mixed, but I will leave such matters to others. I want to focus on some other things of a more economic and political nature.

Aside from the visuals of what appears to be a Rostowian pre-takeoff economy marked by low levels of productivity, low technology and a land centered economy with a feudal type of organization, remarkably little insight was offered over the eight seasons as to what the mechanics of the economy were that marked the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.  Indeed, given the amount of war and pillaging that inevitably must have disrupted trade routes and commerce, it is a surprise that anything was produced at all aside from a thriving weapons and armour industry.  Even the effects of climate change as the endless winter approached did not appear to spark much in the way of policy debate.  And there does appear to have been an abundance of government deficit financing with a monetary institution known as the Iron Bank holding many of the loans.  In the end, the Seven Kingdoms appear locked into a pre-industrial stasis and need some type of political and economic reforms as well as an enclosure movement and a learning focused Renaissance to boost agricultural productivity and ignite an industrial revolution.  However, the last episode suggests that the governing elites are not about to set out on the path of any social, economic or institutional innovations given the shocks of external invasion by zombie like White Walkers and the ultimate battle for the kingdom.

Indeed, given the opportunity to innovate a new set of political institutions that might have set the stage for innovation and reform, the ruling houses of Westeros appear to have opted for a modified status quo. Rather than a hereditary monarchy, they have gone for a simple unanimity voting model in which they elect a monarch from one of their own.  This of course ensures that future transitions will simply be another Game of Thrones as the ruling houses jockey for position and future bloodshed is probably inevitable.  The brief flirtation with the concept of responsible government whereby the actual people of Westeros might elect their king was greeted with chuckles from the assembled nobles.  One suspects a similar reaction among the nobles if someone had proposed giving women the vote too.

One interesting development was that at the end, the Seven Kingdoms eventually become Six with the North and its seat at Winterfell once again getting full autonomy as a separate Kingdom.  The vision of a true north strong and free with its own Queen undoubtedly will strike a warm response in the hearts of Canadian viewers (or even some viewers in northern Ontario relative to the power nexus of the south centered in Ontario’s own version of King’s Landing, the GTA).  At the same time, this was a disappointment because the opportunity was lost for a more innovative form of government – a federation. Having the Seven Kingdoms surrender some of their authority to a central tier that would allow for development of a continental transport system would have done much to further the development of a larger integrated common market and future economic development. Alas, it is not to be.

However, the future may yet unfold differently with the inevitable spinoffs that will come from HBO in the wake of such a successful television series.  I for one predict the following four spinoffs all centered on the four remaining Stark children as they pursue their destinies: 

  • Westward Arya in which Arya Stark and her pseudo Viking ship go west and reach the Westerosian equivalent of Newfoundland and Labrador and establish a thriving settlement and wine industry which they will call Vinland.
  • The Amazing Adventures of Sansa, Queen of the North which will chronicle the weekly adventures and travels of Sansa Stark as she puts her mark on a kingdom with a pretty weak tax base and rather terrible weather.
  • Snow North of the Wall which will feature an endless northern winter trek as Jon Snow attempts to enforce Arctic sovereignty on behalf of the Realm in northern Westeros.
  • Breaking Bran will be a show on Bran Stark’s unique fund-raising approach to rebuilding the infrastructure of King’s Landing in the wake of Queen Daenerys Targaryen’s barbeque blitz.

Enjoy the rest of the long weekend and have a great week.

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