McCaffrey and Dorobat on the Economics of Game of Thrones

By: Matthew McCaffrey, Carmen Elena Dorob??

This Sunday the long awaited seventh season of Game of Thrones will premier on HBO. Two Mises Institute scholars, Matthew McCaffrey and Carmen Elena Dorob??, have written extensively on the economics of the series, noting that:

George R.R. Martin’s story touches on a variety of economic issues, from the implications of not having an economic system at all, to the problems of money and public finance. 

Recently the two appeared on along with a “small council” of other academics looking at some of the main characters of the series, and what the future may hold in store for them:

On Cersei Lannister:

The first couple seasons demonstrated that the city can be starved out quickly. Financially, the rich and powerful house of Lannister now has several debts to pay in the upcoming season. Their short game of acquiring more power at every opportunity has not only left them in bad straits with the Iron Bank — but also with the smallfolk of King’s Landing.

Daenerys Targaryen:

She’s also made mistakes in governance similar to those of Cersei and other elites. As her attempts to free Slaver’s Bay by ruling through the same old monarchical system failed, they advise she abandon the “wheel” of Houses altogether, and instead capitalize on a common theme rising throughout the saga: the smallfolk’s disenchantment with the ruling class.

Jon Snow:

While dangerous in the short term, this long-game shake up of the land-owning Westerosi caste system through an infusion of egalitarian ideals could prove vital to Jon Snow’s survival. 

McCaffrey also joined to discuss the financial situation of the Seven Kingdoms after six seasons. He notes that their appetite for debt has left the Lanisters and King’s Landing in a bad situation:

“As a House, and now as rulers of Westeros, the Lannisters were just too attracted to debt,” said McCaffrey. They’ve destroyed their credit history with the Bank of Braavos, and worse, Cersei literally burned a bridge with her rich Highgarden allies by obliterating its heirs Margaery and Loras Tyrell in last season’s finale. Cersei also soured relations with the country of Dorne, and now the Tyrells and Dorne are backing Daenerys Targaryen’s army against the Lannisters.

“It’s unlikely the Lannisters as a family are going to survive this, because Cersei has alienated everyone around her. And you can win or lose a war depending on your financial connections,” said McCaffrey. “As for King’s Landing, the only hope at this point is to find a new leader to end this war and push for some stability in the land. Wartime prosperity is a fake boom; you have to shift your economy from building and creating consumer goods that people actually use to make life a little better, to producing tools of war, which don’t benefit people. Go back to a system of relatively low taxes, relatively low borrowing, and let the people earn a living once more.”

Read more by McCaffrey and Dorobat on the economics of the Game of Thrones:

The Economic Sense in Game of Thrones |
Game of Thrones and the Politics of Fantasy |
Mormont Shrugged; or, Lessons from the Game of Thrones |
The Game Of Thrones Is A Game Of Coins | International Business Times
An economist explains what’s really going on in ‘Game of Thrones‘ | Business Insider
What “Game of Thrones” Can Teach Us About Debt |

Also check out their 2015 paper, ‘We Do Not Sow’: The Economics and Politics of A Song of Ice and Fire. 

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