Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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Kings, Queens, and Demesnes

108 Fahrenheit and I had to stand out in it waiting for a guy to process information for the oil change I had to-day. Maybe he's bitter because his garage doesn't have air conditioning. I happen to love hot weather but I'm feeling pretty smooshed, I must say. It's a good smooshed.

Also, new Morrissey album out to-day. I'm actually currently installing iTunes so I can get it. There are few people or phenomena that could get me to install iTunes, Morrissey's one of them. So far I've only heard the title track, from this performance:

Not a bad song, maybe not his best lyrics. I think "Death of a Disco Dancer" covers this same ground in a much more interesting way. The main difference, of course, is this new song is a more direct critique on government. I hope he doesn't go the route of Trent Reznor, going from personal to political. Sure, plenty of great Morrissey and Smiths songs are political--"The Queen is Dead", "The National Front Disco". But those songs feel much more borne of a living situation shaped in part by the political policies and attitude. "World Peace is None of Your Business" feels more prescriptive, more borne of intellectual theory. I like the music, though, and Morrissey's voice sounds good. It doesn't have quite the punch of "All You Need is Me" or "You Have Killed Me", though.

Anyway, speaking of misplaced statements on economic systems, I'm reminded of Sunday's Game of Thrones.

As much as I don't like Mark Gatiss' writing for Doctor Who and Sherlock, I don't think he's a bad actor, but maybe it's appropriate his appearance on Game of Thrones was to herald what I consider to be a really, really stupid idea, namely the Iron Bank.

So, the Iron Bank is huge and the Lannisters and the Baratheons and everyone else is beholden to them. As Gatiss, one of the council members who review petitions for loans, points out to Stannis, without a loan from the bank, he can't afford to keep his men in grain and meat for the war. The Lannisters have had to pay for their costly war with the Starks by borrowing from the Iron Bank, presumably to pay the men who fought for them.

This isn't remotely how war actually worked in the Middle Ages. Part of being a serf was that you owed your lord service in war, you owed your lord a portion of your crop yield--extra if he demanded it--and your lord, being a vassal of the king, owed your service in turn to the king. There was no standing army, the nobility and gentry mustered men from their territories when the need arose. This was not as efficient, certainly, as having a paid standing army and gradually the system changed as kings found themselves relying more and more on paying mercenaries than on knights and men-at-arms whose services couldn't always be counted on without financial remuneration. You see something of this in how Rob Stark had to spend so much time rallying barons to his cause. Being a sell-sword held a stigma for a long time.

In any case, even in the decreasingly rare event that the king paid for his armies, he didn't borrow money from a bank in a foreign land to do it. If the king needed more grain and meat to feed his men, he took it. All the farms in his kingdom technically belonged to him anyway--that's the magic of feudalism. It sounds like Stannis is hiring mercenaries and pirates for his planned attack on King's Landing but, apart from hiring these men, money would be pointless for buying food unless Stannis doesn't plan on occupying any of the farmland he takes, his men have been living on nothing up until now, and the pirates have only started eating since meeting Stannis. Where would he buy additional food supply?

In the real Middle Ages, even if a king wanted for some reason to borrow money from a bank, such a bank wouldn't have existed because banks like that didn't start appearing until tradesmen and craftsmen gained power in Europe and the cities began to grow. What use would a medieval farmer have for a bank? And the peerage preferred to keep their money right with them in their castles and manors.

Having the Lannisters dependent on the Iron Bank is even more absurd. What exactly are they spending that money on? This whole murky economic allegory aspect of the story could make things get uncomfortably Phantom Menace-ish.

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Tags: game of thrones, iron bank, morrissey, television, tv show, world peace is none of your business
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