Friday 30 September 2011

Middle Earth trade politics

I think that Jason Sorens has the stylized facts wrong here:
Seen on an International Political Economy quiz:
The world of Middle-Earth has become largely peaceful, and international trade is growing. The Shire, Gondor, and Mordor are three countries in Middle-Earth. The Shire is abundant in land and scarce in labor and capital; Gondor is abundant in labor and capital and scarce in land; Mordor is abundant in labor and scarce in land and capital. Some of the products these countries trade include Longbottom leaf (produced intensively with land), mithril chain-mail armor (produced intensively with labor and capital), and raw iron ore (produced intensively with labor).
In the period leading up to the events described in the Lord of the Rings, Mordor was clearly capital-intensive. Gondor eschewed physical capital, favouring magic and tradition over technology and research.

Subsequent to the war of Gondorean aggression against the peaceful Orocuens of Mordor, egged on by the Wizards' Council who sought to prevent the coming Industrial Revolution in Mordor which would have forever reduced the relative power of magic, the Elves implemented policies in Mordor that Pol Pot would have supported: destroying any remnant technology and exterminating those with an education, while the Ithilians and Gondoreans tried to salvage some of the technology for their own use. So, post-war, Gondor was relatively abundant in capital (stolen from Mordor). And maybe Mordor was relatively abundant in labour, but only by virtue of its land having previously been turned to salt-pan pre-war by a failed irrigation scheme and its capital having been destroyed more thoroughly than its labour.

Worse, you can't make Mithril chain mail unless you get the Balrog out of Moria. Other sources say that Moria-induced lack of raw material was just a cover for the technology's having been lost - magic is in long term decline.

If you're insufficiently familiar with the true history of Middle Earth and the war of Gondorean aggression, read The Last Ringbearer (pdf), which anticipated a lot of the arguments made by David Brin back in 2002: LOTR was history as written by the victors who demonized their enemies as having been less than human. I wonder whether Brin had read the (1999) Russian version of The Last Ringbearer.

@ModeledBehavior asked if he should read Lord of the Rings. Of course he should. So that he can read The Last Ringbearer.

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