Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 24th 2017 Contents life B11
Thursday, August 24, 2017 guardian.co.tt
It was dragons vs zombies in
fiery combat during this week's
Game of Thrones, a battle that
likely provides just a hint of what
lies ahead in HBO's hit series.
Yet the epic scene also raised an
economic question: Can the White
economy defeat their disorganised,
squabbling Westerosi opponents?
The Associated Press' econom-
ics team explores this question, as
well as the growing rivalry between
sisters Sansa and Arya Stark, in the
latest episode of our audio series,
The Wealth of Westeros. We were
joined by Carolyne Larrington , a
professor of medieval English lit-
erature at Oxford.
The icy, humanoid White Walk-
ers have mobilised a fearsome, un-
thinking army of zombies against
the population of Westeros, the Eu-
rope-like continent where the show
mostly takes place. Their top-down,
centralised approach can be intimi-
dating from a military perspective. It
can also help an economy accelerate
temporarily, as the Soviet Union's
did after World War II.
But this week's episode provides
clues about the shortcomings of this
approach. When a White Walker is
killed by Jon Snow, all the zombies
created by that White Walker also
die off. In other words, in a system
with no individual autonomy or de-
cision-making, the White Walker
army is useless without its leaders.
By contrast, Jon Snow, Daenerys
Targaryen and their compatriots
bicker incessantly about strategy,
but their less-centralised approach
allows individuals like Snow to take
risks and make their own decisions.
Historically, economies that allow
entrepreneurs to do the same have
provided greater prosperity than
those run from the top down.
Some other highlights from this
Sisterly rivalry gets out of hand
One surprise this season has been
the growing suspicion and ill-will
between Sansa and Arya Stark. Both
have suffered terribly after their
mother and oldest brother were
killed at the infamous Red Wedding,
and the scars they bear seem to be
pushing them further apart.
This week, Arya attacks Sansa
for a letter she wrote---against her
will---years earlier, urging her older
brother, Robb, to pledge his loyalty
to the spoiled, evil King Joffrey.
Larrington, who wrote a book ti-
tled Brothers and Sisters in Medieval
European Literature, as well as Win-
ter Is Coming: the Medieval World of
Game of Thrones, said the conflict
is unusual for its time, because it
doesn't involves a romantic rivalry.
"When sisters fall out in tradition-
al stories like this, it's usually over
a man," she said. "They both want
the same man," but that's not true
in this case.
"It's not like they both want Lit-
tlefinger, I mean God forbid," Lar-
rington added. "They're not going to
predestined paths like most medieval
women would have done, which is
getting married at quite a young age.
They are actually fighting for power,
fighting for self-determination, and
it has cost both of them quite a lot."
Winter Is Coming --- and
so is climate change?
The show's catchphrase, Win-
ter Is Coming, refers to both the
harsh, extended winters that can
last for years in Westeros as well as
the White Walker invasion. It's long
been seen as a metaphor for climate
Just like climate change, the threat
is two-fold: The people of Westeros
have to figure out how to defeat the
White Walkers, and also how to
convince many of their compatri-
ots that the threat is real.
In Game of Thrones, the White
Walkers haven't appeared for thou-
sands of years, so it's not surprising
that many characters on the show
regard them as myths.
But even with all our advances in
science and communications, it's
still difficult to achieve consensus in
the United States---and globally---on
whether global warming constitutes
a serious threat.
Dragon v Dragon
The White Walkers now have their
own zombie dragon, after killing one
of Daenerys's dragons and capturing
its corpse. This raises an interesting
question of military strategy that
has been studied by economists
who specialise in game theory:
Now that both sides have weapons
of mass destruction, will they hold
back from using them, as modern
nuclear powers have done? Or will it
increase the incentives for one side
to strike first?
This is Game of Thrones we're
talking about, so the safe answer is
the latter one. (AP)
Emilia Clarke as "Mother of Dragons" Daenerys
Targaryen and Kit Harington as Jon Snow in a
scene from HBO's Game of Thrones. AP PHOTO
Game of Thrones: Can Night King win with top-down economy?
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