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In the Game of Thrones: You Default Or You Die

Words by Madeleine Pemberton

It’s almost April, which means two things to most students: Uni returns, and so does Game of Thrones. For 6 weeks, Uni work will be on the back burner, but for some, the analysis won’t stop on Monday nights. George R.R. Martin has made evident that he has researched and focused on making sure that the underpinning economic movements of his fantasy world actually function, which suggests that the finale of this season can be largely predicted with some economic thinking.

The crown relies on three main lenders to finance their debts; the Lannister house, the Iron Bank and the Faith. The great houses of Westeros then pay their taxes, which are partly obtained from their liege lords who manage the taxes of their knights and commoners. Yet the Crown’s debts have largely outweighed their tax revenue for the entirety of show and are progressively growing larger, as revenue continues to decline. Whoever claims the Iron Throne in the coming season not only gains the seven kingdoms, but also the Crown’s colossal debt.

Regardless of who gains or maintains the throne, the economic future is bleak, but the Crown is not entirely to blame for the poor outlook. Daenarys ‘Breaker of Chains’ Targaryen’s strict policy of ending slavery has largely attributed to her rapid gain of power. Yet with little fiscal policy, turbulence is experienced not only in the political climate, but in that of the economic too. Essos’s economy largely differs to that of Westeros; the powerful cities are merchant led, the informal economy plays a much larger role and slavery dominates the labour force. As slavery is abolished, producers either have to close production completely, or continue with much higher costs, therefore slowing international trade with Westeros.

Westeros additionally faces many challenges within itself, with the kingdom split over five kings, internal trade is also slowed in the tempestuous political climate and financing moves to war rather than investment. Production is decelerated as many of the fit labourers are called to arms, and plentiful lands are ravaged by war camps and battles. Leadership changes and the entire abolition of great houses mean that little economic policy can be implemented, and new leaders instated from the opposing side mean little loyalty and trust, and little care for the kingdom they have obtained.

Perhaps the best move of the Lannister’s yet, is owed to their predecessors who coined the house motto ‘A Lannister always pays his debts’ because, despite the continued defaults, Cersei manages to secure continued support of the Iron Bank of Braavos. Yet the Lannister’s mines have long run dry, and the sacking of High Garden made access to the Tyrell fortune redundant. A large investment into the sell-swords has the potential to secure a victory in maintaining the Iron Throne, but there is little means to repay them as winter descends regardless.

Perhaps the bleakness is the clue in itself. Martin could provide no wiggle room in future capital obtainment because there is no future. The Night King, with his army of the dead, has no need of any resources, and with no living lenders to repay, they seem to be the most economically viable contender for the Iron Throne. But possibly the biggest thing we can take from this is that I spend way too much time thinking about the economic systems of a fantasy world, and not nearly enough time on my social life.

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Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Nicholas Birchall, Felix Eldridge, Taylor Fernandez and Larisa Forgac. Email us at

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