Today’s selection of notes from LTUE comes from the panel “Building Different Economies” which in the booklet description was actually called “Building Different Economies/Politics.” The latter title turned out to be more accurate, which makes sense—it turns out economy and government are intimately related. The panelists were L. E. Modesitt, Robison Wells, and Dan Willis. David Farland was listed on the schedule, but I don’t remember him being there. The subjects covered in this panel were all over the place, so pardon if my notes seem a bit jumbled.

Pet peeves

  • There has never been a city in the middle of the desert, with one exception. I didn’t catch the name of the city, but it’s a city on the Sinai peninsula that is on a crossroads between caravan routes.
  • In dystopian fiction, the isolated group of people in a contained area. Most of the time they wouldn’t be able to feed themselves.

Other notes

There is no civilization without taxation. There must be a give and take between the taxation level and what the people get out of it.

The complexity of a society depends on its density. A society that is spread out across a large area will have less conflict and require fewer rules. Dense cities always require more rules.

There will be no trade until there is an agricultural surplus. One person must supply enough food for themselves and several others. The others can then focus their time on making stuff instead of getting food.

There must be a certain amount of political cohesion before you have a society that can support technology. Advanced technology requires three things: agricultural surplus, a transportation network, and educated people to maintain the system. The Greeks had many incredible advances in science but couldn’t take advantage of them because they were never unified. Example: The Antikythera mechanism which was an ancient mechanical computer designed to compute astrological positions. It was created around 1 BC and nothing similar came around until 1300 years later.

Three political systems that can truly support advanced civilization and technology: democratic systems, oligarchy, and constitutional empire. (It seems like there was another one that I didn’t catch as I was taking notes.)

On magic: Magic must have value in society. We are a tool using society, and magic is a tool. Questions to ask: How does the magic user make a living? How does he live day to day?

LTUE Notes: Building Different Economies
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5 Comments on "LTUE Notes: Building Different Economies"

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I took the link because I’d never heard of the Antikythera Mechanism before, even though I’m a fan of ancient Greece…and HOLY CRAP! That is one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen or heard of. Absolutely inspiring. And what would a possible fourth system be… Plutocracy? (That’s kind of what the US has now.) Mercantilism? I think the city-state system like ancient Greece had is underrated that way. After all, a lack of unity didn’t prevent them from doing brilliant technical and mental things; it did lead eventually to their being overrun by more organized invaders, but that’s… Read more »

I meant not simply “inevitable,” but that not being unified shouldn’t preclude an advanced technological society. Lack of unity actually could be a powerful spur toward advanced thinking and innovation.

Hmmm… Good point about Greece. That their ancient brilliance survives as much as it does is probably due more to other people (primarily the Romans) being highly impressed by it than to any systematic Greek effort. Still, I think that for writing purposes especially, that type of competitive, jumbled society would be a completely plausible home for advanced technology (after all, in the Classical Age, they were possibly the most intellectually and technically advanced society of their time). And it could be really fun to explore what happens when a fractured-but-brilliant society like that meets an antagonistic one that’s more… Read more »