Another Turn of Subject

Gregory Rapawy grapawy at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 6 18:41:44 PDT 2002

--- Steven Brust <skzb at dreamcafe.com> wrote:

> Let's say Vlad earns $1500 imperials.  In our terms,
> that would be about $25,000.

[example deleted]

> You see the problem?  Things don't match up.

That would follow from (1) different marginal costs
for labor and capital in Dragaera (as well as
different technologies) and (2) an absence of trade
between Dragaera and the U.S.  Both seem reasonable

It makes me think about another question, which is:
what does the Dragaeran economy at the time of the
Vlad series look like?  There are two observations
that seem hard to reconcile:

1.  In _Orca_, Kiera describes to Vlad the trouble
caused by the death of Fyres.  This trouble looks
remarkably like the difficulties recently experienced
by the U.S. savings & loan industry.  Part of the
trouble is caused by (or, perhaps more accurately, not
prevented by) the Imperial system of banking
regulation.  From the discussion it seems that many
people are borrowing money from many other people on a
scale that suggests a functioning and liquid capital

2.  If Dragaera has anything that looks like
real-world capital-intensive industries -- either in
the agricultural or manufacturing sectors -- Vlad
hasn't mentioned it.  In _Phoenix_, Verra tells Vlad
in essence that the revolutionaries are working off a
theory of society that does not correspond to the
present state of the Empire.  (Crossreferencing with
what we know about the arrival of humanity on Dragaera
-- and here I am thinking about the Serioli in
_Dragon_ and Sethra in _Issola_ -- maybe humans
brought that kind of social theory with them when they
came.)  Since the theory of society looks an awful lot
like Marxism, we might guess that Dragaera does not
look much like industrial capitalism, which
corresponds most of what we've heard about it.

So where is the capital generated by the bankers
going?  Someone has to be using it to generate a
return, or no one would bother investing it.  Some of
it is going to what looks like a fairly large
transportation industry -- Kiera's remarks about the
importance of trade (which she describes primarily in
terms of exchange of raw materials) to the Empire, and
the lime from one area used to make bricks in another,
may indicate that Dragaeran methods of production
involve proportionally more effort spent on moving
things from one place to another than ours do.  Some
of it -- a lot of it, probably -- is going to fund
Imperial borrowing.  (There is a pretty interesting
discussion of Imperial finances in the early part of
_Five Hundred Years After_, but of course the
Interregnum would have produced drastic economic
changes, along with changes in every other part of
Dragaeran society.)  Unless the economy is growing
fast, though, the Empire won't be able to offer a
particularly generous rate of return on its equivalent
of Treasury bills; and if the Empire can't offer a
good return, its borrowing shouldn't be able to
support the kind of market that Kiera describes in

There's also sorcery, of course.  It may be that the
Dragaeran society is relatively capital-intensive
because it spends huge amounts of resources on
training and maintaining sorcerers -- and according to
Vlad at various times, almost everyone is now a
sorcerer.  So Dragaera has a system involving large
investments in human capital?  Or maybe the
unexplained capital investments are somewhere else,
somewhere that Vlad hasn't described because he isn't
interested in it.  One place to look for the answers
to these would be the lives of the Houses described as
bourgeois -- Jhegaala, I think, and Chreotha, and
maybe a few others -- which are the ones Vlad very
rarely talks about.

-- Greg Rapawy

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