As fans count down the days to the HBO series' seventh season, scheduled to begin Sunday, July 16 in the United States and Monday, July 17 in the United Kingdom, The Associated Press is looking at the show through a unique lens: Its economy.
Listen to our new online audio series, "The Wealth of Westeros." Every week, we'll be diving into the latest plot twists and analyzing the economic forces driving the story. (Listen to the 'Wealth of Westeros' audio series at https://soundcloud.com/user-186673023/sets/wealth-of-westeros-the-economy )
Even in a world with magic, dragons and deadly supernatural White Walkers, the popular show has plenty of economic lessons. Here are five key takeaways:
THE IMPORTANCE OF BANKS
Most fans know about the Iron Bank of Braavos. It's so secretive and powerful that Goldman Sachs looks like an investing club for elderly retirees by comparison. But rather than open a branch in Westeros, the Iron Bank operates across the Narrow Sea in Essos. This effectively leaves all of Westeros without a major bank — which makes it harder to save money, borrow for wars or even invest in businesses that would hire and innovate.
After the 2008 financial crisis, many Americans naturally thought of bankers as villains. But Westeros shows the trouble of a world without financiers or transparent lending — debts forever build for governments, while few citizens are able to invest in themselves.
STAGNANT ECONOMIES WERE THE NORM FOR CENTURIES
In the United States, the economy is growing at only 2 percent, instead of its post-World War II average of 3 percent. That's sparked political controversy and contributed to the rise of politicians like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
Westeros wishes it was so lucky.
Westeros appears to have made zero economic progress over several centuries and have arguably regressed. During 300 years in the United States, people got indoor plumbing, electric lights and cars. But Westeros' experience is much closer to human history. Data tracked by the late economist Angus Maddison suggests that growth in Western Europe from 1000 to 1500 AD averaged a barely there 0.3 percent a year.
MAGIC ISN'T HELPING INNOVATION
Westeros has seen little technological progress over its previous 8,000 years. That's strange because developing airplanes or ballistic missiles would be a natural counter to a fearsome beast like Drogon, the biggest dragon on Game of Thrones.
"The existence of these weapons should spur an offsetting arms race," says Lyman Stone, an economist who has written extensively about the show.
But in Westeros there appears to be a shortage of proven technology, let alone research for new tools. No one appears to have mass produced Valyrian steel or dragonglass — two materials that can kill the ghostly White Walkers from the North.
WHERE VIOLENCE OCCURS, GROWTH SLOWS