Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stories help us understand life.

From the Bantam paperback: A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. Back cover.
In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning...

You need read no further to know that summer and winter in Game of Thrones will translate into stages of a long business cycle in the world we know: good times, and hard times.

From the Bantam paperback: A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. Page 41.
"The winters are hard," Ned admitted. "But the Starks will endure. We always have."

"You need to come south," Robert told him. "You need a taste of summer before it flees. In Highgarden there are fields of golden roses that stretch away as far as the eye can see. The fruits are so ripe they explode in your mouth -- melons, peaches, fireplums, you've never tasted such sweetness. You'll see, I brought you some. Even at Storm's End, with that good wind off the bay, the days are so hot you can barely move. And you ought to see the towns, Ned! Flowers everywhere, the markets bursting with food, the summerwines so cheap and so good that you can get drunk just breathing the air. Everyone is fat and drunk and rich." He laughed and slapped his own ample stomach a thump. "And the girls, Ned!" he exclaimed, his eyes sparkling.

In the summer, people do well. In the winter, not so much. Even in a land where summers last decades, and winters a lifetime. And yet there are even longer cycles of growth and decay:

From the Bantam paperback: A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp.185-186.
Jon shrugged. "No one cares where you sleep. Most of the old keeps are empty, you can pick any cell you want." Once Castle Black had housed five thousand fighting men with all their horses and servants and weapons. Now it was home to a tenth that number, and parts of it were falling into ruin.

Tyrion Lannister's laughter steamed into the cold air. "I'll be sure to tell your father to arrest more stonemasons, before your tower collapses."

Jon could taste the mockery there, but there was no denying the truth. The Watch had built nineteen great strongholds along the Wall, but only three were still occupied...

From The Roaring 80s by Adam Smith:

Kenneth Boulding, the distinguished economist, wrote that in the Great Depression, economists wrote about unemployment as if it were a bad hailstorm; then the Keynesian revolution gave some hope that nations could do something about the "economic blizzards" that had previously been considered as random as the weather.

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