Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A casual observation that makes much, much sense

Noah Smith, an economist who also happens to be a nerd, made a very pointedly observation which has a lot of water to it:
Yes, that really is a problem. The maesters are a class of learned people who guard wisdom more than sharing it. The problem is that they don't really have an interest in spreading it, because it would make them obsolete. I wouldn't hold the septons responsible, though - I guess they would spread literacy like the protestants did if the printing press made books cheaper.

And that leads to the main problem: books are pretty expensive in Westeros, and there is no such thing as public libraries. So even if the peasants would be able to read, what exactly would they read? I'd say, however, that spreading literacy would create demand, and that demand could lead to innovation regarding the printing press. Westeros should at least start to teach all knights and lords, because a terrifying amount of them is horribly uneducated.


  1. I think this is a particularly fascinating aspect of Martin's world. In Westeros the Citadel and the Iron Throne have a much greater monopoly on learning and political power, respectively, than their historical counterparts in late Medieval Europe. This is certainly bad for human development. The Iron Throne has little competitive incentive for political reform, and the Maesters have the power and inclination to reject any technological or social reforms they didn't invent themselves.

    On the plus side, Westeros' linguistic uniformity makes a common language of learning (in our world, Latin) unnecessary, which seems to make the Citadel a bit more open to common people.

  2. Heartsbane of HornhillJune 7, 2013 at 12:41 AM

    Seeing how quickly the high Septon has been able to control the small folk, I'm sure the upper crust of Westeros is going to wish the commoners were a little more educated too.

  3. Westeros also needs a bank analogous to the Iron Bank of Braavos, in order to promote economic development and the rise of a middle class. Of course, this requires a monarch who won't treat such a bank as his/her personal piggy bank (looking at you, Cersei).

    1. For this, the main thing you need is security. That means you need the rule of law, which runs counter to all the Westerosi believe about government.