Thursday, August 13, 2015

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 90

Thursday is court day!
Welcome to the Supreme Court of Westeros! Every week, three pressing questions from the community will be answered by the esteemed judges Stefan (from your very own Nerdstream Era) and Amin (from A Podcast of Ice and Fire). The rules are simple: we take three questions, and one of us writes a measured analysis. The other one writes a shorter opinion, either concurring or dissenting. The catch is that every week a third judge from the fandom will join us and also write a dissenting or concurring opinion. So if you think you're up to the task - write us an email to, leave a comment in the post, ask in the APOIAF-forum or contact Amin at his tumblr. Discussion is by no means limited to the court itself, though - feel free to discuss our rulings in the commentary section and ask your own questions through the channels above.
One word on spoilers: we assume that you read all the books, including the Hedge Knight short stories, and watched the current TV episodes. We don't include the spoiler chapters from various sources in the discussion, with the notable exception of Theon I, which was supposed to be in "A Dance with Dragons" anyway.
Casting Call: We need more judges! If you are interest in being judge, even if you have been already, please write us. 
And now, up to ruling 90! Our guest judge this week is Jim Ward, fan of all things Ice and Fire, an adopted Texan who never finished his PhD in History and Philosophy of Science and now manages programmers for a financial firm.

Wouldn’t it have been better to wait for Aerys dying of natural causes instead of fighting a devastating civil war?

Main Opinion: Stefan
Better for whom? If you’re not in Aerys’ reach, sure. Then you’re pretty safe. But given how he’s starting to lash out ever more violently, how long until no one is safe? But besides, waiting is not on option. Remember that the civil war is started not because of the actions of Aerys, but because those of Rhaegar! And he is the guy who would come into power after Aerys. For the rebels, it looks like a mad king is being followed by a mad prince. War is the only option.

Concurring in part dissenting in part: Jim Ward
I agree that waiting for Aerys to die was not an option. But I wouldn't say that Rhaegar is the sole cause of the entire war. If, like me, you think Lyanna loved Rheagar and ran away with him rather than being abducted, then the real missed chance for peace came from a rush to war before clearing up that "misunderstanding". Had Brandon not rushed to King’s Landing to demand that the Mad King command his son to release her, and instead sought to get word from Lyanna, it's a whole different ballgame. And let's face it, confronting a mad king was a very stupid thing for Brandon to do. If Lyanna spurns Robert perhaps Robert and Rhaegar duel. But if the two Starks hadn't been murdered, it's hard to see how the war happens.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Amin
Waiting is not an option when Aerys is sending armies after you. I disagree with Justice Stefan that Rhaegar was the main cause. Rhaegar’s actions could be have been resolved through diplomacy, leaving the Starks and Baratheons unhappy but alive, whereas Aerys’ overreaction to Brandon’s actions is what sets the war inevitably into motion.

Final Verdict: No, it wouldn't. 

If the Lannisters founded their own bank, wouldn’t Braavos attack it?

Main Opinion: Stefan
If a Bank of Lannisport would be founded - which would be a good idea if the Lannisters would overcome their aristocratic bias - it would of course be a competitor for the Iron Bank. But an attack is unlikely. The Iron Bank isn’t a military force. They would try to engage in financial warfare, maybe, but in the end I don’t think the animosity is as deep as it seems. A Lannister bank wouldn’t be an alternative for all Westerosi credit seekers, and the Iron Bank is already pretty picky about their debtors and can give the Lannister bank some of it.

Concurring opinion: Jim Ward
In such an underdeveloped financial ecosystem as existed in Essos let alone Westeros, there would be plenty of room for multiple players serving different niches. In fact, if anything, I would see the Iron Bank welcoming a Westerosi bank as a partner. For instance the iron bank would probably stay away from loaning money directly to minor houses, for fear of not understanding the creditworthiness of the applicant, or the business case of the loan itself. Let's take a case from the Telltale GOT series... Suppose House Forrester applies to the Iron Bank for a loan, explaining that they have valuable ironwood reserves they cannot harvest without money to hire extra labor. The IB can't know the fine details of why this is the case, what is the house's current standing with the iron throne, or whether the house is likely to be thriving in 15 years due to regional rivalries and alliances. But a Lannister Bank could read the situation more accurately, and perhaps even exert some political influence to help them succeed. So I imagine the Iron Bank would happily loan the Lannister bank money at 8% interest, trusting the LB to reloan that money at 15% at a proper risk /reward ratio. In fact the history of banks through the ages, including today, is more one of friendly rivalry, if not support and cooperation rather than hostility or sabotage: the latter is just bad business.

Concurring Opinion: Amin
The Iron Bank would not attack another bank physically, only via financial competition, if that. The Lannisters also are an informal bank of sorts, in that they currently own a large portion of the Crown’s debts. There is also talk of Lannisters giving loans to other families, which was an issue during Tywin’s youth, when the families in the Westerlands were refusing to pay their debts. Formalizing the procedure seems unlikely in the short run.

Final Verdict: The Iron Bank isn't exactly in the war business. 

Who would have become king if Robert had succumbed to his wounds after the Trident?

Main Opinion: Stefan
Eddard. There was no dynastic principle established yet, since Robert hadn’t officially taken the throne. Stannis was still under siege with Renly, and the rebellion would have needed a capable figurehead, young and energetic (ruling out Jon Arryn or Hoster Tully) to replace the old system. Swearing the rebellion in on the unknown brother of Robert wouldn’t have worked. Eddard wouldn’t have wanted to become king, but I bet that Jon Arryn would’ve needled him with pep talks about his duty to the realm and its people so he would’ve done it.

Concurring in part/dissenting in part: Jim Ward
Eddard is King alright, but King of the North. The realm as a whole ends up in splinters, but it's Jamie Lannister on the Iron Throne. Recall that up to battle of the Ruby Ford, the Lannisters and Greyjoy's are neutral, while Dorne and even the Freys disengaged. It's only the Lannister/ Baratheon alliance that holds the realm together. But with Robert dead, I think Tywin picks a different partner. Here's how I think it plays out: Tywin still sacks Kings Landing, Jamie is still a kingslayer, and the Mountain still kills Elia and her children. But Tywin doesn't open the gates for Eddard when he arrives. Quellon Greyjoy doesn't attack the Reach, and Mace has the strength to crush Stannis at Storm's End. Eddard's army goes to the Tower of Joy easily dispatching the three great kingsguard, and learning the truth of Lyanna's affections, and the tragic truth that the war was all for naught. He takes Dawn back to the Dayne's and sends word to the Dornish that he's not their enemy, and then heads back to Winterfell. Tywin crowns Jamie king and betrothes him to newborn Margery Tyrell. With Mace's defeat of Stannis, the Lannister/Tyrell alliance controls Westeros in the south from Casterly Rock to Dragonstone (from whence the remaining Targaryens have fled to Essos). The Dornish get word of Elia's murder (and of course still smarting from Tywin’s slight to them long ago), declare themselves independent once more. Eddard still has the Tully's, Jon Arryn, Howland Reed, as well as many small houses as loyal allies in the north. The Boltons and Freys won't risk a split, but the Ironborn declare themselves Kings of the islands once more. Eddard and Arryn realize the dragon kings are truly gone, and with it the unified realm as well. They reluctantly declare Eddard King in the North, with Arryn his hand. So four kings rule -- Eddard in the North, Doran in Dorne, Quellon on the Iron Islands and Jamie in the South. It's mostly peaceful, save for Iron Born reavings, as the Starks and Lannisters have no reason to challenge the new status quo. But winter is still coming, I can't really guess at what happens next.

Concurring in part, dissenting in Part: Amin
I think the issue depends on when Robert dies and when word of that reaches everyone. It is possible that if he lingers and dies later on, everything goes the same way in the south, until the awkward news comes out that Robert is dead. At that point, Stannis is put on the throne, and married to Cersei (an interesting what if? in itself for the Court to consider). The other alternative, as noted by Justice Ward, is that the realm fractures into several kingdoms. This is something that could have happened if Eddard and Robert were not such good friends, and is what ultimately did happen in the War of the Five Kings. Without dragons, it is very difficult to hold the realm together in the long run, and a major impact like the War of the Rebellion could succeed in rending it apart again.

Final Verdict: Either Eddard, or the realm would have fractured.


  1. "So I imagine the Iron Bank would happily loan the Lannister bank money at 8% interest, trusting the LB to reloan that money at 15% at a proper risk /reward ratio. In fact the history of banks through the ages, including today, is more one of friendly rivalry, if not support and cooperation rather than hostility or sabotage: the latter is just bad business."

    This is a very good point. Remember that, even at present, the Iron Bank is not the only bank out there - just the scariest. "Each of the Nine Free Cities had its bank, and some had more than one, fighting over every coin like dogs over a bone, but the Iron Bank was richer and more powerful than all the rest combined. When princes defaulted on their debts to lesser banks, ruined bankers sold their wives and children into slavery and opened their own veins. When princes failed to repay the Iron Bank, new princes sprang up from nowhere and took their thrones."
    But the IB clearly hasn't felt the need to crush any of its existing rivals, so why would it need to crush the Lannister Bank? Has it even got much of a customer base in Westeros (the Throne aside)?

  2. Maybe a little offtopic.
    Stefan, what du you think will happen first: the release of The Winds Of Winter or the opening of the new Berlin International Airport?

  3. i think if the Lannisters were to create their own bank, they would have suffered a fate similar to the Rogares.

    the Iron bank of braavos works closely with the Faceless men.. i think Twoiaf made it pretty clear they were involved in the downfall of the Rogares.