X-Posted from Tumblr: Tywin’s Economic Policy

As someone who’s very very interested in the intersection between ASOIAF and public policy, I’m kind of amazed I haven’t gotten to this topic before, so many thanks to Joanna Lannister for reminding me.

I’ve been interested in Tywin’s tenure as Hand for a long time, and I was quite pleased to see that the WOIAF gave us a lot more detail, which has allowed me to revise and extend my thinking.

The Origins of Tywin’s Economic Policy

Tywin Lannister’s views of economic policy are obviously greatly shaped by his understanding of his father’s failure. Tytos was known for basically having a loose financial policy: “some borrowed heavily from Casterly Rock, then failed to repay the loans. When it was seen that Lord Tytos was willing to extend such debts, even forgive them, common merchants from Lannisport and Kayce began to beg for loans as well.” (WOIAF, p. 201) While the political shortcomings of this strategy are quite clear – especially in the case of Lady Ellyn Tarbeck née Reyne – it’s interesting that they may well have been very beneficial for the economy of the Westerlands, given the tremendous importance of access capital for economic development, especially in an unusually industrial economy like that of the Westerlands.

Nevertheless, Tywin seems to have taken a strong lesson from his youth – being in debt is bad, being a creditor is only good if people pay up on time, having lots of gold on hand is best. In other words, he became a classic mercantilist when it came to monetary and financial policy, focused on building up a large monetary reserve as best for the health of the state and the economy (although as we’ll see, Tywin’s economic policies in other areas were not mercantilist in any way shape or form). Tyrion’s quote that “the gold of Casterly Rock…is dug from the ground,” (ASOS, p. 271) speaks to Tywin’s conception of money as a physical object to be safeguarded. And Tywin’s insistence on repayment in full, even when the debt is owed by his double-grandson, and the emergence of the Lannisters’ alternate motto, speaks to his obsession about never going back to the days of Lord Tytos.

Also, note that Tywin’s conception of debt is entirely political – loans are for gaining political support from lords, not for funding commercial ventures. Thus, Tywin’s career in economic policy begins with setting himself up as a debt collector:

Ser Tywin began by demanding repayment of all the gold Lord Tytos had lent out. Those who could not pay were required to send hostages to Casterly Rock. Five hundred knights, blooded and seasoned veterans of the Stepstones, were formed into a new company under the command of Ser Tywin’s brother Ser Kevan, and charged with ridding the west of robber knights and outlaws. (WOIAF, p. 202)

A credit crunch of this kind is hardly good for the economy of Lannisport, but may have had some salutatory effects on the Westerlands as a whole. Firstly, it improved House Lannister’s balance sheet, which meant that the Lords Paramount of the Westerlands would not go into debt or need to tax heavily – fulfilling Machiavelli’s maxim that:

“a Prince of a liberal disposition will consume his whole substance in things of this sort, and, after all, be obliged, if he would maintain his reputation for liberality, to burden his subjects with extraordinary taxes, and to resort to confiscations and all the other shifts whereby money is raised. But in this way he becomes hateful to his subjects, and growing impoverished is held in little esteem by any…through his parsimony his revenues are sufficient; that he is able to defend himself against any who make war on him; that he can engage in enterprises against others without burdening his subjects; and thus exercise liberality towards all from whom he does not take, whose number is infinite, while he is miserly in respect of those only to whom he does not give, whose number is few.” (Il Principe, Chapter XVI)

Secondly, by accompanying it with a marked improvement in law and order, Tywin allowed for an improvement in the volume of trade, as merchants and farmers and travelers would no longer fear robbery.

Tywin as Hand

Tywin brought these conservative tendencies with him to King’s Landing when he was appointed Hand in 262 AC. From the beginning, Aerys II:

“was full of grand schemes…he announced his intent to conquer the Stepstones…he hatched a plan to build a new Wall a hundred leagues north of the existing one…he spoke of building a “white city” entirely of marble on the south bank of the Blackwater Rush…after a dispute with the Iron Bank of Braavos regarding certain moneys borrowed by his father [no doubt to pay for the War of Ninepenny Kings], he announced he would build the largest war fleet in the world…during a visit to Sunspear, he told the Princess of Dorne that he would “make the Dornish deserts bloom” by digging a great underground canal beneath the mountains…” (WOIAF, p. 113-114)

Tywin’s policy here was one of restraint, no doubt solemnly promising to study each new proposal and then shelving it until the king had moved on to the next fancy, preserving the royal finances. At the same time, Tywin was willing to use the gold of Casterly Rock to put the King of Westeros in his debt, “settl[ing] the crown’s dispute with the Braavosi…by repaying the monies lent to Jaehaerys II with Gold from Casterly Rock.” We can see the lessons of his childhood here – debts must be repaid to prevent war, either with Braavos or with himself, but gold should be used to build political capital.

Most importantly, we learn that Tywin pursued a policy of promoting commerce through (relative) free trade, as he “reduced tariffs and taxes on shipping going in and out of the cities of King’s Landing, Lannisport, and Oldtown, winning the support of many wealthy merchants.” (WOIAF, p. 114) This shows an impressive level of sophistication – lowering statutory rates in order to generate higher levels of traffic and raise aggregate income, promoting commerce on the principle that economic growth would rebound to the benefit of the state. At the same time, there’s a political angle here – Tywin is benefiting the crown, his own kingdom, and broadening his coalition by helping out the Hightowers, but all of this would come at the expense of other ports like Gulltown, White Harbor, Plankytown, and Duskendale. And note that Tywin moves to benefit the merchant classes only after he’s placated the nobility by repealing Aegon V’s reforms.

Notably, Tywin’s pro-trade agenda became a point of contention with King Aerys once their relationship soured, as

“the king doubled the port fees at King’s Landing and Oldtown, and tripled them for Lannisport and the realm’s other ports and harbors. When a delegation of small lords and rich merchants came before the Iron Throne to complain, however, Aerys blamed the Hand…whereupon His Grace restored port fees and tariffs to their previous levels, earning much acclaim for himself and leaving Tywin Lannister the opprobrium.” (WOIAF, p. 116)

Clearly Aerys preferred a bigger slice of a smaller pie than a smaller slice of a bigger pie. On the other hand, there’s some method to the madness – Aerys hurts commerce overall but raises royal revenue, but still preserves an advantage for the capitol (and Oldtown – possibly at Mace Tyrell’s bequest?) and tries to push Lannisport into comparative disadvantage. And once again, the economic serves the political – the point here is to damage Tywin’s standing among the merchant classes more than to enact permanent policy.

In terms of public works, Tywin and Aerys differed less than one might think. While Tywin clearly looked askance at Aerys’ thoughtless ambition – wars on the Stepstones or with Braavos or with Volantis are expensive, a new Wall would involve both huge construction expenditures and a war with the wildlings for land that’s not arable, and a canal through the mountains would be prohibitively expensive in an era before dynamite, jackhammers, and steam shovels – he  wasn’t opposed to public works per se. We’re told that he “built new roads and repaired old ones, held many splendid tournaments about the realm to the delight of knights and commons alike,” (WOIAF, p. 114) but I’m sure that Tywin made damn sure that expenditures did not exceed budgetary estimates through any means necessary, and that overall expenditure remained under control.

I would like to know more about Tywin’s Pure Food Act, in which he “sternly punished bakers found guilty of adding sawdust to their bread and butchers selling horsemeat as beef,” because of the interesting contrast to his stern opposition to the regulatory intervention in politics by Aegon V. Again, I think politics trumped economics – Tywin’s regulations affected small merchants and artisans, not the privileges of the nobility, whereas Aegon V meddled with the “rights and liberties” of the highborn.

A final and most important area of economic policy was the question ofcharters. Lord Denys Darklyn wanted a “charter for Duskendale that would give it more autonomy from the crown…and with it, lower port fees and tariffs to allow Duskendale once more to vie for trade with King’s Landing,” and Tywin as Hand “firmly rejected his proposals, for fear that it might set a dangerous precedent.” (WOIAF, p. 118) Now there’s something of an irony in this – the slump in Duskendale’s trade was probably influenced by Tywin’s trade policies that favored the royal capitol (which would improve royal revenues without raising taxes) and his own city of Lannisport. A charter for Duskendale would lower royal revenue; if it became a trend, it would mean dangerous competition for Lannisport.

At the same time, I think there’s also a strong political edge here as well – charters mean more than tariffs and port fees, they mean political power for the smallfolk, especially the merchant classes, as city charters often come with the right to form municipal governments, trade guilds, and city militias. And this is political power at the expense of the nobility, who lose the absolute authority they normally have over their territory in favor of a bounded, constitutional authority. It’s not an accident that city charters are common in Essos, where republicanism holds sway. I would not be surprised in the slightest if one of the reforms of Aegon V done away with were city charters for Lord Harroway’s Town, Maidenpool, Rainy Town, Plankytown, and other would-be city-states.

Tywin liked trade as much as the next man, but he was not about to allow a bunch of common merchants – the kinds of men his father had unwisely associated with – get above their station, let alone aspire to political power, like the “cheesemongers” of Essos. Then again, maybe it was all an excuse to replace King Aerys with King Rhaegar…

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65 thoughts on “X-Posted from Tumblr: Tywin’s Economic Policy

  1. JT says:

    Good analysis.

    How come Westeros never conquered the Stepstones? With the exception of a note about how Aerys wanted to do so, we never hear about Westerosi kings even thinking about conquering the Stepstones.

    • Winnie says:

      I suspect it was always more trouble than it was worth. Lot of local riff-raff to sort through for what is probably not especially valuable territory

    • AzureOwl says:

      They did briefly during the reign of Viserys I.

      I think the reason it never stick was that it would be one of the few things guaranteed to unite Tyrosh, Lys and Myr in order to expel them from the islands. And for most of the Targaryen Dynasty, Dorne would’ve joined right in.

      The Stepstones under the control of the anti-slavery Westerosi would be a nightmare scenario for the Tyroshi, Lysene, Myrish and even the Volantene.

      • Sean C. says:

        That wasn’t the dynasty, though, that was Prince Daemon and Lord Corlys waging a private war, for the most part. One imagines if Viserys (or, indeed, the Old King) had unleashed the full weight of the Seven Kingdoms backed by dragonpower it would have gone much more smoothly.

        • Grant says:

          Is it really worth it so long as piracy has been cut down satisfactorily? The time of most competent leaders is spent having to rule, and the Seven Kingdoms have more than their share of issues to tie up any central leader. Sure there have been overly ambitious Targaryens who want to have a reputation as a conqueror as well, but they tend to create their own messes that need the attention of the state.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Well, all that warring ends up cutting commerce just as badly if it’s prolonged with no quick resolution. It wouldn’t have hurt to send Daemon more support, particularly dragon support. Plus Viserys spent his reign throwing parties and bread and circus events while mucking up the succession. I’d hardly call the peace of his reign really ruling. Sometimes, you need a good warmonger for the realm. Dorne’s integration into the Seven Kingdoms had as much to do with Daeron I as Baelor I and Daeron II I believe, just as however cruel Maegor was he also smoothed the way for Jaehearys regarding the Faith Militant.

        • It might not be a conflict in which dragonpower can do all that much.

          You can go in and drive people out of the islands, but unless you keep a garrison on each one, they keep coming back.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            I only bring up the dragons as a means of crushing Dorne and the Triarchy decisively since they’d be the biggest obstacle at that time, not the pirates. No guerrilla warfare for Dorne to hide behind in this case, but wooden ships instead.

          • We saw that Daemon couldn’t hold onto it with one dragon, it’s quite possible the same applies with many.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Isn’t it asking a bit too much to defend against two kingdoms attacking on opposite sides in an attrition grind with only one dragon? :p

          • Exactly. I feel like this question is like asking why the US never conquered *all* of the Caribbean. It holds Puerto Rico and part of the Virgin Islands today, and had a puppet government in Cuba for a solid half century, but why not just roll through, claim Hispaniola and make them all States?

            Because they exist in that range of being powerful enough to be trouble for an occupying force, yet not so powerful to serve as a military/economic threat to the massive mainland power.

    • Glad you liked it!

      And to answer your question I think it’s a combination of:
      1. They did try, under Viserys.
      2. Before the peace with Dorne, it raises the risk of dragging Dorne into the conflict.
      3. It’s really expensive and the islands themselves aren’t worth that much.

  2. Iñigo says:

    I think you are taking the worldbook too seriously, it has a lot of pro Tywin bias.
    Plus, his decisions about the economy in Storm are not mentioned.

  3. Winnie says:

    Great analysis as always Steve, and I think you’re absolutely right to suppose that Tywin would favor the old Nobility over mercantile classes and tradesmen. He would consider a government on the likes of Braavos to be beyond the pale-which is interesting since Braavos I think represents the way of the future for much of Planetos.

    Tywin’s a great thinker in his way but he’s very much wedded to the past on a lot of things and thus not suited for the way the world is inevitably about to change with the tsunami like forces headed the Realm’s way. As I said before, there’s NOTHING in Tywin’s world view or hand manual to deal with an issue like the White Walkers.

    • JT says:

      In fairness though, it’s not just Tywin who thinks this way – Littlefinger notes that was a branch of the Arryn family that married merchants, and is now never spoken of by the rest of the Arryns.

      And among the nobility, there doesn’t seem to be anybody besides Stannis who has a clue of how to deal with the Others or wants to sacrifice their ambitions for the sake of the realm.

      I don’t see Doran (or Oberyn) Martell, Mace (or Oleanna Tyrell, or Balon/Victarion/Asha/Euron Greyjoy planning for the Others or encouraging the kind of cross border cooperation that will be required.

      In general, the Nobility seems to think about the Nobility. Some of the nobles may have some amount of empathy for the smallfolk/merchant class (and many treat the smallfolk/merchant class with less disdain than Tywin does), but even those people aren’t exactly calling for democratic elections.

      • Winnie says:

        True. Tywin’s attitude is in a sense merely a symptom of a much, MUCH deeper problem. In fact one thing that distinguishes Jon is that his attempt to make peace with the Wildlings and integrate them into Northern society was such an act of stunning political vision and societal change necessary, even vital to dealing with the looming threat beyond the Wall.

        And of course he’s assassinated by his own brothers for doing it. It’s not just a traumatic moment for the character and his fans but a scathing indictment of how societies and civilizations often not only neglect but actively resist reforms essential to their own long term survival.

        To put it bluntly wights as zombies aren’t the only parallel between this series and World War Z. (The book not the movie.)

      • Grant says:

        That might be because I’m pretty sure that most of them haven’t even heard, and those that did have varying amounts of reason to actually believe what they’ve heard. The one guy who was sent south with any proof was dumb enough to just sit around until his proof decayed into nothing.

      • ad says:

        I don’t see how anyone could be calling for democratic elections. There is no mass media, and therefore no way for the peasantry to decide who to vote for even if they could vote.

        What interests me is that the term “smallfolk” suggests they are all politically insignificant. And yet, I wonder if a medieval King of England would be less interested in the Lord Mayor of London, a commoner, than in Lord Nobody of Halfacre.

      • A good point. There’s very very few nobles who understand the merchant class – maybe the Lannisters of Lannisport, maybe the Hightowers, maybe the Manderlys, maybe the Lords of Gulltown, but it’s a small minority of the class.

        • JT says:

          Yeah, and none of those people are Lords Paramount. Still, I would expect the Lannisters of Casterly Rock to understand the merchant class the best since Casterly Rock is the closest of the LP castles to a city AND Casterly Rock is a trading destination in it’s own right.

          • Space Oddity says:

            Actually, I’d argue that ironically, the Lannisters’ own wealth is hurting them here–as the primary producers of gold on a continent, and perhaps even the world, they just don’t seem to get trade for the most part…

        • Bingo.

          And I would argue that the problem is that the Lannisters have been stupidly rich since before reliable historical records. They rule a kingdom filled with gold from a giant mountain-boulder; not surprising that the family would develop a strong sense of divine right.

          In one of Tyrion’s AGOT chapters, Steven points out how even our most sympathetic Lannister finds the democratic councils of the Mountain Clans to be a completely alien concept. So it doesn’t seem surprising that the Lannister family would look down on the nouveau riche.

          On the flip side I could see the Manderlys serving as a vector for the merchant class into Westeros. They’re rich and powerful, but their position as the one main trade point for a resource-rich/industry-poor region would make them likely to look for any edge in the coming centuries (being at a similar latitude with Braavos won’t hurt either). Plus I think that the house’s history of persecution and exile could also make them more accepting of those who come from low birth but excel in other fashions.

    • Yeah. I consider Tywin to be a very skilled administrator, but ultimately a conservative. He’d never think of a Golden Bank of Casterly Rock, for example.

      • JT says:

        It does make some sense given his formative years. From AWOIAF, we hear a lot of details about how Tytos made loans to lords, but only one sentence about how merchants approached him for money (and that happened much later). This leads me to believe that the majority of the loans went to the Reynes, Tarbecks, and other noble houses of the West.

        Since the Reynes and Tarbecks used the money they borrowed to build up private armies which were used to undermine Lannister control of the Westerlands, it’s not a surprise that Tywin wouldn’t look super favorably upon the concept of a general purpose bank (even though that’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater).

        I’m also somewhat surprised given the Reynes/Tarbecks situation and the wealth of the Lannisters that Tywin doesn’t try to use his money to create a standing army in the West. He’s definitely rich enough and that would circumvent another quasi-rebellion from happening again.

      • starkinboots says:

        You know who did think of that? Cersei. It’s ironic how some of these crazy grand ideas from Cersei or Aerys sound futuristic and visionary viewed in the modern context.

  4. David Hunt says:

    Well, the thought that Tywin denied Duskindale a charter with the idea that Defiance would come about and give him the opportunity to get rid of Aerys is too extreme for my taste (and yours if I’m reading your correctly). However, I can definitely see Tywin sitting outside Duskindale, having run the government for six months without having to deal with Aerys deciding that he’s going to fuel all the lamps in King’s Landing with wildfyre or some such, thinking that Aerys had been his friend, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if Lord Darklyn was put in the position of having to go through with his threats. And he would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t have been for Those Snooping Kids Barriston the Bold.

    I can just picture Tywin reluctantly agreeing that an attempt to rescue Aerys has to be made, even if it’s doomed and thinking that it’s a shame that they have to throw Ser Barriston’s life away for it…and then the guy pulls it off.

    • Winnie says:

      I think that’s *exactly* what happened David. Not even Tywin could have predicted the Defiance, but once it happened, he wasn’t about to weep for Aerys’s likely departure. He probably never expected Barristan’s noble suicide mission to succeed-probably no one did, and even Barristan went in considering it a long shot. (But being Barristan he felt obligated to *try*.)

      Also as I sit here typing this I wonder, I just…wonder if Pycelle was the only one who thought that Tywin might be crowned King in the wake of the Sack, or at the very least be restored to the position of Hand. Jaime after all remembers how after killing Aerys, Lord Crakehall asked *him* who they should crown, and he got the impression that his bannerman was asking if Jaime or his father should claim the crown. I don’t know if Tywin ever considered it or not, but certainly a lot of other Lannister cronies besides Pycelle may have been thinking along those lines…

      I’m not saying it ever would have *worked* but it might have been possible for Tywin to try in the wake of the Sack…if Robert’s coalition hadn’t made it there so quickly.

      Tywin after all is one person who actually seems quite comfortable on that ugly chair..

      • Grant says:

        The problem was the political legitimacy of it. Now I’m the first to say that legitimacy is the dark matter of political science, you know it’s around but you can’t really see it or measure it, but if it was anywhere in Westeros it would have been with the rebellion based around Robert’s heritage. It’s true that it was armies that decided who was king, but the lack of that heritage is what makes me usually set aside fanfics that have Eddard take the Iron Throne without hesitation. Setting aside the facts that Eddard was a northerner and a worshiper of the old gods, he still wasn’t from the right line.

        And we should remember that, bloody and vicious as it was, Robert’s Rebellion wasn’t a revolutionary war. It wasn’t a war to say that the system was bad or that any good lord should be king, but that the current king had so completely overstepped his authority that he (and by extension his family) should be expelled from power and someone else from a suitable line should step in. To do otherwise gives up on continuity of the system, and without it you’re pretty much giving up stability (and possibly the Seven Kingdoms) because now the precedent is that the throne just belongs to whoever has a big army. So what’s to stop the Tyrell’s from raising an army and deciding there should be a Tyrell dynasty? And sure, Renly appeals to power for his claim, but it’s Renly saying that. A Baratheon. It’s not a Blackwood or an Arryn or a Martell that the Tyrells decided to go with, but someone from the royal family. If Renly had never made his claim, the only choices available would have been either to help the Starks seek independence or side with one Baratheon or another (allegedly) Baratheon.

        Now, in the current books? Yeah, I could see it. A Targaryen renewal seems more likely based on what’s happening as of the latest books, but things have gotten bad enough and there have been so many shocks to the system that any major lord actually able to stop the fighting and give them some peace might be able to actually make their claim stick. Just not before the War of Five Kings.

        • Winnie says:

          Oh, I agree the issue of political legitimacy would have ultimately doomed the whole enterprise…I’m just saying it might have been possible for Tywin and his supporters to have *tried* to make it work for a time. After all Westerosi history shows again and again that just because something is an unworkable long term strategy doesn’t keep people from trying it i.e. the Iron Born’s constant attempts at rebellion and invasions of the main land. I could see some people in the LAnnister team thinking the gold of CR would be enough to render the issue of legitimacy moot…as in money alone is what brings power. Not entirely true but people often THINK that.

          As you point out, though the current situation in Westeros is such that *anyone* who could offer a modicum of stability at this point might well win. (In fact I think that may be one of the things that allows fAegon/Arianne the chance to rule for a time until the REAL Targs get there.)

          • Grant says:

            Remember that Aegon (assuming he is not real*) is doing so under the Targaryen name. Without that, he’s just a guy with 5,000 to 10,000 men. A force to be sure, but no guarantee of being able to take anything, let alone rule. So even there we’re seeing the power of legitimacy.

            *Yes I know people point to all these things said over the books. I try to avoid being sure of prophecies because the main point of them in fiction is to come true in an unexpected manner. So until I hear one of the main relevant characters say he isn’t, I think it likely but I don’t dismiss the possibility of him being Targaryen.

          • Winnie says:

            True fAegon is using his supposed Targaryen heritage to give himself legitimacy but remember it is “supposed* heritage. He’s not a known heir like Dany and he’s not going to be able to prove his bona fides by being a dragon rider either, so one key to his rise to power will have to be the fact that a LOT of people in Westeros right now are desperate for a change of regime.

    • That is the difficulty – how much of the Defiance is ginned up to push Aerys into death-by-rebel?

      OTHO, it’s pretty consistent with the rest of his behavior.

    • Crystal says:

      I agree that this is just what happened. Tywin was hoping for a sort of kingslaying-by-proxy. (In much the same way I think Balon Greyjoy rather hoped that Robb would execute Theon so he, Balon, wouldn’t have to be a kinslayer.) I wonder what went through Tywin’s mind when he learned that Barristan actually succeeded!

  5. Grant says:

    Tytos’ loans might have been useful for sparking economic growth, but if money is just given freely to people who never bother to pay it back you’re going to get a dangerous situation where it’s spent freely by borrowers on things no less crazy than Aerys’ dreams. Of course I wouldn’t have argued for Tywin to cut it off completely, simply make it clear that he intended to get money back and to focus lending on fairly safe investments when possible. So both made mistakes, Tytos was too lenient and Tywin was (probably) too restrictive and classist.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      That wasn’t my impression on Tywin, he loaned money to the crown as well and even to Robert, while allowing for loan payments to be delayed so long as hostages are sent. Thus I’m fairly certain he was willing to do what you suggested in terms of investment, but only when he believed he would see a return and so he made damn sure he did see a return.

      • Grant says:

        That’s more Tywin using the loans for political objective (to make the throne more reliant on him and to reestablish control over his family’s lesser lords respectively) than just giving money away. I don’t think we have many examples of Tywin giving much money to someone to increase economic growth and I just cannot envision Tywin Lannister ever giving money to a commoner.

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          He spread money around on pure public works so it suggests he’s willing to spend for pure commercial gain if need be. I agree he’s a fiscal conservative who probably held up a lot of gold in reserve, but if he was willing to spend tax payer money for the betterment of the realm I’m fairly confident he wouldn’t lose out on opportunities for loans/investments that can also potentially increase his own personal wealth, he’d just be more cautious/prudent with them. After all, he doesn’t own the only gold mine in the Westerlands, competition amongst his own vassals alone might prompt him to intervene in order to set an example for fixed interest rates.

    • Winnie says:

      Frankly what Westeros really needs is the equivalent of the Iron Bank-there’s no question after all in that case of cheating or defaulting on your loans, but I have no doubt that the loans the Bank’s made over the years have been crucial to spurring economic developments and progress in Braavos.

    • Well, the lords were probably spending it on stuff that’s not hugely useful – Lady Tarbeck rebuilding Tarbeck Hall, the Tarbecks and Reynes building up their armies, etc.

      But the merchant investments were probably good for the economy.

  6. KrimzonStriker says:

    I don’t think Plankytown really needed a charter in terms of their port fees and tarrifs, that same passage on the Defiance suggests to me Prince Maron slipped in the ability to retain control of that for Dorne, which makes sense considering that while strategic Dorne is also perilous in its proximity to the Stepstones, and has less to offer product wise beyond specialty citrus fruits, so he damned well would have wanted any advantage for his principality that he could get. Kind of reminds of Monaco and France now that I think about it. And economics might have been a great incentive that sold the rest of Dorne about unification, they’d be able to import from and export to the rest of the Seven Kingdoms at a fixed and favorable internal rate while being able to sell any excess for cheaper to Essos.

    Also, in our previous discussion I used Tywin’s passage of his Food Act as evidence of a general criminal census of even the lower class crimes. Obviously this type of stuff combines with economic data, but I think I’m on to something here regarding to Westeros justice in general terms. Smallfolk crimes are regulated at the discretion of the lords but they’re useful measurements to be recorded for forming policy by the royal government, Look at what happened to the Three Sisters when smuggling became an issue. something that affects the broader realm. Stannis and the Royal fleet were sent in, not the Arryns/Vale.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      Ah, minor addition about the Food Act and it’s benefits for a non-caring of small-folk Tywin Lannister. Harsh and as fear-mongering as he is he probably at least knows to throw them a bone here and there to keep them content. But the main reason I think is the same for lowering tariffs, creating incentives to foster commerce by improving consumer confidence. If people feel like they’re being cheated out of their food, which could be a major export for places like the Reach and whatnot or even the North apparently given how some of the vassals had to be encouraged to set aside more their harvest in Bran II for winter which you believed indicated they wanted to convert their excess crops for cash, then that provides little incentive to deal for it in Westeros. Given how meticulous Tywin is about about fiscal health lends me to believe he wants to project credibility, which in turn goes hand in hand with your previous analysis on how much image actually matters to him.

    • That’s a good point. Maron might well have granted Plankytown rights on his own.

      However, Dorne does offer stuff beyond citrus fruits – they also export olives, peppers, and unlike the rest of Westeros, they export luxury textiles (silk and satin, mostly). So I’d imagine the Dornish have a better balance of trade than many of the Seven Kingdoms.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        Those are mostly luxury goods as you note though, between competition for higher end products with the free Free Cities and Dornes new dependence on trading and not raiding the other Seven Kingdoms for necessary goods like food I still think the tariffs would be needed for a decisive edge.

        BTW thoughts on my Tywin’ s Food Act was about consumer confidence to stimulate trade much like ensuring the purity of minted coins?

        • But luxury goods is a good thing – it means more value added, and thus more export revenue. Most of Westeros is selling raw materials, which tends to be rather cheap compared to manufactured goods.

          Yeah, that makes sense.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            I fully admit that, but you’ve got stiff competition with the Free Cities who don’t have the historical baggage to go with Dorne and who have a more developed transportation network.

            So do you also think I’m on to something in regards to a general criminal census taking, hence Tywin’s Food Act or Stanni’s anti-smuggling actions?

          • See, the thing is they’re not directly competing. The Free Cities make lace, they make tapestries and carpets, they make fine woolen fabrics, but they don’t make silk and satin. So it’s more of a balanced trade.

            Could be. Not sure.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Doesn’t Essos have the market on spices though? And grow olives as I recall? Huh on silk not coming from the Free Cities, though Yi Ti might be why I was confused on that.

          • They have the market on a lot of spices – pepper, saffron, etc. – but Dornish peppers provide some balance there.

            There’s also silk from Asshai, but that’s a lot farther away than Dorne.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Just to be clear we’re talking different categories of pepper here, I’m assuming granular for Essos and plants for Dorne then?

            Qarth has mentions of silk as well, though I assume that’s mostly them functioning as the go to medium for people looking to buy Yi Ti and Leng goods without actually going that far.

          • Yes. Dornish peppers, Volantene pepper.

  7. Meereenese Liberation Front says:

    Wow – two post on one day, what a treat!

    I’m not sure of how much we’re to take the passages of TWOIAF you quoted at face value – after all, they were written with a quite blatant pro-Tywin / pro-Lannister bias. Tyrion’s POV presents us with a rather different picture of Tywin, someone that had nothing but disdain for people who pay for things instead of waging war for them. (But maybe that’s just how he likes to be seen by his family, without affecting his trade policies.)

    It’s really frustrating all the details concerning Aegon’s V reforms seem to have been censored…

    • Grant says:

      If you mean Tyrion’s debate with Illyrio in ADWD, there Tyrion’s quoting Tywin to condemn the local policy of paying off the Dothraki to not attack. And Tywin specifically commenting on the Free Cities does have a point that they’re generally relying on payments for security, which may work in general but has led to a situation where every town beyond the walls of Pentos was destroyed by Dothraki attacks. Tywin isn’t like Balon’s Ironborn, where the idea of payment is condemned, but rather viewing the Free Cities as very vulnerable. In the face of a dedicated enemy that can’t be bought off… well we’ve seen how well they’ve fared against Dany so far.

    • Eh. I think the bias angle can be pushed too far in the direction of the hermeneutics of suspicion.

      Tywin probably did all of these things, given that we have independent confirmation that he left the treasury full. I think the main difference between him and the Free Cities is that Tywin sees trade as a means to an end – it produces revenue that allows the sovereign to build up reserves and thus be prepared for war – whereas the Fre Cities see trade as the end, and war as a potential means to that end.

      • Meereenese Liberation Front says:

        Yes, you’re probably right one shouldn’t take the hermeneutics of suspicion too far. Still, the episode with Tywin, Aerys and the port fees sounded so strange, even for a Mad King, that I felt there was something rather fishy about it – some more substantial conflict retroactively waved away as one of Aerys’ whims. (My guess: Tywin raised tariffs for one or more rival ports, Aerys retributed by tripling Lannisport’s, and then enjoyed humiliating Tywin. But sadly, we’ll never know.)

        Of course, Tywin wouldn’t be averse to using merchants to fill the treasury – as long as those merchants know they are there to be used and don’t become uppity, like some Spicers and cheesemongers. That said, I like your characterization of Tywin’s “conception of money as a physical object to be safeguarded”; but it reminds me less of mercantilism and more of the preceding Spanish / Portuguese era. After all, mercantilism rejected hoarding and viewed money as a much more fluid thing, as something that has to be circulated; no coincidence it arose amongst nations that originally lacked large reserves of valuable metals. In contrast, post-1492 Spain, like the Westerlands, had lots and lots of the stuff at their disposure, and in the long run, that proved to be their undoing, as they fell further and further behind England, France and the Netherlands with regards to trade and productive labor. Interesting to see if the Westerlands will go the same way.

        • Crystal says:

          I think the latter is a very good point – nations like the Netherlands, which didn’t have a lot of extractable natural resources, or like Great Britain, whose biggest export – wool – needed people to help produce it, became superpowers due to trade and marshaling human capital. It helped a lot that they were coastal and island nations.

          Dorne, by placing emphasis on trade with the East, is on the right track to stay powerful; if the Westerlands keeps its emphasis on gold, rather than building up Lannisport, then it might well start falling behind just as Spain and Portugal eventually did.

          By the same token, if the Iron Islands could ever get their act together, and take Gylbert Farwynd up on his offer to sail the Sunset Sea, and if the mission is successful – the Iron Islands would be sitting so very pretty controlling a westward trade with Asshai, Yi Ti, and any continents that sit in that area (the World Maps have Ulthos – is it against the law to kill cats there?).

      • JT says:

        Right – if they were Volantenes, Illyrio would be an Elephant, but Tywin would be a Tiger.

  8. Brett says:

    You’ve mentioned the lack of a canal through the Neck before, something that would be hugely beneficial for trade with Lannisport. It’s odd that Tywin never tried to use his influence over Aerys in the good times to get it started, especially since he likely would have had the Riverlands Lords support as well (not so much the Tyrells).

    • I think that’s his conservatism at work. Tywin does do public works, but it’s mostly run of the mill stuff – new roads, fixing old ones – not big projects.

    • ajay says:

      “You’ve mentioned the lack of a canal through the Neck before, something that would be hugely beneficial for trade with Lannisport. It’s odd that Tywin never tried to use his influence over Aerys in the good times to get it started”

      I think, though, you underestimate how huge a project this would be. The Neck looks narrow on the maps but it ain’t that narrow. Eyeballing it, it looks almost as far from one side of the Neck to the other as it is from one end of the Wall to the other – which we know is 300 miles.

      Three hundred miles! Six times the length of the Panama Canal! Almost as long as the Erie Canal, for that matter. And the geology looks even worse than Panama. We don’t know what the contours are like but note that the Greenfork rises there and flows south along the Neck rather than across it. (Which looks unlikely on the map but one never knows.) Just like Panama, it’s a disease-haunted swamp. And no steam shovels or explosives to help out our hypothetical Tywin Roosevelt.

  9. Space Oddity says:

    Your comments on Tywin’s Pure Food Act actually segues into something I’ve been meaning to mention on the subject for some time. Regulations of this sort were in fact very common in the Middle Ages… amongst the guilds that oversaw these things. (And yes, they took those things seriously.) So, Tywin’s regulatory act isn’t just targeting small businesses and artisans–it’s getting into the guilds’ shit, so to speak, likely a big deal in a city with as weak a guild structure as King’s Landing.

    Thus Tywin, using a series of regulations most people will support, may very well be helping make sure that the guilds stay down…

  10. Roger says:

    Well, it was a good work. But just a note:
    Pycelle told to Ned in AGOT that Maekkar had a hard reign (then Pycelle was a young man). It was a real hot summer, with droughts and plagues. Summers can be as bad as winters, in their own way.

  11. Kevin Brown says:

    Lord Tywin for Fed Chair…

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