X-Posted from Tumblr: A Westerosi Grain Dole

anonymous asked:

How feasible would a grain dole be in westeros? Could you have a Roman style aystem at least for a major city like King’s Landing, sort of as a primitive social safety net? Where/how could you develop this? Thanks!!

But in terms of a regular grain dole, we actually have an example from Westerosi history:

“Ultimately, some have wondered if the king’s near death in Dorne did not affect his mind in some way, for as the years of his reign progressed, his decisions grew ever more zealous and erratic. Though the smallfolk loved him—he emptied the treasury regularly to fund his charitable acts, including the year when he donated a loaf of bread daily to every man and woman in the city—the lords of the realm were beginning to grow uneasy.” Ultimately, some have wondered if the king’s near death in Dorne did not affect his mind in some way, for as the years of his reign progressed, his decisions grew ever more zealous and erratic. Though the smallfolk loved him—he emptied the treasury regularly to fund his charitable acts, including the year when he donated a loaf of bread daily to every man and woman in the city—the lords of the realm were beginning to grow uneasy.” (WOIAF)

So Baelor the Blessed supposedly bankrupted the monarchy by (among other things) providing a bread dole for the population of King’s Landing. Now, according to AGOT, a tart costs around three coppers, which I’ve been using as a pre-war price for a loaf of bread. That would suggest that it would cost around 127 dragons a day to buy everyone in King’s Landing a loaf of bread, or 46,355 gold a year.

At that rate, a grain dole for the whole of Westeros would cost 3.7 million gold a year, or 0.7% of GDI, or 7% of total tax revenue. This seems surprisingly affordable, although based on my old estimates of royal income, it would bankrupt the monarchy.

However, you have to keep two things in mind: first, it’s all based on the estimate of how much bread costs. If bread costs more than 3 coppers a loaf as I had originally estimated, the price skyrockets. Second, I could be quite wrong about GDI and thus tax revenue.

So let me see if I can approach it from another angle. I’ve estimated that the average yearly income is between 3-5 gold. During the Ancien Regime, the average worker spent about half their income on bread, although this could spike as high as 88% during crop failures. (That suggests that the average Westerosi spends 48 coppers (or ~1 silver) to 80 coppers (or 1.5 silver) a day on bread.)

image

In turn, this would suggest that a grain dole would cost 60 to 100 million dragons a year. That’s 11.4 to 19% of GDI, or 114% to 190% of total tax revenue.

So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that either three coppers is the wrong price for a loaf of bread, or the smallfolk of Westeros eat 16 tarts a day, which seems unhealthy.

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10 thoughts on “X-Posted from Tumblr: A Westerosi Grain Dole

  1. AzureOwl says:

    Not to mention that while a dole might be doable in King’s Landing or Oldtown, where the population is highly concentrated, it would probably be a logistical nightmare to implement continent-wide.

    You would either have to spent an absurd amount of money to expand the royal bureaucracy (you need people to purchase and distribute the bread, keep records of who is getting it and when so there’s no double or triple dipping, build, maintain and manage royal granaries, etc.) or trust the nobility to distribute the dole without embezzling any of the funds.

    • David Hunt says:

      Plus there’ll be a natural tendency for prices to rise when there’s the sort of shortage that the dole is good at fighting. i.e., when there’s a famine and a bunch of people are starving, that’s when the bread is really expensive. I don’t know enough about the power of the crown to guess how successful the monarchy would be at trying to control the prices they paid.

    • Yeah, distribution would be a huge problem – spoilage, wastage, etc.

  2. Love that statue of the Gracchi. Their story never fails to move me.

  3. Brett says:

    So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that either three coppers is the wrong price for a loaf of bread, or the smallfolk of Westeros eat 16 tarts a day, which seems unhealthy.

    They’re fattening up for the Winters!

  4. Tom says:

    So far you just mentioned, how much it would cost. All the bakers would profit and pay more taxes. Plus, if you don’t have to spend your money on bread, you might spend it on some other things, which would boost the economy and therefore increase the tax revenue. Child labour might decrease, maybe you think of putting them in school. The Gold Cloak School (military), The little Maester School, The School of the Seven, The Guildhall School – creating a middle class, who is able to spend more money and make more inventions.
    But maybe they just spend their extra money in the whore houses, Then again you will have at least a little bit of extra tax revenue.

  5. fjallstrom says:

    You don’t need a general grain dole on the countryside where people live and produce food.

    What you need in Westeros is storage for Winter and droughts. A historic example would be the Incas grain storages were dried grains could be kept for years and was handed out during crop failures.

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