Game of Thrones

What Game of Thrones Can Teach Us About Political Power

In a special episode of the Reason Podcast, we drink and we know things.

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On Sunday night at 9 p.m., Game of Thrones returns to HBO. And here at Reason, we are ready.

Join Reason editors Peter Suderman, Robby Soave, and yours truly as we rip apart the first seven seasons of Game of Thrones like a hungry baby dragon snacking on a sheep. In this very special SPOILER-FILLED episode of the podcast, the magazine's resident draconologists ask what Game of Thrones teaches us about political power.

Robby Soave reveals why he's a Daenerys hater, Peter Suderman has some ideas about fiscal discipline in Westeros, and I get excited about what's for dinner in King's Landing. We also shamefully give in to the temptation to draw parallels between 2020 American politics and a quasi-medieval fantasy world invented by George R.R. Martin in the 1990s. What does their wall in the North mean for our wall in the South? Is Pete Buttigieg actually Peter Baelish? Are the white walkers global warming? And does Varys have an office on K Street?

In the end, we drink, we know things, and all agree that we're moving to Braavos.

(P.S. If you want to get your libertarian Game of Thrones itch scratched further, consider joining me on June 20 in D.C. when I emcee the Competitive Enterprise Institute's annual dinner.)

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Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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35 responses to “What Game of Thrones Can Teach Us About Political Power

  1. What does their wall in the North mean for our wall in the South?

    Game of Thrones proves walls are stupid and evil and racist and they don’t even work.

    #NoBanNoWall
    #OpenBordersForWesteros
    #AbolishTheNightsWatch

    1. For the night is dark and full of terrors.

  2. You know nothing, KMW!

  3. We also shamefully give in to the temptation to draw parallels between 2020 American politics and a quasi-medieval fantasy world invented by George R.R. Martin in the 1990s.

    It’s been done before and better by J.R.R. Tolkien in the 1950s. (“Is The Ring the hydrogen bomb?”)

    *** ducks ***

  4. There are two kinds of people: People who are Games of Thrones fans and people who have a life.

    1. Wrong. Not being a Games of Thrones fan does not mean you have a life.

      1. Don’t be so down on yourself! You (even you!) have more of a life than a GOT fan.

        1. You are under the delusion that you have a life?

  5. The Lord of Light says we should burn LoveCon.

  6. I swear, if I listen to this and there are spoilers…

    1. Dude I watched some spoilers and felt sick like I had eaten all the fucking cookies. My wife was like wtf is wrong with you don’t tell me anything but I couldn’t help myself I had to tell her what I learned. It’s a disease bro.

      1. You are absolutely the worst kind of person and you should be in jail.

  7. Perhaps the biggest libertarian plot point is the one when we find out that the dryads (whatever they are) up north created the undead army to keep humanity at bay–only to have it turn around and destroy them.

    Unintended consequences are entirely foreseeable–that’s the libertarian paradox.

  8. I am so excited for the next season, mainly because it signals the coming end of this series.

    I love me some awesome dragons and stuff, but the story was one big wandering post-modern mess. The story has several basic themes that are an anathema to freedom, and is carried along by predictable plot points. Namely, the term “trustworthy” or “honorable” is synonymous with “stupid”. It is the old cliche that rich people are only rich because they cheat and murder- somehow able to develop webs of alliances despite their reputation for killing everyone. Then the series introduces anti-heroes we are supposed to empathize with. Oh, let’s follow some guy around as a protagonist, forgetting the fact that he happily threw a kid out of a window in the first season.

    That theme would be tolerable (even if I disagree) except for the plot mechanics. Any time a character tells us a plan in detail for how they will succeed, it is clear they are soon to die. Any character in a situation where they are sure to die- being swarmed by baddies, or literally burning at the stake- will be suddenly saved by some “twist” pulled out of thin air. Martin obviously loses interests in plot lines, letting them wander and drop.

    It’s fine with me that people enjoy that series. However I’ve grown tired of people who tell me this show is edgy and innovative merely because it adopts the premise “it’s stupid to be good” while having some of the most formulaic and lazy writing I’ve ever seen.

    1. Buts that’s how it was more or less in the past. Rich people did cheat, steal and enslave. Don’t think for a second that way is gone from the world.

      1. The rich class certainly exploited the poor, no doubt. However, alliances between the main power brokers have historically been due to mutual trust. The times where someone betrayed a long term alliance are historically notable because they were uncommon. The Lannisters, on the other hand, are known by everyone in the first book to be lying, thieving, untrustworthy folk who would throw their own underlings under the bus at the first opportunity.

        Feudalism, despite the plight of the peasantry, was specifically formulated for this purpose. You gave fealty to your superior noble in return for protection, not to be a cog that they would throw away at the first trouble.

        1. The Lannisters have that noteriety because of one particular incident in the backstory, where Tywin took the capital near the end of the civil war under a false flag. This had do to with avenging himself of years of abuse by King Aerys toward his former best friend because of the King’s mental deterioration.

        2. The Lannisters are also noted for always paying their debts, so they do have a reputation for trustworthiness. Although they’ve chipped away at that a bit of late.

    2. The last season was awful in so many ways, it tainted all the great seasons that came before it. You sit there and think–all that great stuff in the past was leading to this bullshit?

      It is rare for video to surpass the literature it’s based on, and earlier seasons of GoT, apparently, managed to accomplish that. There’s some great television there.

      There was some great acting. Lena Headey was great. Peter Dinklage was great.

      They’re tying the whole series up in six episodes and calling it a final season. It will probably suck. We won’t remember what it was like when we didn’t yet know that the ending would suck.

      1. Or you could just not take this juvenile nonsense quite so seriously.

    3. “some of the most formulaic and lazy writing I’ve ever seen”

      Like every other line being, “I’ll have your head on a spike!” or “We’ve guarded the Wall for a thousand years!” or “It hasn’t snowed in Kings Landing for a thousand years!” or “My family has been the Official Bagel Maker for the Iron Throne for a thousand years!” Coming soon: “I’ll have your head on a spike for a thousand years if those bagels are stale!”

  9. The civil war using dragons in the backstory is based on The Anarchy conflict in English history when King Stephen usurped the English throne from Empress Matilda who ended up largely controlling Normandy.

    I am not sure dragons are nukes, they are more precise than nukes . They are devastating weapons that win set piece battles when they are available and unopposed by other dragons, but they are also a limited resource which cannot be everywhere and are somewhat vulnerable to a determined and mobile opponent..

  10. Understanding the definition of power is a reasonable first step. Engineers and physicists assure us that Work is a path summation of force applied along a given distance, and that power is the instantaneous rate at which such Work is accomplished. Political power, since it deals with the forcible restraint of men, is generally measured as the instantaneous rate at which a government can reduce people to cadavers.

  11. GoT teaches us that we can now say “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the First World nations.” It’s a dog’s breakfast that confuses complication with complexity.

  12. Well, it teaches us how to write badly, employ sophomoric plot devices, and substitute gratuitous sex and violence for real drama.

    And if the likes of Reason staff are using it for real-world metaphors about politics I guess that explains the current fucked-up state of affairs.

    1. ^Hasn’t seen a single episode.

  13. KMW mixes up Buttigieg and Little Finger. Mayhaps because they both possibly lie awake at night fearing the same thing.

  14. I just want to know why the crows don’t wear hats. It’s cold and blizzardy and 10% or more of body heat escapes through the head. Don’t they know this? Why no hats? Why?

    1. That baffled me too.
      I live in a spot in Canada where the temperature can drop to -45°C, but even at -20°C you die after a couple of hours without a warm hat or some sort of noggin insulation.
      If the Crows were realistic their faces would be covered too, and they’d be wearing wood or bone snow goggles to protect against burnt retinas from glare.

    2. Big warm hats make it harder to ID main characters. Can’t see their faces or hair.

      Lack of hats and helmets is a common concession made for TV/Movies with scenes that take place in cold places, or on battlefields.

      Why then not have hats for all the extras who we don’t care about? Save some money in the costume department.

  15. We get our politics from dragon show incest pornos now.

    Seriously, the hype and obsession of GoT is literally the worst cultural phenomenon I’ve ever experienced. And I say this as a millennial who raved about the show after watching s01.

  16. No matter whatever people say but still this show has created a huge fan base across the globe. There are people who are really obsessed with this show.
    On the other hand there are people who are not in favor of this show.
    Overall I think we can learn good things and discard the bad things.
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