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Why does everyone think that having the iron throne empty or destroyed will make the peasants better off.

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Posted (edited)

I keep hearing everyone say that when the "wheel" breaks or the nobles die that the peasants will somehow be better off. But generally when we see places that had a strong leader or dictator for a long time suddenly have no leader it doesn't work out well. You would have no law and that means the peasents would constantly be attacked by the soldiers and knights who have been fighting for so long and don't know anything else. Or you will just have the same thing pop up. The idea that if all the nobles die you will suddenly have democracy and everyone will be happy has generally been something that hasn't happened much. Now I am not saying that the government of westeros is good but I think if it falls you will just have absolute chaos.  Look at it this way. Aerys is one of the worst kings in westeros history and look at how people lived during his reign (before roberts rebelion) you had a very small uprising that only effected a small part of westeros. There was without a doubt people worried about the mad king doing something. However if there is no leadership you get what they had in the riverlands during the war of five kings. Absolute chaos where knights and fighters take whatever they want.

 

To be fair I have a feeling that while the characters will have a sad ending the show runners will have the average people of westeros live in a utopia now that so many nobles are dead. However it is ironic that this is what they go for  to add some sweetness to the ending since it is the most unlikely.

Edited by snow is the man

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My take on it is that the end of the iron throne will be the end of feudalism.  There will be a shift in politics where the noble houses still remain in charge but the head of westeros will be elected.  In theory, this should create more stability and less fighting between the noble houses.

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TBH Westeros needs absolutism more than "feudal democracy". Decimation of noble houses could pave road towards that.

While absolutism gets a bad rap, for most European countries it brought breaking the feudalism and the church and creation of large stable countries. And modernization - absolutist sovereigns tended to go for projects that solidified their rule, such as a good and reliable network of roads, inns and garrisons.

 

Then again, infrastructure wise Westeros is stuck in the Bronze Age with everything but the raven mail (and absolutist monarch would aim to break the power of Maesters... Optical telegraphy anyone?). 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Runaway Penguin said:

TBH Westeros needs absolutism more than "feudal democracy". Decimation of noble houses could pave road towards that.

While absolutism gets a bad rap, for most European countries it brought breaking the feudalism and the church and creation of large stable countries. And modernization - absolutist sovereigns tended to go for projects that solidified their rule, such as a good and reliable network of roads, inns and garrisons.

I totally agree.

In a way, you have a kind of absolutism when the ruler have enough firepower to take on everyone else alone. Worst case, Daenerys could rule from Dragonstone demanding that all high lords bend the knee under the constant threat of dragonfire. She could use this power to build up a system for promulgating law and claiming taxes, paving the way for a stable absolutist rule in Westeros. Until Drogon dies.

Better yet, perhaps, to make sure there are some form of "consent". An emperor elected by the high nobility is one route. A more strategic route might be to have some kind of diet/parliament of high and lesser houses, agreeing to taxes and war (and so on). We need to break the power of the high lords.

But remember, while absolutism was a success in continental Europe, it did not work well in the Ottoman Empire, or Russia, in the long run. While the absolutist kingdoms of Europe were stable, this was because it enabled the rulers to command large(r) resources in order to go to war (eg. Sweden and Preussen). In Europe, the absolutist kingdoms fought each other (small-scale warfare) and had the constant threat from the east.

So: You can't assume that the (western) European way is the "golden way to peace and prosperity".

Edited by Fjodrik
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Yes. The show and books strongly imply that the issue is having a monarch and everything would be better if the nobility were free to govern their own affairs.

When actually feudalism is the problem. If Westeros was an early modern state something like the War of Five Kings would have been much harder to achieve because so much military and political power rests with squabbling nobles. 

I think GRRM is putting the cart before the horse in suggesting abolishing the monarchy but retaining all the other institutions of feudalism.

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4 hours ago, Fjodrik said:

I totally agree.

In a way, you have a kind of absolutism when the ruler have enough firepower to take on everyone else alone. Worst case, Daenerys could rule from Dragonstone demanding that all high lords bend the knee under the constant threat of dragonfire. She could use this power to build up a system for promulgating law and claiming taxes, paving the way for a stable absolutist rule in Westeros. Until Drogon dies.

Better yet, perhaps, to make sure there are some form of "consent". An emperor elected by the high nobility is one route. A more strategic route might be to have some kind of diet/parliament of high and lesser houses, agreeing to taxes and war (and so on). We need to break the power of the high lords.

But remember, while absolutism was a success in continental Europe, it did not work well in the Ottoman Empire, or Russia, in the long run. While the absolutist kingdoms of Europe were stable, this was because it enabled the rulers to command large(r) resources in order to go to war (eg. Sweden and Preussen). In Europe, the absolutist kingdoms fought each other (small-scale warfare) and had the constant threat from the east.

So: You can't assume that the (western) European way is the "golden way to peace and prosperity".

Absolutism did not work anywhere in the long run - because of the modernization it brought, it also bred strong layers of non-noble nouveau riches who also wanted a slice of the pie. That is the issue with Russian and Ottoman absolutism - they did not face the revolts/wars in the same sense European absolutist monarchies did so they lived out their absolutims 100-150 years longer that it worked. In France it got smashed by revolution, in Austria as well etc. etc. etc. - Russia and Ottoman empire did not have this, because their absolutism retained more feudal features, in general, so lacked strong middle class to break it for longer.

 

Thing is... single concentrated dragon is not the sort of power that would flip the switch to the absolutism. Absolutist monarchies stood on gunpowder and industry (with crown cities playing a huge part in both aspects) and on distributed armies, often standing on lower gentry as opposed to the feudal overlords of old. That way the king was not limited to one place at a time, anyone making trouble anywhere around  the realm could quickly find himself on the receiving end of the royal army that would be fairly uniform in appearance and performance. Dany's style would restore feudalism.

 

Absolutist Westeros for sure won't have a total peace, but most of conflict would be not internal anymore (though the individual kingdoms are big enough to be countries of their own right), but rather in wars across the sea against the city states.

 

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Problem is, given the infrastructural and technical circumstances, Westeros is way too big to be ruled absolutely. 

The Targaryens at the height of their power pre-Dance had good power projection capabilities but even that was not enough. 

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I'm guessing to be King only requires a birth right, to be a prime minister requires votes from the people... all the people.

So if the throne is destroyed and someone needs to be elected to rule... they will want to keep the people, rich and poor happy to continue to get votes.

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they dont have the logisitics to give everyone voting rights.  Vast majority can't read or write, much less gives a shit about politics anyways.  Long summers, steady rain, etc is what the peasents want. Iforget Jorah's quote offhand.

Closest they might get to a "vote" is 7 leaders, one from each "kingdom" but even then they might elect the first ruler, who most likely would take over and strip them of thier voting rights anyways.  Only thing thats pulling them out of monarchs is some sort of industrial revolution.  

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1 hour ago, Arakan said:

Problem is, given the infrastructural and technical circumstances, Westeros is way too big to be ruled absolutely. 

Indeed. I've always considered the size of Westeros to be a design mistake that GRRM was unable to renege on, but quite frequently gloss over (D&D even more so).

(In 1814, as the age of absolutism drew it's last breaths, my town didn't send any representatives to the national assembly where our national Constitution was written, because the winter was cold and the fjord froze. This was about 400 air kilometers away, or, the length of the Wall. Might have been different with ravens.)

Westeros is far too big, but remarkably culturally coherent: One language, stable religions even with a very weak religious authority, almost identical political structure in most of the kingdoms, identical traditions and so on. It's almost like you've had absolutism already.

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Yeah. Which is where the worldbuilding fails with too large area and too few cities. Both the Iron Throne and Lords Paramount should be busy founding new cities, as that was tried and proven means to balance the power of your feudal vassals and gave you strong garrisons that knew their privileges depend upon you. It also gave you more taxes etc.

For example take the Twins. Any sane lord of the Riverlands would ages ago fund several other cities and bridges spanning the river. Same with the Neck - if it is the only way in and out the North, there should be a thriving trade city and fortress at either end of the Neck (unless trade is non-existent which seems to be the case - in such case why?).

 

And so on and so forth. GRRM builds good characters, overall, but his worldbuilding is too often subject to "rule of cool". Distances get enlarged, walls get heightened, castles get blown out o proportions to supporting countryside around them. And in Essos it gets worse :)

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2 hours ago, Bradam said:

they dont have the logisitics to give everyone voting rights.  Vast majority can't read or write, much less gives a shit about politics anyways.  Long summers, steady rain, etc is what the peasents want. Iforget Jorah's quote offhand.

Closest they might get to a "vote" is 7 leaders, one from each "kingdom" but even then they might elect the first ruler, who most likely would take over and strip them of thier voting rights anyways.  Only thing thats pulling them out of monarchs is some sort of industrial revolution.  

Like the electoral college that choose the Holy Roman Emperor you mean? 

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8 hours ago, Fjodrik said:

I totally agree.

In a way, you have a kind of absolutism when the ruler have enough firepower to take on everyone else alone. Worst case, Daenerys could rule from Dragonstone demanding that all high lords bend the knee under the constant threat of dragonfire. She could use this power to build up a system for promulgating law and claiming taxes, paving the way for a stable absolutist rule in Westeros. Until Drogon dies.

Better yet, perhaps, to make sure there are some form of "consent". An emperor elected by the high nobility is one route. A more strategic route might be to have some kind of diet/parliament of high and lesser houses, agreeing to taxes and war (and so on). We need to break the power of the high lords.

But remember, while absolutism was a success in continental Europe, it did not work well in the Ottoman Empire, or Russia, in the long run. While the absolutist kingdoms of Europe were stable, this was because it enabled the rulers to command large(r) resources in order to go to war (eg. Sweden and Preussen). In Europe, the absolutist kingdoms fought each other (small-scale warfare) and had the constant threat from the east.

So: You can't assume that the (western) European way is the "golden way to peace and prosperity".

Absolutism, in the grand scheme of things, works well. It works more than it fails. And, mark this well, absolutism works better than democracy and republicanism does. It lasts longer and people are drawn to it.

I think that's the direction the series has always been heading. One of the good things about the show is that they make this clear early on: they feature a conversation between Cersei and Joffrey when Joffrey expresses his desire for an strong centralized government centered around an absolute monarch

1 hour ago, Fjodrik said:

Indeed. I've always considered the size of Westeros to be a design mistake that GRRM was unable to renege on, but quite frequently gloss over (D&D even more so).

(In 1814, as the age of absolutism drew it's last breaths, my town didn't send any representatives to the national assembly where our national Constitution was written, because the winter was cold and the fjord froze. This was about 400 air kilometers away, or, the length of the Wall. Might have been different with ravens.)

Westeros is far too big, but remarkably culturally coherent: One language, stable religions even with a very weak religious authority, almost identical political structure in most of the kingdoms, identical traditions and so on. It's almost like you've had absolutism already.

The problem isn't the size of Westeros (or rather, the Seven Kingdoms). And come on, Westeros is not culturally coherent. The Dornish, the orphans of the Greenblood, the Ironborn, the mountain clansmen of the North and the Vale, the wildlings and the actual Northmen are odd men out.

Westeros is the size of South America. South America, like Westeros, has its cultural differences throughout the different countries, but they all have the same common background: Spanish European-Amerindian mix, Andal and First Men mix. The Brazilians and the Dornish have a different background (Portuguese, Rhoynish) but because they share the same continent, there is a carryover.

No, the problem isn't Westeros' size. The problem is the fact that everyone in Westeros and a bunch of people in Essos speaks a common tongue. That's a glaring error. The Ironborn should have a completely different language than the people on the mainland and whatever language the Dornish would speak should only be intelligible to the people of the Reach and the Stormlands and barely at that.

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Roman empire's peasents had no say in that either.  Then the whole Ceaser thing happened there too..

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Runaway Penguin said:

TBH Westeros needs absolutism more than "feudal democracy". Decimation of noble houses could pave road towards that.

While absolutism gets a bad rap, for most European countries it brought breaking the feudalism and the church and creation of large stable countries. And modernization - absolutist sovereigns tended to go for projects that solidified their rule, such as a good and reliable network of roads, inns and garrisons.

 

Then again, infrastructure wise Westeros is stuck in the Bronze Age with everything but the raven mail (and absolutist monarch would aim to break the power of Maesters... Optical telegraphy anyone?). 

Nope. England did not go down the route of absolutism. And as far as raising funds for projects, nobody could raise revenue like the English could. Part of the reason being that the King's spending powers had been checked.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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3 hours ago, Arakan said:

Problem is, given the infrastructural and technical circumstances, Westeros is way too big to be ruled absolutely. 

People need to distinguish between absolutism and centralized government. The English state had a pretty high degree of centralization. But, it did not go down the route of absolutism ultimately.

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Posted (edited)

I think should make 7 kingdoms again and Davos  is appointed as first gov of kingslanding but kingdoms should help rebuild it. I d rather Tyrion be Lord of his house finally. Jon king beyond the wall. 

Edited by Skeletor

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10 hours ago, Winter prince said:

My take on it is that the end of the iron throne will be the end of feudalism.  There will be a shift in politics where the noble houses still remain in charge but the head of westeros will be elected.  In theory, this should create more stability and less fighting between the noble houses.

Not only has there been zero set-up in either the books or the shows for the idea of replacing monarchy/feudalism with a representative democracy, it would probably work out really terribly with no theory or practice of democracy to rely on. Democracy existed for quite a while before anybody really came to "representative," and those early Greek democracies were quite a model for really awful government.

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Posted (edited)

As life seemingly hasn't changed for the peasants for thousands and thousands of years, I don't think they care much either way.

Edited by Anthony Pirtle
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1 hour ago, OldGimletEye said:

Nope. England did not go down the route of absolutism. And as far as raising funds for projects, nobody could raise revenue like the English could. Part of the reason being that the King's spending powers had been checked.

I think Niall Ferguson has an elegant explanation:

Quote

In a seminal article published in 1989, North and Weingast argued that the real significance of the Glorious Revolution lay in the credibility that it gave the English state as a sovereign borrower. From 1689, Parliament controlled and improved taxation,audited royal expenditures, protected private property rights and effectively prohibited debt default. This arrangement, they argued, was ’self-enforcing’, not least because property owners were overwhelmingly the class represented in Parliament.As a result, the English state was able to borrow money on a scale that had previously been impossible because of the sovereign’s habit of defaulting or arbitrarily taxing or expropriating. The late seventeenth and early eighteenth century thus inaugurated a period of rapid accumulation of public debt without any rise in borrowing costs –rather the reverse. (The Great Degeneration. How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, 36–37)

 

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