The Erebor of Socialism

I was just watching The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.  You know the one.  The dwarves in the Company of Thorin Oakinshield awake and provoke the dragon, and after the dragon dies, shot by a human, a mad violent scramble ensues to get the leavings of his power– the gold and other treasure in Erebor.  Hence the battle.

It’s a very good movie.  It’s perfectly cast (Billy Connolly as Dáin II Ironfoot is my favorite choice specific to this movie– “Would ye consider…JUST SODDING OFF?”), beautifully directed, shot and edited.  This wasn’t my first time watching it.

Most everyone knows, though, that the more you watch a movie, the more you notice different aspects that were obscured by the pure experience of the film that occurs the first time you watch.  Like the way one of the stormtroopers rushing into the Death Star control chamber to confront Threepio and Artoo hits his forehead on the ascending door.  Though the power dynamic in BotFA is just right, with a scramble for pickings after the fall of a major power, the economic contradictions in Tolkien’s whole story, and perhaps most fantasy fiction, are amazing.

It’s assumed– by everyone— that gold is a constant.  It’s treasure.  It’s prosperity.  It’s security.  A perfect MacGuffin.  And yet it never occurs to anyone that the only way it’s any of those things is if other people will provide food, drink, security, comfort, et cetera, in exchange for it.  No one asks, where in this movie are the crops to buy?  Who can the people of Laketown hire to help rebuild their lives?  Fields of grain, lumberyards and vineyards are nowhere in sight in these gorgeous, unspoiled, New Zealandish landscapes.  Nor does their leader Bard think, “Well, what is the use of this much gold when a vast amount more gold lies in that mountain to outcompete whatever share of the gold that we have for the available comforts?  The dwarves are going to outbid us for wine, iron and timber.”  The gold flowing into Spain’s economy from the New World in the 16th and 17th centuries did not increase the economic output– the comforts produced– in Europe.  All it did was increase the amount of gold chasing them.  Which had the predictable effect of a bubble– too much money chasing too few opportunities, as the classic definition runs– and inflation.

In that sense, then, socialism is like the treasure of Erebor, or of Montezuma.  It’s the illusion that a perceived arbitrage exists by which YOU, the voter, can get yourself someone else’s gold (whether by your own violence or the implied violence of government power), someone else’s time and work– but they can’t get yours.

That, after all, would be Unfair.  Just ask any politician of the Left.