LESSON Writing Economics

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I am by no means a professional writer nor a professor in the field of economics. I simply have an interest in both fields as of late, the later especially. I dislike the label of "lesson" for this topic and prefer a more open discussion among all of you. This is a space to openly put ideas about something sometimes we writers overlook- economics. I also cannot stress this enough to avoid political ideologies for the sake of this learning environment and to discuss anything regarding politics it in a purely, factual, scientific matter. Thank you.

From dystopian classics such as Orwell's 1984 to something as unexpected as Spice and Wolf, one of the most fascinating brushes of topics in media (particularly literature) is the discussion of economics. As writers, one of the many attractions to our works is how we can utilize our tales to connect our readers to their reality. Themes of war and grimness not only provide a stunning tale of drama and character development, but it shows firsthand the horrors of something we perhaps may not think about to a day-to-day basis.

Likewise, after taking a course on economics in university and being (admittedly forced) to read five books on the topic, I've grown an unexpected fondness for this field of science. It is my hope that, by the end of this, you too will have am appreciation for something that sometimes is overlooked in the works we consume. So, when you inevitably write that hit sci-fi thriller or a medieval fantasy or anything involving entire nations or economies, you have a nice field of knowledge to boot with it as well.

To understand economics in writing and how it is utilized, it is important to understand economics as it stands today and a brief overview of some of its principles. Before I begin, I must affirm that there are many schools of economics that have existed and still exist. I, personally, was taught underneath the school of Neoclassicism mixed in with some modern elements. Luckily, outside of some schools of thought such as Marxism, most economic schools today generally agree upon some basic fundamental concepts (and are mostly Neoclassical). Here are ten of them!

  1. We will always live in a world of scarcity.
  2. Humans are greedy by nature. We will always crave for something more.
  3. The Law of Supply-and-Demand will inevitably force something a good back into price equilibrium.
  4. Demand is affected by our values, which are subjective and always changing.
  5. Supply is affected by number of producers, government taxation/subsidiaries, etc. etc.
  6. We are all connected in the economy, because we are the economy.
  7. Tariffs, economically speaking, harm a nation.
  8. More jobs do not equate to economic prosperity. Likewise, hard work doesn't equate to more money.
  9. The most important human resource is the mind. Opportunities that are not perceived do not exist.
  10. No economic system is perfect thanks to the inherent nature of human greed.

Let me propose a scenario to you that my professor did- if you were stranded in the desert, dehydrated and on the verge of death, but lo! Someone happened to pass by you with a truck full of water! Assuming you valued your life at that point, how much would you pay for that water? Would you pay the same $1.42 at your local grocery store? No, at that point, you would pay that truck driver anything for that water. And because humans are naturally greedy, that truck driver might get as much money as he can from you (although he may be kind and give it for a lower price or free, however, in economics we cannot answer you what values are of an individual). Yet, in a grocery store, you only pay $1.42! Why is that?

The point of this analogy is to illustrate that the demand for something, which partially determines the price, is set by our constantly shifting values. We will be willing to buy something at a higher price if we value it immensely. The other determining factor is supply, which is dependent on the producers and government procedures (taxation, banning, etc. etc.). Combine both of these, you get the famous "Law of Supply-and-Demand", which the information given in a graph will give you a price for a good. Remember, prices do not explain prices, you cannot find out the price of something by comparing the prices of previous steps in the construction of it.

I might save another "lesson" for the schools of thought in the past, but for now let us go over some of the more interesting discoveries made by economists that might benefit you in writing nations or countries. Did you know that tariffs, economically speaking, will always harm nations? This is because it forces a nation to produce something that perhaps it is not great at producing. A nation cannot realistically produce everything and anything and expect the same degree of quality as, say, other nations that specialize in that good. This ties in with the false notation that "more jobs = economic prosperity" and "hard-work makes you rich". You can see that, frankly, with all the minimum wage jobs at fast-food joints. Sure, there are a lot of them, but are the people working in them economically prosperous? No. Do they work hard? Yes! Wages are determined by productivity and hours. Chinese or Indian labor workers work for low wages because they do not have the skills nor the technology as, say, a well-maintained and post-modernized Western factory, thus lowering their productivity (along with potential other unfortunate factors, such as corruption).

Finally, to wrap this brief lesson up, it is important to remember we are the economy. Below, I've included a modern recreation of Dr. Leonard Reed's "I Pencil" essay, illustrating this perfectly.


So, where does this leave us in terms of writing nations or economies in our dystopian Wonderlands? Well, it is important to keep in mind that this topic should not be a main focus of a story, but rather, I'd argue, the story and characters. Including themes such as economics, war, human psyche, and others requires that a writer understand that these are like vitamins. Taking them alone will not make you healthy, but adding them onto good writing habits and a driven sense of creativity will make your works all the more attractive and appealing.

This is where, I'd argue, the open discussion comes into play. What you do or do not do is up to you, but here are a few questions I would like to offer in the inclusion of any sort of economics in stories.

1. Why do currencies exist? Why are we using bags of salt? Are there gold or silver reserves?
2. Does the nation have many tariffs? Does it have none? What are the diplomatic and economic results of that?
3. How does the nation trade with others nations? How does that affect the prosperity of the its people?
4. Do the people highly demand for something? Is the government trying to stifle supply of something?
5. How advanced is the nation? Can they produce goods faster or slower than its competitors?
6. How much government control is over the nation's economy? What are the consequences and benefits of that?

What I went over is but a short snipit of the large, large world of economics. As many other people have made lessons before, I advise this to do your own personal, scientific, and unbias research. If you are writing anything involving a topic that connects with our world, is imperative to do your research on that matter. I hope this was an informative "economics 4 dummies" guide and encourage open discussion on something I think that can be sometimes overlooked.

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