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Economics

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Some General Info About Economics

As a subject, economics sounds snore-worthy, but in reality, there is as much economic angst in history as there is political--or personal. Often economics drives the politics.

Still. Individual situations can be discussed under the various countries' histories, but to generalize, when humans came over, they brought the conviction that gold had to be the standard for currency. That idea has remained fixed at the center of a byzantine economic structure largely because it was adopted by the Sartorans, the symbolism is deeply wound into the culture, and because no one really wants to go to the immense effort of changing it. Yet.

In this Section

Gold Standard

So the idea was that gold was the standard, but when the early Sartorans debated what that actually meant, what they discovered was that time was the actual standard. Gold was its physical symbol.

There are brief but tantalizing hints that gold veins were obligingly worked into the mountains by the indigenous beings as part of the early desire to make the humans happy by giving them what they seemed to want, because want was need. At any rate, though the crystalizing process in gems was natural (indeed, integral to the stages of some of the life forms) minerals such as silver and gold might not have been. But they are there, rare and hard to get to, and otherwise conveniently analogous to amounts, location, and meaning on Earth.

Coins and Drafts

The first gold coin was twelve-sided, thin and small. (Weight was established, but I'm not going to bore on with numbers here, especially as these changed over the centuries. We're talking about ideas here.)

The twelve-sided gold coin remains the standard physical unit for an artisan's day of work. That being twelve hours. All these things have changed many times over the centuries, including the time of a day's work, but that's the basic understanding: the skilled work of one person could be represented by one twelve-sided coin. Half that was a six-sided coin, and the equivalent of an unskilled worker: in the early days, they were defined by their lack of guild, but gradually everyone grouped into guilds, whose history wanes and waxes. 'Unskilled' was taken to mean any job one could do after a day or so of training, whereas 'skilled' was the job that required an apprenticeship, and eventually a master work.

From these two coins evolved all kinds of coinage, almost always in twelves: twelve silvers per six-sided coin, twenty-four silvers to a gold. Then thicker gold coins were made, to represent twelve golds: these were usually used for saving, or for major exchanges. There is even a gold coin for a twelve-twelve (144 golds)--again seldom used in circulation, but banking, or big purchases.

In present day Sartor:

a "sixer" is a six-sided brass coin, twelve of which make up one silver. Not to be confused with the six-sided silver coin, half of a gold-piece, called a ‘six.’

Elsewhere, smaller denominations are usually made of brass or sometimes bronze, most common with tin or cupranickel mixed with brass. Tinklet is the most common name for the smallest coin, a thin brass bit, twelve of which make up a brass coachwheel--it takes twelve coachwheels to make up a silver coin. It's generally understood through most of the world that round coins are less than sided coins, which are heavier, round having the corners shaved off.

The concept of paper bills never took on as printing never took on, but drafts are common, and have been for a very long time. These involve the presence of a banker, a representative of the payer, and a mage in charge of sveds, which are magical seals that guarantee authenticity. Either the actual gold is displayed for all to see, or a contract is written on which all parties agree to the amount of time or kind (trade) offered. Once the agreement is made, the sved is attached, the contract written up (called a tally) and the sved scribe hands it off to the heralds to archive.

The holder of a draft is entitled to redeem the draft in physical gold, kind, or in time. Most people deal entirely in drafts, with small coinage for daily purchases, or for traveling. (Travel drafts are traditionally written in Sartoran.) Everyone understands the golden coins, but in practicality what they buy is either time, or the products of time. People like coins because they are easy to trade, they are traceless. Not all transactions bear the scrutiny of scribes and heralds.

Mints

Always a government affair. Coins are mostly hammered, though some are pressed. Their weight is strictly established by treaty. The price of gold and what coinage will buy are kept rigidly aligned; thus, gold objects are priced according to the weight of the gold plus the artisans' price. (Which can vary)

Banks

Banks are all protected by magic, and have been for centuries. The actual gold, or whatever people wish stored, is enchanted into pockets beyond time and space. It's long been known that no one person in any bank knows all of the steps in an enchantment to gain access to the vaults: one person keeps the 'key', another the magical signs, a third the words, etc. All have tracers on them. By the time anyone begins tampering with any of them in order to pull off a theft, the authorities are usually alerted. In many kingdoms, the punishment for trying to rob banks is death, in others it's a life of community service, usually as a wander, with a magic spell to keep one in place.

When transfers are made, they are done by magic. There are safeguards at that level, as well. Thus thievery tends to be on a small scale (robbing people of incidental coinage, or of fine work that can be fenced) or on a very large scale indeed.

Banks make their money by loans, the extra being an agreed-on price. The extra charge goes up if there is no collateral; collateral can keep the extra charge down, and negotiation can be affected by situations. Default usually means a declaration of debt. In most countries you can be arrested for a declaration of debt, which is the privilege of the person owed. A declaration of fraud is one step higher, because that implies intent.

Debt and fraud

(See Also Punishment)

Tallies are contracts. If one side of a tally is not met, it is considered debt.

If a debt is considered fraud, it is considered a serious crime. This is because fraud is a breaking of the social contract, which depends on mutual agreement and the honoring of promises. It is not considered fraud if the lack of payment of a debt is caused by disaster or hardship caused by events. Fraud always has to be proved, whereas the result of debt is stipulated by local laws. A fraud case goes to the guilds, or to the local judiciary. A judgment against the accused usually means prison: leaving home and working in community service for the stipulated period. Sometimes belongings are liquidated, usually if it's clear that payment of the debt will last longer than the person's life. Sometimes a person can buy off some of their time by surrendering private property, which is duly evaluated and priced by bank and guild authorities before being surrendered to the holder of the debt. Sometimes guilds will make good debts of their members, and require paybacks within the guild, depending on the situation.

Destroying another's property is considered a debt--to society as well as to the individual. Deliberate destruction can be declared, which, like fraud, has to be proved. In some places, the community service in such a case goes with some sort of outer sign to indicate a breaker of the social contract. On the Sartoran continent, for example, wearing the 'pig's head' ( a pink, ugly hat that ties under the chin) marks one off as a greedy breaker of law. In other places there is prison garb of certain hues, and public derision is permitted--sometimes encouraged. These social sanctions are not universal: they are mostly leftovers of older, rougher times, and are withheld for truly heinous crimes, for crimes from people in positions of power and responsibility, or else are expected in places where "cruel and unusual punishment" is a part of public entertainment.

Unless family members participated in a fraud, or benefited from the fraud, they are not involved in the judgment. The "benefited from" sometimes causes heated debate and court cases.

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Page last modified on November 12, 2016, at 05:54 PM