QUOTE(Destri Melarg @ Sep 2 2011, 08:34 AM)
Thank you for the lesson in socioeconomics, but the point you seem to be missing is that we are not talking about a societal shift here. We are talking about the change in philosophy of a single Great House whose sole income is tied to production of one crop. I think all of you are giving Dres undo credit and making them larger than they really are. Even if we bloat our estimates for the sake of realism, a Great House comprises relatively few (maybe as many as five-ten thousand) individuals. Their decisions have at best a minimal effect on the day to day life of the average ash-born. House Dres deals solely in saltrice. Do you know what saltrice is good for? Well, you can either eat it or you can use it to brew some Mazte . . . thatís it! When was the last time you went into a tavern in Cyrodiil and ordered a bottle of Mazte?
But my point is that you can't have
any significant economic shift without a societal shift as well. Even relatively small changes can have far-reaching consequences. Even if the changes to Dres' economy didn't affect the rest of Morrowind (which would basically only be possible if they're not trading at all with the other Houses), they're still going to have a massive effect within House Dres itself. The fact that they deal solely in saltrice will make the effects even more
dramatic, because pretty much everyone in the House will be affected.
You really think that the availablility of food and alcohol doesn't have social effects? I'll get to food later, but if you think that alcohol prices don't matter, try reading up on the UK's binge-drinking culture (a big 'headline issue' right now). To summarise very briefly and over-simplistically: A fall in real alcohol prices over the last few decades lead to a big increase in alcohol consumption, resulting in large amounts of alcohol-related crime, closure of pubs (who are undercut by supermarkets selling cheap alcohol) and consequent job losses, and a massive cost to the NHS (our state-funded health service) of treating alcohol-related injuries and illness. That's without even counting all the indirect costs, like the effect on workplace productivity. You can't just deal with these things in isolation; they're all interconnected.
Sorry to turn this into an Economics 101 class, but if we're going to debate the possiblity of economic change in House Dres, we have to discuss how and why this might happen and what the results would be. It's nowhere near as simple as people saying "OK, let's stop farming and start selling stuff" or even "OK, let's sell more of the stuff we already sell". Let me try to explain:
If you're selling a product and want to increase your sales, the first thing you need to do is find someone to buy it. As I said before, saltrice is a staple food, so you're not likely to see large changes in demand (barring a population boom, which is rare in Elven societies). If you flood the market with saltrice in the absence of any new buyers, all you'll do is lower the price - which might be good for society as a whole, but definitely not for producers like Dres and Hlaalu.
But let's assume the Dres find a new buyer, perhaps in a foreign market. Maybe the wheat harvests fail in Cyrodiil, so the Imperials decide to import saltrice from Morrowind as a substitute. Now the question becomes "how the heck do we increase production while destroying our only viable source of labour?" If the Dres want to sell more saltrice, they'll have to farm more of it, and if their plantations are already dependent on slave labour... To put it bluntly, selling more saltrice is likely to lead to more
slavery, not less.
This economic strangulation that you all see for House Dresí change to a mercantile concern is a fallacy because, really, how much can the production of saltrice be worth per year? Itís obviously enough to sustain a Great House, but I doubt itís enough to expand a Great House. Wouldnít it behoove them to shift toward a mercantile business model if for no other reason than to boost the profits they see from finally being able to export their single useful crop via the EEC? Why wouldnít they want to ally themselves with a House like Hlaalu with the proven connections to spread sales of Mazte throughout the Empire? It would be far more profitable than the previous model which, as far as I can tell, consisted primarily of production and (one assumes) consumption.
To answer this you have to tackle the questions I've posed above and in my previous post. What exactly will they sell? Who to? How would they expand production of their current exports (raw saltrice and mazte) without making even greater use of slavery? Certainly there are potential advantages to diversifying their economy, but it may not even be possible, let alone desirable for those at the top (who are presumably doing pretty well out of the current situation).
We have been presented with the scenario that Dres has shifted from an agricultural concern to a mercantile concern. Naturally I assume that if they are Ďshifting
í then they didnít have a mercantile arm to begin with. I also take for granted that they will not completely abandon the machinery already in place to produce the only thing they have worth selling. How asinine would that be?!
The two ideologies are not mutually exclusive. We take for granted that Hlaalu owns mines and plantations, but no one sees them as a mining or agricultural House. Shifting House philosophy simply means that they will benefit from the sale of saltrice more than in the past. It also means that, with the abolition of slavery, they will have to now pay their
workers a fair wage. How much is that in Tamriel, ten Septims a year? It doesnít sound like an exorbitant price to pay for finally being able to reap the rewards of trading throughout the Empire.
Hlaalu are seen as a mercantile House because they actually are more heavily involved in trading goods, as opposed to producing goods, than any of the other Houses. They are several factors behind this: their geographical position, their entrepreneurial culture, their (relatively) tolerant attitude towards foreigners, and their historically close ties to the Empire. If Dres trades with the Empire through Hlaalu, it's Hlaalu's merchants who'll do the actual trading. It won't turn Dres into a mercantile House, just an agricultural House who sell slightly more of their produce to outlanders.
As for the price of hired workers vs. slaves, it depends entirely on the availability of labour. If it's plentiful, then yes, hiring paid workers will generally be cheaper. If not, then it may well be more economical to use slave labour (disregarding any moral arguments, of course). I'm assuming is the case in Dres territory, because it's pretty much stated outright in MW: "House Dres is an agrarian agricultural society, and its large saltrice plantations rely completely on slave labor for their economic viability."
There are alternatives to slave labour which might allow Dres' plantations to survive, if not prosper. SubRosa mentioned share-cropping, which I agree is the most likely option if abolition were forced on the Dres. But it would still involve huge losses for the plantation owners, so they're very unlikely to make that sort of change willingly. Where the people in charge are the ones who benefit most from slavery, you're not likely to see it abolished without a fight.
Another way to reduce labour costs is to hire cheap immigrant workers from abroad. But you'd have to persuade them to come in the first place, and the Dres don't exactly have much to offer immigrants: a harsh climate, poor wages and working conditions, and a native population who view and treat outlanders with utter contempt. Again, if the Dres could persuade Khajiit and Argonians to come willingly to work on their plantations, they'd probably be doing it already.
If that were the case then the Morag Tong would be illegal, and the Ministry of Truth would probably be closed.
The Armistice - the treaty which incorporated Morrowind into the Empire - specifically allowed them to keep some of their ancient customs (e.g. slavery and the Morag Tong) and a degree of self-government. It's explained in some of the in-game books like this one
. Otherwise, though, they're definitely under Imperial occupation - it's a fairly major plot point in MW's main quest, and those Imperial forts dotted around the gameworld aren't just for decoration. Even the House guards explicitly state that they enforce Imperial law as well as Great House law.
Ultimately all of this is just us spinning our wheels. The lore presented to us states that House Hlaalu and House Dres joined in the abolition of slavery against House Indoril and House Redoran allied in opposition. No matter what protestations we may have (and we certainly have them), itís Bethesdaís lore and that is how they want it. I don't think that you are wrong, Helena. In a real world situation the alliances and economic conditions given wouldn't happen. But I was under the impression that the purpose of this thread was to discuss how the current situation could
have come about, not poke holes in the sole theory put forth to explain it. I said in my first post that my theory isnít perfect. Please, if someone has a better one Iím all ears. Otherwise I really have no desire to engage in yet another 'Bash Bethesda' thread. Those have been done ad nauseum already.
I don't think (correct me if I'm wrong on this, Kazaera), that Kazaera was necessarily asking for a solution. It sounded to me like she was saying "does this make sense to anyone here, or do people agree with me that it doesn't
make sense?" Just because we'd like to see a theory that would plausibly explain away all these contradictions, doesn't mean that such a theory actually exists.
Without necessarily wanting to bash Bethesda, I don't see that it's our job to patch up their plot-holes. Yeah, of course it's their world and they can do what they like with it, but they can't force us - the fans - to accept two blatantly contradictory pieces of 'lore' as being equally valid. Of course it's partly a question of personal 'hot-buttons'; my degree is in economics and politics, so I don't feel able to rationalise something that makes no economic or political sense. If we were discussing, say, the magic system - an area where I have little interest or knowledge - I'd be (slightly) more willing to overlook these kinds of contradictions.
What I and some of the others have tried to do is propose an alternative scenario for abolition, which could
make sense given what we know from Morrowind. It means disregarding some of Bethesda's lore, but as SubRosa says, it doesn't really seem like they've thought about it all that hard anyway. Even if the writers happened to stumble on a discussion like this one, I doubt they would care that much (heck, they might even agree).