Friday, March 9, 2012

Bonus Hunger Games!

Need some econ lulz?

Matt Yglesias tackles the economy of Panem and the possible"Tesserae Inflation Issue"   I love a good wonky "criticism" of a dystopian YA novel, but it also got me thinking.

If you didn't click the link, the "tesserae" is explained as so...

Tessera (plural: tesserae) is an option available to children in the districts of Panem, who are eligible to participate in the Hunger Games. If their family is starving, they can add their name into the reaping draw more times in exchange for tesserae. Each tessera is worth a very meager year's supply of grain and oil for one person. However, this is not enough to survive by for a year as money for rent, soap, thread and candles are needed. The entries are cumulative.

Now, its established within the book that the Hunger Games have been around for over 50 years (i forget the exact figure) and that kids from some districts are actually raised as "career tributes," which essentially means that they are bred warriors in case they get selected.  They want to be selected because they were born for this.  Since the games are the defining aspect of Panem culture, it wouldn't be silly to believe that every district would have these career tributes, or it wouldn't be hard to raise some children as them.  After all, a culture influenced completely by violence would probably breed macho children eager to fight (like in Ancient Greece or Rome).  With this in mind, why couldnt each district isolate these career tributes and have them take thousands of Tessarae and distribute the food amongst the hungry? The career tribute would fill the lottery with his/her own name, thus nearly guaranteeing him/her a place in the games, which is essentially what he/she was born to do.  Hunger problem solved!

This would also improve the quality of the games because there would be no weak links within the arena.  It would be like an all-star Hunger Games each year.

Lets get re-writing, Collins!


  1. Like Matt's column this overlooks the fact that the Capitol limits the number of Tesserae each eligible person can take to the number of family members in that eligible person's family. Katniss is limited to 3 one for herself, her mother and her sister.
    Also, it is only the rich Districts where tributes are bred for the job. Katniss comes from a poor district where the people are barely able to scrape by. There are no district resources devoted to breeding tributes.
    Read the book!!!

    1. Thanks for the condescending dig at the end of your comment!

      Few things: First off, the above was written in complete tongue in cheek. The fact that I'm even thinking about ways citizens can avoid the Games is a testament to the deep appreciation I have for the source material.

      Secondly, I read it over a year ago and didn't realize there was a tesserae limit. So, fair point. Apologies. As for your other issue, at no point did I say District 12 had career tributes (Read the post!!!). I said in a place where the defining culture was based on violence and territorial pride (history/war, panem/the games) its likely that citizens would find participation to be the highest honor and, therefore, would live to represent their community in the greater event. Tie this in with the fact that tributes (both victors and fallen) are treated as celebrities, it fits within the need of someone to have elevated status. The districts were not kibbutzes, after all. Winners were treated like kings (regardless of post psychological effects.) As far as "resources devoted," you don't need money to learn combat skills. No one goes into the arena with machine guns. And, of course, Katniss did just fine with her limited training. It's easy to understand how any district could have multiple people eager to fight in the games.