Disclaimer: This is article is intended for entertainment purposes only. All characters and cities mentioned are the copyright of Sir J. R. R. Tolkien, and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The downfall of Sauron and the beginning of the Fourth Age marked a time of liberation and change for Arda. Unfortunately, though the shadows of Mordor no longer posed a threat to Middle-Earth peace, the economic situation took a turn for the worse. The past few years have been particularly tumultuous, especially after the post-war recession: with Gondor currently teetering over the precipice of a Fiscal Crag, the decline of the Elven Zone and the RIDER-fixing scandal that shattered the reputation of Rohan’s prime financial institutions. Here’s a look at some of the main financial events that have rocked Arda’s economy this age.
Gondor: All that is gold does not glitter - or all that was gold and glittered is gone?
Having sucked up over 500 billion Gondorian castars, the War on Mordor proved to be cripplingly expensive on Gondor’s economy. However, not long after King Aragorn’s ascension to the throne, Gondor fell into one of the worst recessions in Arda history. The burst of the housing bubble and subsequent Minas Tirith meltdown exacerbated the already delicate financial situation. The Osgiliath Stock Exchange (OSE) index dropped to depths deeper than the cracks of doom, and credit rating company Sword & Palantir downgraded Gondor’s precious credit rating from AAA+ to AA-. For years, Gondor struggled against a near-depression, as rampant unemployment and a staggering deficit weighed down the economy.
Though Gondor’s financial situation has improved substantially over the last couple of years, there is another threat looming in the distance: the impending Fiscal Crag, popularly referred to as ‘Mount Doom’ by Gondorians. It is feared that the expiration of Denethor Tax Cuts and the implementation of higher tax rates, coupled with spending cuts, could slash Gondor’s GDP and instigate another recession. Aragorn’s administration has yet to release their official decision regarding the Denethor tax cuts, as well as their policy to prevent a Fiscal Crag fiasco.
In other news, rising mithril prices continue to be the bane of Gondor, and the rest of Arda for that matter. Both Minas Tirith and Osgiliath voted in favor of legalizing pipe-weed, a move that was as popular as it was controversial. Aragorn’s administration responded well to the destruction following the super storm (nicknamed Hurricane Sauron) that hit Gondor just weeks ago. It is hoped that they will deal with the Fiscal Crag just as effectively. And if they don’t – well, the beacons of Gondor will be lit again, asking for economic aid. Except who will answer their plea this time? Certainly not Rohan.
Rohan: Where even the old that is strong has withered.
The Golden Hall of Edoras, it seems, is not as fair as its name proclaims. It became evident that even one of the oldest and noblest kingdoms of men was not immune to corruption, when the RIDER manipulation scandal was uncovered, and chief financial institutions in Edoras and Helm’s Deep were discovered to be culpable of one of the biggest scam’s in Arda’s economic history: rigging the Rohan Inter-Depository Eoro Rate (RIDER). The RIDER scam has had far-reaching impacts, and financial institutions in Gondor, Rivendell, Mirkwood and Lothlorein have all come under scrutiny. King Eomer has expressed his disappointment and hopes that Rohan’s financial system can overcome this tarnished reputation eventually. Despite the RIDER sham, the Rohan éoro seems to be performing well, especially against the Elven mirian.
Elven Zone: Deep roots can indeed be reached by the frost… of a frozen economy.
The time of the elves is indeed coming to an end, it seems. The Elven Zone, at any rate, seems on the verge of disintegration. Though the Elven Zone approved Lothlorien’s latest plea for a bailout, the effectiveness of further bailout packages is questionable. After all, one does not simply write off their debt. Both Lothlorein and Rivendell seem on the verge of fiscal collapse, and there are talks of Mirkwood leaving the Elven Zone altogether. Ever since the end of the Third Age, the Elven Zone has been on the decline. The last few decades have displayed unusually low productivity among the elven kingdoms, stemming from a general exhaustion with life in Arda among the elven community, and a burgeoning longing to sail away to Valinor. Hundreds of elves, including Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel, have already made this journey. It is possible that with the continuing crisis, more elves will leave, and the Elven Zone will break apart entirely.
Elven-Dwarven conflicts, particularly around the volatile region of Moria, continue to cause political unrest, adversely impacting the already strained mithril reserves in the area.
Shire and Bree: From the ashes, a fire (read: new market power) shall be woken.
Though both Shire and Bree were affected by the Arda Recession, they continue to maintain some of the highest economic growth rates till date. These emerging markets have shown rapid development along with increasing liberalization of their economies. Though they have a long way to go until they become superpowers like Gondor, their market influence is growing tremendously. Both economies have relaxed restrictions on foreign investment, and opened up trade. Shire, in particular, is benefiting greatly from the increased demand for pipe-weed following Gondor’s legalization of the same, and pipe-weed export revenues have contributed greatly to Shire’s wealth.
On the flipside, Bree officials made some unfortunate decisions relating to tax laws, which dissuaded investment from Gondor and Rohan. The main hindrance to Bree’s growth is the government; it has a reputation of being corrupt and slow acting, and recently passed some controversial tax amendments. What Bree’s government needs is a Gandalf-figure, controlling the hobbits in charge and ensuring order is maintained. As for the any overly aggressive or problematic laws: they shall not pass!
The main struggles facing Shire and Bree, however, are skyrocketing inflation rates, particularly with respect to mushrooms. If inflation can be curbed, and development continues at a steady rate, Shire and Bree will become economic forces to be reckoned with.
In honor of the imminent release of The Hobbit, the author felt it necessary to contribute this piece. Thank you for your time, and if any of these references seemed far too obscure, please purchase a copy of The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien, or borrow it from the library nearest to you!