The last time I talked about my vision of economic systems in a fantasy setting, I referred to a setting I used in both writing and role-playing endeavors. Today, I’d like to elaborate on the economic system of the villages in my current setting (which as of yet still lacks a proper name), detailed in part here.
To recap, the setting is post-apocalypse Earth with humanity now living in underground caverns to escape the heat of the sun and global flooding. This setting forced me to think of how badly resource scarcity was going to be an issue — for that matter, oxygen. I finally decided to hand-wave that with a certain amount of oxygen being released from the water and CO2 scrubber systems and human adaption taking care of the rest. I’d rather lean on the support of suspension of disbelief than write out the setting altogether for being implausible.
In light of that, I decided to allow that people with ready access to certain plants may have taken seeds beneath ground, and soil has been farmed to allow for a certain amount of farming beneath the ground, sustained by sunlight filtering through the water. Water, in turn, is desalinated using a variety of magic techniques. Water and plants, plus other resources, sustain herds of farm animals (many of which have since been transformed into demonic counterparts which are adapted toward more efficient means of digestion and slower metabolisms, as well as the capacity to process things not usually considered edible). In addition, certain other plants animals migrated beneath the earth entirely by accident and have either eked out a niche for themselves or were bred by the various nomadic and fringe societies.
That gives us water and food of two different kinds, plus a small variety of other creatures, but it’s still a challenge sustaining a population when the world’s become a rather inhospitable place. Competition for resources becomes detrimental to the survival of the species — as of that point, each and every member of said species should be considered vital for any reason. Skills, knowledge and genetic diversity become scarce resources just as necessary as food and water. To that end, I decided, the demons who became humanity’s shepherds would insist on mutual cooperation in order to increase the likelihood of survival. On the other hand, recognizing that people would often prefer to pursue what they were passionate about rather than a mandated duty, they wouldn’t want to become dictators by forcing people down paths they didn’t enjoy.
To that end, they compromised by giving all city-dwellers a simple task: to maintain a garden on their property, regardless of what other pursuits they make. The city “leases” the gardens to each home, requiring that the tenants make use of the crops in some way — either trading on the market, as extra sustenance to reduce their dependency on foodstuffs from others, used in the weekly communal dinners or given in whole to the city to be preserved for future need. This extra duty, when performed by everyone living in the city, creates a constant flow of food that almost works as a form of currency. This way, people always have at least one thing they can trade on the market, and when a certain good lacks for domestic buyers, goods can be invested in trader caravans who coordinate with the governing body of each city they pass through to help ensure that citizens get what they need or want.
On the side, however, citizens can also pursue other forms of income if they please. The city government contracts workers to perform a variety of tasks around and between cities and there’s always a market for meat, fur, fabric, craftsmanship and smithing (although the crafting of weapons for use in warfare is strictly regulated). Providing additional goods and services simply gives a person more options for directly obtaining something they want, but the city’s economic management all but guarantees that they always have what they need. That gives those with niche skills enough freedom to pursue what pleases them, giving the citizens enough leisure time to maintain scholarly, scientific, artistic and similar fields of study and practice which ordinarily would not be nearly as viable in times of scarcity in a hostile environment.
(I had originally meant to have a lot more here, but seem to have lost the thread, so that’s that for this!)