I’m rather a fan of Battlestar Galatica and happily I’m finally catching up to the series itself. We’ve got three episodes of season three left and about four episodes of the new season. Then I’ll finally be able to do some concurrent show blogging. Anyways, here I’m going to discuss the premise of two episodes, I don’t think this will entail any spoilers, but fair warning anyhow.
The characters in Battlestar seem quite familiar with many military, political, and even some sociological issues. What they seem to lack is even a basic conception of capitalist economics. The fleet seems to be a command economy, supply chains controlled by the authority, currency of minimal value, and a military that doesn’t pay civilians for anything.
I base that analysis off a lot of things, but first and foremost episode 214, Blackmarket. That was a fairly weak episode, as Ron Moore admits in the podcast. Aside from being far too episodic one big weakness was that the writers weren’t quite able to work out why the black market where people barter was a problem and had to throw in some standard evil criminal signifiers to make it work at all.
In essence a black market is going to happen when you’re 1) trading in illegal goods or 2) trading in rationed or price controlled goods. If they’d simply shown the legal distribution venues at some point, which would be suffering from long lines and shortages (in part because of theft by blackmarketeers), then the episode premise would make sense.
Episode 315 Dirty Hands, looks at labor disputes and economic classes. It’s a substantially better episode than 214 and a strong one in the series overall. I think that’s because the writers do understand how labor disputes work and can do some Marxist class analysis as well. But bizarrely, paying people more when they have terrible jobs never comes up. I’d actually be willing to accept some argument like "we don’t even have a hundred thousand people, we don’t have a mint, setting up even a rudimentary economy is too hard" but they never even mentioned the idea. Haven’t played the podcast for that episode yet, so we’ll see if any insight comes from that.
So in character we can probably assume the BSG world wasn’t that capitalistic to begin with and that all the economists died in the initial onslaught. Also, probably the colonies didn’t have an Adam Smith. Out of character I hope the show either hires someone who knows economics or sticks with episodes like 315 that deal with economic issues that are politically rich enough or allow for Marxist class analysis. But no more episode 214s. Please.