Regular readers will know that I have (a) no girlfriend and (b) a fixation with Kathy Sykes. It is therefore a logical necessity that I’m a big fan of Doctor Who.
Except for one thing. No, not the wobbly sets, nor the indifferent make-up of some of the monsters, nor even Bonnie Langford. I can forgive all these. On a good day, I can even overlook Paul McGann.
Nope. My problem is the programme's economic illiteracy. It was a comment from Vicki in the Time Meddler on UK Gold this morning that set me off on this. She said that a time traveler from the future could go back in time, put money in the bank in 1968, and then reap the benefits of compound interest.
Now, she’s not (arguably) to be blamed for failing to see that real interest rates turned negative a few years later. But she should have known, in 1968, that equities out-perform cash over the long-term. Of course, there’s a risk of the market collapsing sometime in the future, but a time traveler can easily avoid this problem.
This is not the only example of the programme’s lack of economic awareness. Another example – seen regularly, but especially in the Androids of Tara – is the co-existence of high-technology with medieval social systems.
Such a combination is, I think, economically impossible, and not just for reasons of Marxist economic determinism. High technology naturally creates a high demand for labour (except for some short-term disequilibria). This naturally destroys feudal ties between lords and workers. Also, you can only get high technology by having large numbers of scientists and technicians. Feudalism doesn’t provide those.
A third example lies in the economy of Gallifrey. It seems peculiarly labour-intensive. For example, in the Deadly Assassin, the Doctor’s guards are people rather than robots.
This ignores the tendency for richer societies to engage in more and more capital-labour substitution. A planet that can harness the powers of a supernova to travel in time surely has the motive and means to replace fallible human guards with higher technology.
I’ve made me point.
Three more things.
1. Can we stop this ridiculous idea that Tom Baker was the best Doctor?
2. Anyone who comments on this post by discussing the economics of Iain M.Banks’ Culture will win the Nerd of the Year award.
3. Billie Piper was born on September 22 1982.