ReaderAt2046

Thoughts on Breath Economics

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So, in keeping with Sanderson's Third Law, I've been trying to think through some of the economic implications of the Breath system, and a couple of interesting thoughts have occurred to me.

1: Multi-Breathers: So say you are a regular Hallendren citizen. You don't have the funds to consider buying Breaths, but you have a reasonably prosperous job and work hard, so you've never had to consider selling yours either. Now you are old and on the verge of death, and you still have this valuable Breath. So you give it to one of your children, who now has two Breaths. If you have a decent job and a good work ethic, then you probably have found decent work for your children and instilled them with a solid work ethic, so they don't need to sell their Breaths either. Additionally, the partitioning technique is fairly advanced, so he would need to sell both Breaths at once, which is probably far less common. So eventually whichever child you gave the extra Breath to grows old in his turn, and gifts his Breath to one of his children.

As a result of this whole technique, I'd expect there to be a fair number of people running around in the 2-10 Breath range. Not enough Breath for any real Awakening, or even any really noticeable passive boons, but just enough to raise them above the common citizens. 

2: Orphanages: On Nalthis, every child comes with one Breath. One extremely valuable Breath. And that means that there's probably a whole trade in the Breaths of disadvantaged children. I imagine the whores at the brothels are encouraged not to use protection, because if they get pregnant then the child's Breath can be sold. The whores might raise their children, in the hopes of selling their Breath once they are old enough to understand. But I also imagine that orphanages might buy children from whores and poor women and others who can't afford to raise their own children. And then later on, once the child is old enough, they are encouraged to sell their Breath. The child gets a fraction of the Breath's value, and the orphanage pockets the rest to cover expenses.  

Similarly, I imagine that the Court of Gods puts a lot of money into orphanages. If you're an orphan in T'Telir, and you know that it is the generosity of the gods that has provided you food and shelter and education in a trade, you're going to be more willing to give your Breath to one of those Gods.

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That's an interessting line of thought you follow here.

And yes, I can see that happen. It would be typical für humans to try and exploit the fact, that everybody gets a free breath at birth. As sad as that it.

Actually it would be possible not only the encourage whores to not use protection, but even the other way around. Having a child could be a possible way for a family to support itself for a while, with the child "discarded" after it sold its breath. Or not even a family but an organisation earning money that way: raising a child until it is old enough to speak and give away his/ her breath and then move on to the next one.

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8 hours ago, ReaderAt2046 said:

Now you are old and on the verge of death, and you still have this valuable Breath. So you give it to one of your children, who now has two Breaths. 

I don't think most people would do this. The timing would be incredibly difficult to get right. People cherish their Breath. Since no one wants to give away their Breath until the very last moment, many would wait a little too long and die before saying the words. There would always be the nagging doubt that you might recover, then live the rest of your life as a Drab. Optimists or selfish people would likely die without relinquishing their Breath. It's for the same reason that most people don't give up their possessions before they die. True, possessions continue to exist after you're gone, but the same sense of finality applies. Once you give away your stuff, there's no going back. You would have to accept that you're going to die soon, and be responsible enough to want to leave a positive legacy. I just can't envision many people acting that way. (A notable exception would be suicidal people, but they'd have different motivations.)

Unfortunately, I can imagine people abusing their position to gather breaths. Doctors, as the last people a patient would see before their death, would try to isolate them, then pressure them to give up their Breath. An intentional misdiagnosis to make them believe they're very near death, maybe a promise to give the Breath to their family later... The same strategy would work for predatory grandchildren, aggressive palliative care workers, and smooth talking murderers (. Even people who are abusive and dominating in relationships could probably pull it off. 

Religious and superstitious people would be easier to steal Breath from. If you were reasonably handsome looking, you could dress up as a Returned, then travel the countryside compelling people to bow down to you and give you their Breaths. The con wouldn't work if people knew the going rate for their Breath, but I'm sure a few farmers would get tricked. If the people were really easily fooled, starting a cult or pyramid scheme might also work.

Breath farming could also become a thing. I'd estimate that with a specific education, children could learn to give away their Breath by the age of three or four. You could mass produce children, assuming the costs of raising them could be lowered to less than the value of a Breath. But if Breaths lowered in value, an easy way to increase it would be to kill a large amount of people. Invasions, fires, artificially created droughts, any number of tactics could produce the desired result.

Naturally, people would be aware of this kind of thing, and therefore be wary of ever giving up their Breath. 

8 hours ago, ReaderAt2046 said:

2: Orphanages: On Nalthis, every child comes with one Breath. One extremely valuable Breath. And that means that there's probably a whole trade in the Breaths of disadvantaged children. I imagine the whores at the brothels are encouraged not to use protection, because if they get pregnant then the child's Breath can be sold.

I agree that slavery and mistreatment of children would likely be rampant. The government would have to be incredibly vigilant to prevent it. The protection issue would depend on the value of the prostitute, and how much pregnancy would interfere with their ability to do their job. The loss of them not being able to work might be too much, especially considering you only get a return on your investment if the child survives the birth and childhood. Plus, the mother might die in childbirth. That would be unfortunate. 

EDIT: Do you think that parents sit down with their kids and have The Talk about Breaths? While you're telling them about sex and relationships, would you also talk about their Breath? It would open them up to predation, as ignorance would prevent them from having the intent necessary to give it away. However, if a someone gave them a rundown on how Breath works, then bullied them into giving their's up, then you've failed as a parent. (To avoid this, you could have your child give up their Breath early, but they might be bullied because of it.) And as we know, whenever kids hear their parents tell them not to do something, they want to try it. So, you'd have to figure out how mature your child is, but not jump the gun.... 

In conclusion, being a parent is hard.

*Disclaimer: Pretty much everything discussed in this post in morally wrong. Don't try it at home. It won't work anyway because you don't live on Nalthis. 

Edited by Archer
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I actually don't think it would be ultimately profitable to have a child just to take their breath. It's valuable, but I really doubt it's valuable enough to justify the equivalent of thousands of US dollars in expenses in raising the kid. The possible exception - and I say possible because children are really expensive, even for just a few years - is raising them to the age where they can say the words, harvesting the breath, and then killing the child.

Of course this is super immoral and I really want to believe that this practice wouldn't happen on Nalthis. But it's also not unlikely that the economics don't work out:

(cost of living of child per year) * (~4-5 years until child can give breath) > (market price of a single breath)

I definitely agree with the (1). While @Archer's point makes sense, and there would absolutely be conniving greedy people out there who are afraid to give away their 'god given breath, gosh darn it!' I think there's an equal or greater number of people who would be more interested in making the lives of their children/grandchildren better. 

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On ‎8‎/‎27‎/‎2018 at 9:49 AM, tmnsquirtle said:

I actually don't think it would be ultimately profitable to have a child just to take their breath. It's valuable, but I really doubt it's valuable enough to justify the equivalent of thousands of US dollars in expenses in raising the kid. The possible exception - and I say possible because children are really expensive, even for just a few years - is raising them to the age where they can say the words, harvesting the breath, and then killing the child.

Of course this is super immoral and I really want to believe that this practice wouldn't happen on Nalthis. But it's also not unlikely that the economics don't work out:

(cost of living of child per year) * (~4-5 years until child can give breath) > (market price of a single breath)

I definitely agree with the (1). While @Archer's point makes sense, and there would absolutely be conniving greedy people out there who are afraid to give away their 'god given breath, gosh darn it!' I think there's an equal or greater number of people who would be more interested in making the lives of their children/grandchildren better. 

I agree that under normal circumstances one Breath probably doesn't pay for fully raising a child. The book says that one Breath goes for about enough money to feed a peasant family for a year, so a child's Breath could probably pay for several year's worth of support for that child, but not for the whole childhood. However, the existence of Breath would still change the economics of parenthood immensely. The Breath could allow parents to raise children that they could otherwise never afford. Also, I imagine that a sufficiently clever person could set up a large-scale orphanage so that it would be self-sustaining off of Breath money, taking advantage of economies of scale.

 

On ‎8‎/‎26‎/‎2018 at 5:21 PM, Archer said:

I don't think most people would do this. The timing would be incredibly difficult to get right. People cherish their Breath. Since no one wants to give away their Breath until the very last moment, many would wait a little too long and die before saying the words. There would always be the nagging doubt that you might recover, then live the rest of your life as a Drab. Optimists or selfish people would likely die without relinquishing their Breath. It's for the same reason that most people don't give up their possessions before they die. True, possessions continue to exist after you're gone, but the same sense of finality applies. Once you give away your stuff, there's no going back. You would have to accept that you're going to die soon, and be responsible enough to want to leave a positive legacy. I just can't envision many people acting that way. (A notable exception would be suicidal people, but they'd have different motivations.)

Unfortunately, I can imagine people abusing their position to gather breaths. Doctors, as the last people a patient would see before their death, would try to isolate them, then pressure them to give up their Breath. An intentional misdiagnosis to make them believe they're very near death, maybe a promise to give the Breath to their family later... The same strategy would work for predatory grandchildren, aggressive palliative care workers, and smooth talking murderers (. Even people who are abusive and dominating in relationships could probably pull it off. 

This actually reminds me, there would be another source for multi-Breathers. In any large city, you're going to get a certain number of people dying from violence or accident every day. And if even a fraction of them have their Breaths, and even a fraction of those who have Breaths pass it on (either to a friend, or even to someone completely random just to keep it from going to waste), that adds up to a Breath or two given out every day.

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You could do the opposite of an orphanage. You care for the frail at the cost of their breath, prepaid.

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On 10/8/2018 at 11:39 AM, Oltux72 said:

You could do the opposite of an orphanage. You care for the frail at the cost of their breath, prepaid.

Of course, this is assuming that the owner of the orphanage is naturally benign and generous. And if literature has taught me anything, it's that the owners of orphanages are naturally cruel and sadistic people. /s

 

In all seriousness, I do like that idea. It would certainly reduce the overall cost of the shelter, and probably have some overall cultural effects. Hard to tell if those effects would be positive (caring for children is cheap, so we should support organizations that do it!) or negative (children come with several years of food built in, so we don't need to feel too bad about abandoning them!) though.

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I had the idea of banks giving breath loans.

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10 hours ago, Servillius said:

I had the idea of banks giving breath loans.

Breath as collateral? I suppose pawn shops will accept breaths.

But for an economy breaths are even worse than gold. You cannot easily increase the amount. You'd see permanent deflation.

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Yeah you can't easily increase the overall amount of breaths in circulation easily, but a bank would be able to increase the percentage of those breaths that they own fairly easily once they had enough to loan out.

What I mean is something like 'you get fifty breaths from the bank. In ten years, you have to repay seventy breaths to the bank' idea. Family members breaths could be used as collateral, I suppose.

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