While the series addresses a range of political issues, its perspective on them is not easily classified… The one point that comes through repeatedly is Martin’s skepticism about political elites.Nearly all the contenders for the throne of Westeros and the rulership of its various regions can be divided into the outright evil (such as the psychopathic King Joffrey) and the well-intentioned, but still disastrous, such as Robb Stark. Even relatively sympathetic elite characters turn out, on closer inspection, to care far more about the honor and prestige of their noble houses than the actual well-being of the people…The one major potential exception to Martin’s negative view of elites is Daenerys Targaryen, the warrior queen seeking to restore a dynasty that was overthrown years before the series began. In the course of her campaign to seize the throne, she frees thousands of slaves, and takes other measures to increase the welfare of ordinary people. Especially in the TV series (which has gone farther in time than the books), there is evidence that she intends to reform government for the better, not just seize control of it for her own purposes.But even Daenerys’ record is far from unequivocally a good one. Critics such as Bryan Caplan argue that her wars are counterproductive, ultimately causing more harm than good. While I think the criticism is overblown, the jury on this issue is still out…In the meantime, the rich ambiguities in Martin’s vision enable readers with different views to put their own gloss on the story. Libertarians will interpret his cynicism about elites as a critique of government power generally. But others might point to the fact that the governments in question are undemocratic. If the rulers of Westeros had to win election at the polls, perhaps they would do more to promote the interests of the people.
July 16, 2017 at 5:31 PM EDT