This section covers economics and technology. Farming will be up next. 🙂
a) On average how many hands is a product likely to go through from raw materials to finished product before reaching the consumer?
My guess would be, three or four. See the boot example below.
i) Follow at least one basic example through a chain of goods. (IE how do leather boots get from dead cow to Sir Joe the Schmoe?)
Well, first you start with the cow. We’re going to assume, for simplicity’s sake, that the cow is already dead and not go through however many hands it went through when it was alive, which could be a considerable number.
Anyway, we have ourselves a dead cow, or a soon-to-be dead cow. Person 1 is the owner of that cow. Person #2 with whom we will concern ourselves is the tanner. He (usually a he) may or may not have killed the cow himself, but he’s in charge of converting the cow’s skin from “something to keep the cow’s insides in” to leather.
Next, the tanner sells the leather to the cobbler (person #3). The cobbler is the one who makes the boot. Depending on how exactly the boot was made, there might be more materials that go into its construction. For instance, there might be thread used to sew the boot together that was made by the cobbler’s wife, from flax grown in her garden or wool sheared from the family sheep. Or in the case of a hobnailed boot, somebody (probably the blacksmith) had to make those hobnails. So the number of people involved could go up, depending on what it’s made of and how the cobbler got those materials. So the number could go up to maybe four, five or six people, though for simplicity’s sake I’d count anyone who is a part of the cobbler’s household (wife, apprentices) under the “cobbler” heading.
For the most part, the cobbler is the end of the line. He or she might sell the shoes in his or her shop, or he or she might only custom-make shoes. There certainly aren’t any Wally Worlds, or even general stores, for the cobblers to sell their shoes to.
ii) Do the components of common articles for sale (eg. Clothing) come all from one country or are they likely to be across numerous countries? (Like who knows where the leather in my shoes come from, or the rubbery stuff that makes up the soles and they’re probably stitched together by some poor factory person in China who makes like one cent an hour)?
Most of the time, they all come from one country (Albion). If the materials in commonly-used goods happen to come from different countries, it’s probably because the goods in question were made in a border region, or a region where boundaries are in dispute.
iii) Is the above answer different for luxury goods?
Yes, very different.
(1) If so, how so?
Luxury goods – spices, fine furniture, fine fabrics like silk – are far more likely to be imported into Albion. Albion doesn’t have the infrastructure/raw materials to produce these luxury goods themselves. Sometimes, half of what makes a good a luxury good is the fact that it’s imported – that alone will jack up the price considerably.
b) Where are the majority of goods made?
i) Are they made locally or in the home?
For commoners, many of their items are made in the home. Basic furnishings, tools and clothing are all produced in the home, as is food in many cases. Some items, however, can only be purchased or commissioned from particular artisans – if you need some kind of metal good, for example, you’re pretty much going to have to go to a blacksmith (or purchase one secondhand). However, in more urban areas, even the poor might have more access to store-bought goods.
ii) Are they made in artisan shops or small factories in close proximity to the consumer?
This is how the middle class (merchant) and nobles get their goods. The exception to this is luxury goods, but even luxury goods are likely to be artisan’s shops – they’re just made far, far away.
iii) Are they made in larger shops or factories further away from the consumer?
Factories are pretty much unheard of at this point. Shops vary in size, but I doubt even the richest Reman merchants are running “factories” with more than fifty or a hundred employees. Shipping and trading companies might be bigger, but they aren’t producing goods, they’re transporting them.
iv) Are they made in other countries all together?
Except for luxury goods, no.
c) How much technology goes into the creation of consumer goods?
Not a whole heck of a lot. The use of moderately complex tools (hand tools, looms, etc.) is about the extent of it.
i) How much R&D goes into creating new products?
Not a lot! If you have a new idea for a product, you do your best to make it. If it doesn’t work the first time, you keep tinkering with it until it does. But there’s no formal “research and development” process. And once it’s done, of course, you do your best to sell it to someone else – there aren’t any market surveys or focus groups, except for extremely informal ones. For example, an informal market survey would consist of asking your friends and neighbors whether they’d have any use for “brilliant idea X,” and an informal focus group might come about once you get the darn thing to work and ask friends and neighbors to try it out and see how it works for them.
ii) How many of the products are popularly considered “technology” themselves?
Not a lot. Probably the most advanced “technological” area would be military technology (different catapults, advances in fortification, etc.). Or maybe I’m just saying that because I’ve seen too many History Channel shows where “technology” equals “something that blows something else up, or keeps it from being blown up.” In any case, anything considered as “technology” would probably be some kind of tool, whether a hand tool or a more complex tool like a loom or a spinning wheel, or else a military item.
iii) How advanced are these products?
Not very, by our standards. We’re talking relatively simple machines here.
iv) How much money is spent to make them more advanced?
Again, not a lot. People do make improvements to tools, but there’s certainly no companies or large groups of people out there working on the Next Big Thing 24/7.
d) How are goods transported?
For the most part, goods are transported by land, over bumpy, muddy, rutty roads. In some areas the roads are pretty decent, in some, they suck. Small shipments can be carried by hand (i.e., a wandering peddler or tinker) and large ones by wagon or caravan of wagons. Sea and water transport is also very popular; however, it’s only feasible if the item is traveling a certain distance. I mean, you’re not going to put your grain on an ocean-bound vessel if you only have to get it to the next market town to be sold.
Well, flight certainly hasn’t been invented yet. Land and water transport are about it.
ii) Is this an established system?
I’d say so. I mean, there are established trade routes, contacts and market towns that have, by this point, been in use for hundreds of years. However, there are always new areas for development. Owing to superstitious fears and the decline of the Reman navy, for instance, sea trade is in a very undeveloped state.
iii) Why did this system develop?
Well, you had something and you wanted to sell it, because for whatever reason you couldn’t do it in your home village. So you went over to the next, bigger village and sold it there. You probably beat a path through the virgin forests and followed that same path home. And you kept using that path, and other people kept using that path until eventually it became a road. And the slightly-bigger village became a market town, and then a city, and then a metropolis and … you get the idea. The point is that the whole system grew organically, from people needing to fill needs and going about them as best they could.
iv) Is it regulated?
To a certain extent. Roads are generally maintained and policed (i.e., cleared of outlaws and bandits). The state of affairs in Albion isn’t the greatest, but the Pendragons are or will soon be working on that.
(1) If so by whom?
Depends on the country. In Glasonland roads are under the control of the lord of the territory. In theory, he’s supposed to maintain them and keep them clear of bandits and open for travel, and he’s supposed to do this free of charge. In practice, the only way a lord’s going to get in trouble for the way he’s been handling the local roads is if the King has to go through them and his baggage cart breaks an axel or something. In Reme, most of the main thoroughfares and trade routes are policed directly by the central government. Arthur would probably go with the Reman method of doing things, if only because he’s seen that the Glasonlander method isn’t really conducive to trade and travel.
Well, different countries have different needs and thus different means of doing things. Reme, for example, needed good roads ‘cause they need to get troops up and down those roads in a hurry. They also needed to sent messages from one part of the Empire to another, and again, in a hurry. Whereas Glasonland didn’t have those kinds of needs. The Pendragons hope to eventually set up Albion as a trading nation, so having top-notch roads would really, really help in that regard.
(2) Are these regulations fair?
In Albion, yes. Heck, there aren’t even any road taxes or anything like that yet.
v) Are there unions or guilds involved in the transportation of goods?
Eh, not in Albion. Not yet. Once that whole “trading nation” thing gets off the ground, then yeah, there probably will be. But not yet.
vi) Does the type of transportation used increase the cost of goods or manufacturing?
To a certain extent. For the most part, though, it’s about the distance. A good that has to travel a long way will almost always be more expensive than something made right around the corner. However, if a good has to travel a long way by land, it’ll be more expensive than the same distance by sea.
(1) Who pays the difference?
The consumer, ultimately.
vii) Does the government endorse one type of transportation over another?
viii) How long on average does it take for goods to get from creator to market?
Well, most of the time, goods are made in the back room and sold in the front. So, um, less than a minute?
(1) Is this number different for luxury goods?
Very different. Luxury goods would take longer, sometimes in the weeks/months range, to go from creator to market. Unless, of course, you count the creator selling it to the merchant as it “going to market.”
(2) Is this number different for food?
Well, most of the nobles, who control food production, have something akin to a “farmer’s market” on their lands. So it doesn’t take very long in that regard. Sometimes, though, outlying villages will send in their crop surpluses to nearby market towns, and that might take a couple of days. But not too long, or else the food will go bad.
e) How long, on average, do goods last?
(1) Are goods like clothing made to last years?
I would say yes, at least for the middle classes and below.
Well, as Hat pointed out, “After all, clothes were clothes, and if you kept a garment in good repair, it wasn’t like you had to stop wearing it…” Making an outfit that can last you years is cheaper and easier in terms of fabric and time (or someone else’s time) than buying a whole new wardrobe every year. So clothing is generally made with enough strength and give to last for a long time, and enough extra fabric to survive being let in, let out, hemmed up and hemmed down, etc. – in other words, to grow and change with the wearer. This also gives me an excuse not to re-dress my poorer Sims for every damn photoshoot. 😉
Even noble and royal clothing is made to last a long time. I imagine fashion doesn’t move as quickly in Albion as it would in, say, our world. And even once a dress or tunic goes out of fashion, the material is still good and could be re-used for other household uses, re-fashioned into a more fashionable outfit, used as children’s clothing, or sold/given as wages to the servants and then sold to someone farther down the food chain.
(2) Are they replaced when they are worn out or are outgrown?
For the most part, yes. The poorer you are, however, the more fluid your definition might be of worn out/outgrown.
Well, if a particular item of clothing is more patches and holes than original fabric, you really can’t wear it, can you? Of course, a wealthier person might find a couple of holes enough to put the clothing in the trash heap, while a poorer person might keep patching it and patching it until the cloth itself isn’t fit for anything but to be used for patches.
(3) Are they replaced when they go out of fashion?
For the nobles and royal family, yes. However, fabric can still be reused for other things, either by the nobility/royalty themselves or by someone else.
The nobles and royal family can afford to, and doing so separates them from wealthy merchants. However, nobody’s going to go throwing out fine silk or brocade – if nothing else, the servants will find the fabric in the trash heap and “appropriate” it for their own uses.
(1) Are goods like furniture made to be passed down to future generations?
Yes, even for the upper classes.
Because I don’t want to have to go redecorating my Sims’ houses every couple rounds. I like building and decorating, but seriously, there’s a limit. In seriousness, though, furniture and such is expensive, and most poorer families don’t want to go replacing it too often.
(2) Are they replaced when they’re worn out?
Depends on the social class. Nobles and royalty, once an item begins to show too much wear & tear, they’ll replace it. Whereas peasants may keep repairing an item and repairing it and repairing it until it finally falls apart and is only fit for firewood.
Furniture is expensive; most people don’t want to replace it more than they absolutely have to. But nobles have appearances to keep up, and keeping an item until it fell apart would go against those appearances. So they replace things faster.
(3) Are they replaced when they pass from fashion?
This is actually more common among the wealthy merchants and lower nobility than among the higher nobility and the royal family.
Wealthy merchants and lower nobility might like to flaunt their wealth by redecorating when new fashions come into style, and the fashion cycles move slowly enough that they can afford to do this. Whereas higher nobility and royalty might prefer to decorate in such a way that demonstrates permanence and stability, rather than the changeableness of fashion. Of course, everything they’ve got is the absolute best they can get, it’s just in a more timeless style than that the merchants and lower nobility might prefer. I should also add that personal spaces (bedrooms, personal studies) in noble/royal homes are far more likely to be redecorated more often to suit whoever’s using that space while public spaces might be put together to reflect the family’s wealth and stability.
iii) Art and Décor
(1) Are goods like art and décor items common?
Yes. Of course, quality differs from class to class. Lower classes might have some homemade curtains of fabric that’s too worn to be used for clothing and maybe some very worn rugs or furs or tapestries on the wall, while nobility/royalty get whatever I can find at the $5000 & up end of the Buy catalog.
Well, everybody likes to live in a pretty space. If people can do it cheaply, they’ll put things around to brighten up the place. Plus, I have discovered that my pics look dumb if I don’t have enough deco items in them.
(2) Are goods like art and décor items meant to be passed down to future generations?
I should say yes for the most part.
No matter what kind of deco it is, it’s a luxury – that is, non-essential – good. For nobility and royalty, older deco items take on antique status. For lower classes, holding onto that old rug or curtain just means you won’t have to shell out to replace it, or make do with nothing.
(3) Are they replaced when they’re worn out?
How, exactly, does deco wear out? I mean, I understand tapestries/portraits can fade, but a statue or wood carving or something like that? Even my mom’s Lenox, which is made of freakin’ glass (porcelain?) ought to last a good long time! I want that someday, a long, long, long, long time in the future!
Well, I would assume it would be replaced if it did. Though peasants and poorer merchants might do without if there isn’t spare money/materials for replacing deco items.
Well, if it isn’t useful, it sort of has to be replaced, doesn’t it? Unless, of course, the family can’t afford to do so. Then they’ll just do without.
(4) Are they replaced when they pass from fashion?
For nobles, royalty and wealthy merchants, yes. Of course, it would depend on the deco item. I mean, some people still stick suits of armor up around their houses. And I imagine fine tapestries wouldn’t ever really go out of fashion, or at least not until something came in to replace their useful and decorative functions. (… Central heating?)
Well, if an item is hopelessly blasé and not too expensive to replace, you might look better if you replaced it. Can’t have the neighbors sniggering behind their hands whenever you invite them over for dinner, after all.
iv) When goods are replaced, what happens to them?
(1) Is there a second hand system?
Yes, yes there is.
(a) Is this a sale-based system? (IE selling your books to the used book store.)
For the most part, yes. Of course there are some charities that I’ll explain about below. But for the most part, items are sold. The truly wealthy will give things to the servants, but even the servants will usually turn around and sell them. I mean, they can’t exactly wear a lot of the fashions, now, can they? And what are they going to do with the furniture?
Anyway, sales is a huge part of the way items move through the social food chain. If your clothing and furniture isn’t homemade, you usually buy it from the social strata above you – not directly, of course, but I imagine there are secondhand shops set up for this kind of purpose.
(b) Is this a charity-based system? (IE servants or the less fortunate getting gifts from the wealthy.)
There certainly is charity. Servants get gifts of clothing and such as part of their wages. (Though that’s not really charity, is it?) Wealthy women will sew shirts for the poor if they’ve got nothing better to do. And the middle class will donate some things that they don’t need, in order to feel like they’re being good Sims.
(i) If so, are most of the charities religious?
The impulse is religiously-based, yes. And the Church certainly handles a lot of the legwork involved in charities. (I mean, it wouldn’t do for Lady Claire or Lady Eilwen to go handing out her shirts to beggars!) But nobles and the royal family also distribute largess without any need to resort to the Church. That kind of largess is very informal, though, it’s the Church that has the organization.
(ii) If the charity in question is religious, do they still provide goods to those in need who might not subscribe to their religion?
Anyone who doesn’t follow the religion isn’t about to admit it, so yes. 😉
(c) Is this system regulated?
Not really … the Pendragons kind of let the market handle that. If somebody is charging too much for secondhand goods, they’ll get run out of the market. If they’re not charging enough, they’ll end up going out of stock and figure they can afford to raise their prices. *shrugs*
(d) Are the regulations fair?
v) How are goods disposed of when they have come to the end of their usefulness as the objects they are intended as?
(1) Is there a landfill?
Not really. There are trash heaps outside villages, where stuff that can’t be put to any discernable use might get thrown, but there’s certainly nothing as complex and organized as a modern-day landfill.
(2) Are things composted?
Organic waste (food leavings) can be. Other than that, not so much.
(3) Are things recycled?
Er … sort of?
(a) Is there a recycling movement?
Nah. It’s mostly done as common sense (see below).
(b) Is recycling done as common sense?
Kind of. I mean, clothing, once they can’t be used any more, are cut up for patches. Furniture, useless wooden deco items are used for kindling. Metal products are melted down and cast into something new. I have no idea, though, what you’d do with a statue that went out of style. Probably sell it to someone else.
(c) What sort of things are commonly recycled?
Cloth will be used again and again … other than that … maybe it’s just because it’s getting late, but I’m blanking.
(d) What might those things commonly be turned into?
Other clothing/cloth products?
(4) Is there an agency or body that governs the disposal of “waste”?
Certainly no government agency. In urban areas, there are pigs that run around and eat the trash, but other than that and some rag-and-bone men and other secondhand sellers … not much in the way of waste disposal.
vi) Define “Worn-out” or “At the end of its usefulness” to each of your social classes.
Peasant: When it literally cannot be used anymore. For furniture and tools, when it has fallen apart and cannot be repaired. For clothing, when it’s more holes and patches than cloth. For decoration items, I’d guess when it just fell apart and wasn’t recognizable as anything and just didn’t look pretty anymore.
Merchants: When it’s obviously seen better days. For furniture and tools, this might be when it comes to “one repair too many,” or when that couch is looking like it’s had an invading army march over it a couple times. For clothing, when the patches start to become too noticeable and in too many easily-seen places. For decoration items … I’d guess when they went out of fashion, unless the item was an expensive show piece meant to display the family’s wealth.
Nobles/Royalty: When it isn’t in fashion any more, or starts to show a bit of wear and tear. For furniture and tools/weapons, when it starts to show a few bumps, nicks, scratches, etc. For clothing, when parts of it starts to get worn, or when it goes out of fashion (even then, the cloth might be reused and reworked, depending on its age/quality). For deco items, when they go out of fashion, assuming that they haven’t graduated to antique status.
(1) Explain why/how that might differ between people of the same social class.
Well, in the end, I guess it all comes down to whether you can afford to replace said item if it truly needs replacing. A wealthier peasant family might sell their clothes that are getting a bit too worn and either purchase “new” ones from a secondhand shop or make their own new ones. A poorer merchant family might hold onto that dress until it’s only useful for patches. A thrifty noblewoman might take that old, out-of-fashion velvet dress and turn it into a tunic for her son or a dress for her young daughter, whereas a princess or a wealthy duchess might just give it to her servants or ladies-in-waiting. It all depends, I guess. 🙂