“The Hunger Games” is a movie set in post-apocalyptic North America. It tells the tale of a government’s excesses and oppression of the people from the point of view of a 16 year old participating in the hunger games. An oppressive government hundreds of miles away that controls everything in the economy runs the country of Panem. The government has a law commanding each of the twelve districts to choose one boy and one girl every year to participate in the hunger games, which is a televised event where the chosen twenty-four kids fight to the death until only one remains.
The movie is full of social commentary that is of economic relevance. Panem is obviously a command economy and yet, successful markets depend on market-oriented economies. The state resides on the ruins of what was a technologically advanced society that came before the current state of affairs. The super-computers, hovercraft, and high tech trains suggest an earlier competitive economy. Market competition drives technological innovation and invention as firms try to gain a competitive edge. This innovation only takes place in a competitive environment and is not present in uncompetitive economies.
However, the state of Panem’s technology is far more developed than the current technological state. It is clear that the current political environment in Panem could not have been responsible for the technological advancement as most of the technology is to keep control and provide entertainment. In this economy, the rich get richer while the poor suffer. In a market economy, the wealth would be spread out more evenly among the population. The capitol has also allocated various tasks to specific districts.
This is inefficient management of human resources, as being born in a specific district does not automatically make you good at something. To achieve the economies of scale brought about by specialization, people have to choose to do what they are good at and would have greater productivity. The state of Panem has a very wide wage inequality gap between the poor and the rich. This is detrimental to the fortunes of the state and government. Panem has the natural resources necessary to achieve economic prosperity and yet the central government misuses the various resources present.
The wealthy live in the capitol in affluence while other parts of the society prompting the main character to say that you can starve to death in safety in District 12. If the people of Panem were in a free market economy, they would have more disposable income and hence, more purchasing power. The prosperity and financial gains derived from this type of economy would eventually reach the capitol residents in some other way other than exploitation. Economic inequality slows growth and fosters and unstable economic system that is prone to collapse.
The oppression of the country’s population usually ends up in violent upheavals as many governments have learnt over time. War is one of the biggest drains of a country’s economic resources and financial prosperity. The massive resources spent on maintaining a war can also revert into the local economy. In the case of Panem, the government spends most of the nation’s resources on maintaining control over the people. The capitol residents spend copious amounts of money on its security infrastructure. They have to maintain a constant supply of peacekeepers for all the districts, feed them, train, and replace them when necessary.
In their obsession to maintain control, they lose potential productive citizens who could be doing other tasks. Spending many resources on security alone is inefficient, as other sectors of the economy would benefit from the resource infusion. To prevent the population from staging an uprising, they restrict their access to basic resources such as food and the materials needed to make weapons that keep them weak and docile. Although the war leads to technological innovation in the weapons industry, it also drains a nation’s capital and creates a more unstable society.
The setting of the hunger games shows an economically inefficient nation. The central government misuses the resources of the nation to maintain their wealth and control the other citizens. There is also slave labor and inefficient use of human resource where many people are required to maintain security in all the districts and keep the people subdued. The restriction of basic resources to the population leads to dissention in the population resulting in an unstable political environment. Their absolute control over the factors of production means that there is no competition in the market.
This leads to inefficiencies as firms in operation are not motivated to innovate and develop their products. The wide wealth gap present between the rich residents of Capitol and the residents of the other district also has negative consequences. Although, the rich may hoard the wealth, they actually harm the economy by decreasing the purchasing power of the citizens. Free markets are more efficient and profitable than command economies and through their oppressive policies, the government of Panem may end up in total economic meltdown.