Over the years I’ve referenced James Bond on a couple of occasions around this blog. Star Wars is perhaps my all time favorite film series, but Bond runs a close second. My prior posts about Bond focus on the film Casino Royale.

There’s a clear trend in what my focus has been so far. Casino Royale followed a theme most related to the topics of this blog. But recently some kind of entertainment/pop culture website called Vulture interviewed an economist to ask them which of the Bond film plots has the greatest basis in economic reality. In this post they break down the economic realities of:

  • Goldfinger
  • Live And Let Die
  • A View To A Kill
  • Goldeneye
  • Tomorrow Never Dies
  • The World Is Not Enough
  • Casino Royale
  • Quantum of Solace

Any reader of this blog and Bond fan (so six of us) should check it out. But pretty much any reader of mine will have something they can learn from it (trust me, there’s some geopolitical considerations). The economist does a fairly decent job of breaking down these plots. Live And Let Die won’t work due to substitute drugs, A View To A Kill would have just sped up Asian manufacturing, Goldeneye mixed revenge with petty theft (and a thourough misunderstanding of global economics). But I would like to offer up a few more for some films they didn’t cover.

Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds Are Forever, and Never Say Never Again: Each of these films can be considered the basis for the Austin Powers franchise. An evil genius goes to enormous lengths to hold the world hostage. In almost every instance, the effort and cost is not worth the end result. Austin Powers even pokes fun at this by having Dr. Evil’s right hand man point out their shell corporation makes more than they are actually asking for in ransom. These films played opposite plots to the many Cold War films made in between (which were far better).

Die Another Day: A North Korean colonel is able to use conflict diamonds to fund an operation that clears a minefield separating North and South Korea. Interestingly, the economic realities are the easiest to believe. A guy gets rich by passing of African diamonds as not. But he uses all the massive profits he would be able to get to create a satellite capable of providing year-round sunlight (itself generating massive profits). The colonel wants to then invade South Korea. The problem with this film is the military strategy. North Korea’s military is measurably weaker than South Korea’s. And if North Korea were to invade the South, the US would back them up. North Korea would not have China’s support in such a move.

The Man With The Golden Gun: A weird plot but the secrets to solar energy are apparently up for sale in a device called a SOLEX. Whoever owns it will have a monopoly on solar power. Sadly, monopolies just don’t work that way. For one thing, buying stolen property hardly gives someone the rights to own it. KFC wouldn’t be out of business simply because the secret recipe was stolen and Chick Fil A started using it. Likewise, if someone were to make tons of money on solar power other companies would see the profit and enter the industry. Seeing the success the SOLEX owner had, they would poor whatever is necessary into R&D to either reverse engineer or create easily competitive products at lower prices. Every industry has done this since the dawn of commerce. Secondly, this movie was released in 1974 shortly after an energy crisis had occurred. But as prices on fossil fuels fell again, so did the interest in alternative energy sources. The technology doesn’t even exist today to be competitive with fossil fuels, much less back then.

Granted, almost all of this requires a cynical mind to even bother with it in the first place. And it’s downright disturbing that even a fan would pick apart plots like this so much. But what makes for great cinema taking place in “the present” is the belief that the events could happen. This brings me back to films like Casino Royale, Skyfall (the new one), and just about any Cold War plot (there are many to choose from). The events of these movies are plausible. As for the most economically down to Earth film, that likely has to be Casino Royale itself.

The plot is explained in my post above so I’ll simply explain why it’s feasible today. A terrorist’s banker wants to make money shorting a stock. So he tries to ruin the company he’s shorting but blowing up a plane, making the stock price fall. Investors short stocks all the time on the basis of their believing the stock was overvalued. In this case the banker merely plans to sabotage the company to make its value go down.

James Bond films are both good and bad. But almost all them are great in one way or another. Like with any work of fiction, it’s best to suspend your rational mind and just enjoy the damn break from reality.

Via Cheap Talk

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