ALSO @powerfulkittyfacepanties and I were talking about Panem’s economy, and how people in the districts are paid and how the Capitol functions economically and I think the general consensus was “badly” but do you have any more specific thoughts?
Do I have more specific thoughts? hoboy. This is gonna get long.
Okay first I’m gonna post this map again because I enjoy it (because I’m a giant nerd). Red lines are railroads, which I need for plot reasons. Main towns are marked.
So okay first of all I am about 90% sure I have thought more about this than Suzanne Collins ever did, which is fine because Katniss doesn’t know so Collins doesn’t necessarily NEED to, but the Lionsgate movie tie-in maps are just wrong. Sorry everybody but they make no sense. Ignore them. I do.
Now. @penfoldx and I have spent a ridiculous amount of time yelling about how many industries don’t have a “home.” Plastics? Plumbing? Paper? So my general thought is to put those where there’s an official industry with the same raw materials and/or skillsets required. Some examples:
D5 is energy, so North Dakota and Alberta are in there to provide oil. I generally assume that oil is scarce in the postapocalyptic future, but not actually gone: most vehicles are either electric or high-fraction biodiesel (e.g. combines and trucks in D9), but oil is also used to make plastics, so we can put D5 in charge of plastic making.
D6 is transportation, but you could also say “steel” because that’s a main component of all their transportation stuff. So add in casting for pipes, steel I-beams for construction, other metal work, mining (the northern part of D6/Michigan’s Upper Peninsula there’s some iron mines now), recycling–including “mining” landfills and suchlike, building cars, etc. (Tangent: in the first book Katniss mentions that D3 is where all the factories are including the factories that make cars. Katniss/Collins is wrong.)
D7 is lumber, so it makes sense that they’d have factories to produce paper and mass-market wood products (furniture, etc); D8 probably has a few random factories because “textiles” even if it’s everything from sheep to sweater is not really enough for a whole district.
D3 is basically the tech hub: that’s where the Science happens, and also probably higher-tech manufacturing for things like electronics. Also chemicals and probably pharmaceuticals. It’s also where the plant breeders live. This is less than ideal because local adaptation of crop varieties and etc is important, but the rule of Panem is control is prioritized over efficiency. You pretty much have to rotate a FEW people out to 9 for field crops research or at least testing, but they try to do as much as possible in greenhouses. (And hey, there’s people in Indiana working on breeding sorghum for Niger so this isn’t too farfetched). In general, Three is one of the most tightly controlled districts. Scientists are dangerous, and Three has a history of being rebellious (copying here from penfold again). So more often they do the design of the thing in Three, send that to whichever district is responsible for producing the thing, and expect them to be able to reproduce the design. This, unsurprisingly, leads to some conflict and a lot of “dammit what were those egghead Threes thinking” type comments from people in the Districts (also believable given the modern US).
Okay and then there’s the Capitol. Like you say, you have to have someone making food and keeping the streets clean, and it can’t all be done by Avoxes. I tend to assume there is a working class in the Capitol, it’s just hidden as much as possible from the public view. A lot of stuff is probably automated, but someone’s got to fix the plumbing, someone has to build buildings, etc. So probably there’s some kind of trade school available– your trade could be “fashion designer” or it could be “plumber” or idk if you’re super rich and don’t ever need to work maybe you get a Victorian-style Classical Education or something. Maybe a few people from Seven get to go to the Capitol to be building contractors, or a few from Two to be masons–but I don’t think those people would be allowed to go back to their districts. Ever. The Capitol has to remain this otherworldly place for the whole system to work. The exception might be D1 and D2, if you want luxury goods to be custom-made, probably you sometimes want the workers to come to you, and Peacekeepers at least obviously travel, including to the Capitol. This would be another reason why those districts would need to have relatively high standards of living: “we’re not fancy like those Capitol people but we get by just fine” type attitudes are what you want.
It’s also mentioned that gambling on the Games is a big problem and people join the Peacekeepers to pay off debts, but it seems likely some people would get kicked down to street-sweeping duty or whatever as well–you can’t send every dumbass who’s in debt to the Peacekeepers, there have to be Standards. In general, I see it looking somewhat like some big cities I’ve been in, where you have a glittering beautiful center surrounded by some middle-class neighborhoods and then slums that everyone tries to pretend aren’t there. The Capitol poor are probably better off than most people in the Districts (among other things, they have better doctors), but compared to the rich, they’re pretty destitute.
Speaking of doctors, this is a conundrum. The Peacekeepers would have their own medics, and District Two would have good doctors in part just because a lot of those medics move back after their term. But also, you need Two (and to a lesser extent, One) to be comfortable, to have a standard of living significantly higher than the other districts. Twelve doesn’t have a proper doctor, at least not for Seam people. Elsewhere I’ve said I think people like the Mayors, or Madge’s mom who can get morphling, are a little like the African dictators who get the best private expensive care in their countries, but would still rather go to Europe for major medical procedures. Maybe there’s a private doctor in Twelve, or maybe if you’re important/rich enough the Peacekeeper medic will see you, and if you ask reeeeeal nice you might get to be treated in the Capitol. District doctors could be trained apprenticeship style from one to the next (this would mean they’re not very skilled) and/or they could be Capitol medical students doing rotations as part of their training, so they can practice on people who don’t matter (So believable it hurts, see Tuskeegee experiments and etc).
Finally, here are some links to old livejournal posts and comment threads on similar topics, and if you want to comment there I pretty much guarantee all the people involved will be happy to ramble more about this stuff even if the posts are a couple years old by now.
@penfoldx talks some about the Capitol in What’s the population of Panem, and there’s more interesting stuff in comments. There’s also a cool post of hers about District 3 and STEM education in Panem plus a bunch of discussion about doctors specifically in the comments.
(for more from me, if by some strange chance you got through this and still want more, see the "absurd logistics of panem" tag)