Bryan Caplan  

Downton Abbey

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Downton Abbey (season 1 streaming on Netflix) doesn't just live up to the hype.  It also beautifully illustrates the power of firing aversion during the heydey of employment at will.  Highly recommended.


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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Steve Sailer writes:

Lord Grantham is a 21st Century wuss. Pre-WWI English aristocrats were pretty cold-minded about doing what needed to be done. If they didn't feel like firing somebody, that's what they paid the butler to do.

Kevin P writes:

I have to agree with Steve. I've too love the series, but Lord Grantham strikes me as a 21st Century sanitized version of an English lord in Edwardian times. Having a lame valet, for instance--or keeping Thomas on after they knew he stole something from Lord Grantham strikes me as just unrealistic. The show masterfully gets away with it and makes it believable because all the other characters comment on the strangeness or wrongness of it--so that we as an audience know that those things would indeed be perceived as strange at that time, and that what we are seeing is outside the norm.

I think if the show made things more realistic, modern audiences would be turned-off to the pervasive unfairness in the plots, and would not watch it as much. It was indeed a time of great social change in Britain (especially right after WWI), but I think the writers chose the most sympathetic plot lines they could plausibly get away with for that time and place.

I think Bryan's point may be valid, insofar as a benevolent dictator like Lord Grantham would have an aversion to firing people; but I'm sure there were PLENTY of other less-charitably minded lords and employers in those days who would have had few scruples about sending servants out into the cold world for minor infractions--that's part of what kept the servants so incredibly disciplined and obliging to their masters.

Komori writes:

It's both older and longer, but I'd recommend "Upstairs, Downstairs" instead. The employment dynamics are much more interesting.

GU writes:

I'll second the recommendation.

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