Economics: More Than Money and Markets (Build Better Worlds, 4 of 4)

Navy background with image of plants growing from coins for Economics: More Than Money and Markets (Build Better Worlds, 4 of 4)

Grey background with Navy speech bubble for Economics: More Than Money and Markets (Build Better Worlds, 4 of 4)

Economics: More Than Money and Markets (Build Better Worlds, 4 of 4) – How To Write the Future podcast, episode 103

“My point here is I want to encourage you that even if you don’t see anybody else crafting the kind of story, or living the kind of life that you are, that number one, you’re actually not alone because all artists are trying to do that or those of us who are on the edge, a cutting edge. And, it’s important, the work you’re doing, so please, please, please stay the course.”

In this episode, “Economics: More Than Money and Markets (Build Better Worlds, 4 of 4)” podcast host of How To Write The Future, Beth Barany, finishes her discussion on the book Build Better Worlds by Michael Kilman and Kyra Wellstrom. Beth also shares the three elements of every economic system: production, distribution, and consumption, and provides an in-depth explanation for each. Be sure to listen to parts 1-3 first before delving into the final part of this mini-series. 

Platforms The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts | Buzzsprout | Spotify | Podcast Addict |Amazon Music | Youtube


Build Better Worlds: An Introduction to Anthropology for Game Designers, Fiction Writers and Filmmakers by Michael Kilman and Kyra Wellstrom ****

Kelly Diels, We Are The Culture Makers:

Free World Building Workbook for Fiction Writers:

Plan Your Novel Like A Pro:

Sign up for the 30-minute Story Success Clinic with Beth Barany:

Get support for your fiction writing by a novelist and writing teacher and coach. Schedule an exploratory call here and see if Beth can support you today:

About the How To Write the Future podcast

The *How To Write The Future* podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers. We cover tips for fiction writers. This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

This podcast is for you if you have questions like:

– How do I create a believable world for my science fiction story?

– How do I figure out what’s not working if my story feels flat?

– How do I make my story more interesting and alive?

This podcast is for readers too if you’re at all curious about the future of humanity.

Transcript for Economics: More Than Money and Markets (Build Better Worlds, 3 of 4)

Hey everyone, Beth, Barany here for another episode of How To Write The Future podcast tips for writers. I focus on helping science fiction and fantasy writers because I am one too. And I do this because I believe through our stories. We can change the world. Honestly, I do believe that because stories are the basic currency of being human. Now in this episode, which is part four of four, where I focus on the book, Build Better Worlds: An introduction to Anthropology for game designers, fiction writers and filmmakers by Michael Kilman and Kira Wellstrom. 

Stories Are A Currency 

This is my fourth of four of them right now for this little cycle. And I want to say that, I just mentioned the word currency. Stories are a currency. 

And the fourth chapter I want to highlight for the series is Chapter 13: Economics more than money and markets. 

It’s interesting that I say that story is our currency because. 

Because why. It is through stories that we know. Shape our understanding of who we are, our identity, our self identity and without self identity, we basically can’t survive. So we use stories in our daily lives to explain where we came from, how we came to be, where we could go. And by studying this book about anthropology, I’m hoping to shine a light on how you can use all the different stories about how we explain our reality from the anthropology lens in your story-building in your world-building. 

Because I believe that we can create positive, optimistic stories that basically remake, reshape, who we are as human beings and the kind of life that we can have here on this beautiful, beautiful, precious planet. 

So today, I’m going to do a quick summary of the economics. 

Three Elements Of Every Economic System 

I appreciate the overview that the authors give three elements of every economic system. And the authors are quoting anthropologist Eric Wolf and his book Europe and the people without history. And so Wolf wrote that there are three elements of every economic system: production, distribution and consumption. 


So think about that in our daily world. Think about production, who produces the goods that we consume. distribution. How are the products and goods moved from here to there and consumption? How do we consume them and what form do we consume them? So let’s drill down just a little bit. They define production as the transformation of raw materials into goods for human use. 

The clothing we wear, someone made these clothes. Someone or multiple someones gathered the raw material that became the fabric that then became our clothes. In my Storyworld, for example, I have a lot of 3d printers. Clothes are made with 3d printers now, and they’re made with fabric in my Storyworld. Currently, 3d printers can print in plastic. They can print a metal and I imagine they can print in some kind of wood-like fiber. 

So production, everything we eat. Every piece of furniture, makeup, shoes, shelving, flooring, electronic equipment. That all started out as raw material somewhere. Somewhere on this planet in some form or another. Even things made in the laboratory, they have some kind of raw material. How does that work in your world? And what does your main character know about production? They may not know. A lot of us don’t know. I don’t know exactly- 

I do know that the hoodie that I’m wearing is made by American Giant and they tell the story in their marketing about where their cotton came from and who harvested the cotton and who made the fabric and where the fabric is sewn and put together and all of that. And I don’t know if they have stories on where do they source their metal material for their zippers or where their zippers come from and who made them. 

I’m not sure. 


I want to now jump to distribution. There’s production, distribution, consumption. So distribution is how do the goods- the movement of human created goods across the population, to the people who will ultimately consume them. 

Do you go to your local farmer’s market where the farmers only drove maybe an hour tops to bring you their produce or less than that? Or do you go to the supermarket where maybe the fruits and vegetables that you eat came from around the world? So that’s an example of distribution. 

So they break distribution down a little bit more, which I really appreciate, which I think is very useful. They break it into reciprocity, redistribution and market exchange. So reciprocity is: I’ll take you out to coffee this time. And next time you take me out to coffee and a lot of social relationships are based on that: I help you. 

You help me. And if that doesn’t happen, if there isn’t an even exchange, especially across in a peer group. or with people who are your peers, then those relationships tend to break down.also reciprocity they say is decentralized, meaning no one person holds the reciprocity key or rule book, it’s very much person to person, group to group. And, people create social groups and social cohesion with reciprocity and they say, “There’s a complex web of social obligations and part of social status arises from the ability to maintain social ties.” 

That’s actually part of our exchange is the ability. In some groups that I’ve been a part of writing groups, you can volunteer to be on the board and take a certain role. And that gives you, that helps create a cohesion within the group because someone is maintaining that role. 

And it also can convey status on the people who take on those roles.Also in distribution there’s redistribution. So redistribution is basically Taxes is a great example they give of redistribution in our modern world, where everyone gives a little bit of what they have to a central body who then makes decisions on how to redistribute those resources. So all of our taxes in the United States goes to pay all these things that allow our government to function. 

And my local taxes go to my roads, the schools and the streetlights out there and the police and the fire and the water system and the litter cleanup. and fixing the potholes and that kind of thing. 

And then lastly, as part of distribution, we have market exchange. 

So going to a marketplace, whether it’s a flea market, a supermarket. commodities exchange, the New York stock exchange. Those are all market exchange. 


And then the last part of Of economics is consumption. So consumption is the use of the goods created by human production. So simply when you acquire that good, you use it. and, so who gets to use what in your world? and in what context, I like what they’re saying here. 

They say: "Words like consumer and consumption are often thrown around in political and economic discourse. Questions about consumption in a society from an anthropological perspective are more complicated than the simple definition you’ve probably heard. Who gets to use these objects? What context do they use them in? 

Are there restrictions about times, places, and people that get to engage in the consumption practice? There are a lot of power dynamics embedded in access to economic life. Gender, race, religion, class and many more factors, all play a part in what someone can and can’t consume. On both formal or legal levels and informal ones. Think about religious prohibitions on food, like pork and shellfish. Certain cultures choose what they do and do not consume as part of their long standing identity."

And I can also think about holidays and birthdays and what it is that we consume when, and what’s considered special and what’s considered normal. 

Also with consumption. 

Symbolic Capital 

There’s something called symbolic capital. I first heard about symbolic capital in a sales training actually. So what is symbolic capital? 

“A person’s reputation, prestige, and ability to access certain sectors of society based on credibility is symbolic capital.”

So for example, this book is for both anthropologists and for writers. 

So if you’re getting an anthropology degree, like I almost majored in anthropology in college, then I get to demonstrate my work ethic, my level of intelligence, and it means something, right? Having a college degree and in the anthropology means something and it carries weight. It’s a form of capital. 

Or if you’re a writer, like we are. We’re trying to build more authentic, fictional worlds and demonstrate our skills as writers. 

Then they say that is also a form of symbolic capital. It means something, it has weight. When I published my first book, it was actually my non-fiction book, The Writer’s Adventure guide, which is a self-coaching guide to bring you into your writing practice, people all of a sudden looked at me, differently treated me differently. 

All of a suddenI had symbolic capital. I like leveled up, by having a published book. 


They say: “Symbolic capital is about credibility. But it’s also about embodying the norms and standards of society. 

There are people who can break social conventions, but they must have some sort of symbolic capital that allows them that option. Charismatic people and trendsetters are examples of those who are able to redefine symbolic capital and turn it to their advantage.”

I think that science fiction and fantasy writers, not only those types of writers, but since I’m speaking to you and assuming you’re a science fiction or fantasy writer, Or both, like I am, we are actually part of the community of people who are trendsetters. And anybody who’s an artist is part of trend setting. And we never know for actually setting a trend. But we can probably tell that if we look around and we don’t see anybody else doing what it is that we’re trying to do through our art, we’re probably setting a trend. And what does this mean? 

This can open doors for you, but we don’t know yet what kind of doors that will open. 

My point here is I want to encourage you that even if you don’t see anybody else crafting the kind of story, or living the kind of life that you are, that number one, you’re actually not alone because all artists are trying to do that. or those of us who are on the edge. a cutting edge. And, it’s important, the work you’re doing, so please stay the course. 

Several Ways I Support Writers 

And if you need support around that, I have several ways that you can join in with me. And I’ll tell you about them in a moment. I just want to finish up here about, on this chapter of. Economics, which I just love so much. 

I’m going to end with one last prompt and question that they offer. They say that, they ask you to consider, and I love this prompt. 


“What are the primary methods your society uses to acquire energy? Because remember everything boils down to a problem of energy. Even food.”

I really love this question because I was just recently. listening to our return to the moon efforts with the Artemis program and what NASA is doing and other space agencies are doing. And the primary issue to be able to live on the moon, not just visit the moon this time around, but now, the space agencies, NASA specifically, wants to live on the moon. 

China too. So the biggest problem is energy. How are we going to power the ability of humans to live on the moon?

And when I heard that, that really struck me because I had thought it was about, how do we use the resources of the moon to create a habitat, to create fuel for, so the rockets can leave again? How do we communicate easily from the moon back to the earth? How do we get there safely? 

How do we land safely? And this person’s no, the most important thing is energy. How do we make sure we have energy? Because two weeks out of the month, the moon, wherever you are on the moon is going to be facing away from the earth. And so you need some way to power your human living, during those two weeks. And the other two weeks it’s faced toward the sun, depending on where you are on the moon. All right.

Thanks For Listening 

Thank you so much for listening. Thanks for listening to the series on build better worlds. listen to them all. Ask questions, suggest topics for future episodes. I love to hear what you’re working on. there’s lots of ways to connect with me through the socials, writing me emails. 

And if you are interested in working one-on-one with me, I have a few slots available. So email me to see if that is something you would like to do, and we can talk about it. Also, I have several resources for you.

I have a great free resource called the world building workbook for fiction writers, you can sign up for that. It’s free. 

Also, if you would like a soup to nuts, beginning to end brainstorming process, that will help you take your beautiful idea and shape it into a coherent story plan or story outline that you can use to write your first draft, then check out Plan Your Novel Like a Pro. Plan Your Novel Like A Pro written by myself and my husband Ezra Barany.

Check that out and reach out if you’d like to work one-on-one. I have a few slots available throughout the year. So check with me on that.

I’m on Youtube! 

All right. That’s it, everyone for this week, stay tuned to next week’s episode where I will talk about something awesome that has caught my attention. very juicy. Stay tuned. And if you’re up for that wonderful mystery, come on back every week. I share episodes of thoughts and reflections, and fabulous interviews with really interesting people for How To Write The Future. 

Thanks for listening everyone. I so much appreciate it. Please like and subscribe to wherever you get your podcasts. YouTube included. 

Cause I’m on YouTube as well. And please do share this podcast with a friend, who you think would really benefit from it.

Write long and prosper.

Loved this episode? Leave us a review and rating here: 


Image of Beth Barany

Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”


Learn more about Beth Barany at these sites: 


Author siteCoaching site / School of Fiction / Writer’s Fun Zone blog


Contact Beth:









For more “How To Write the Future” episodes, go here.

If you’d like to invite Beth onto your podcast, drop her a note here.

You may also like...