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A few years ago I read a role-playing game supplement that described a cold war between kingdom Good and kingdom Bad. Both kingdoms used metal coins with silver as the most common followed by gold. Kingdom Bad planned to flood kingdom Good with gold coins, disrupting Good's economy in preparation for Bad's invasion. So far as I remember, Bad planned to use real gold coins and not counterfeit ones.

To me it seems that all Bad is doing is emptying its coffers to fill Good's, essentially paying for Good's defenses, weapons, and mercenaries.

However, I'm not sure if there's something I'm missing. Is this, in fact, really a reasonable plot? Can this style of economic warfare somehow destroy kingdom Good?

The setting was low magic, high realism, high medieval

Bad has about twice the population of good. Bad has spent vast amounts on their army but have a comparatively small navy. Good and Bad are separated by a narrow sea.

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  • $\begingroup$ Queue the Rick and Morty ep where Rick sparks the Federation's downfall... $\endgroup$ – EvilSnack Dec 24 '18 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ So, does anyone know how much money China has poured into the US as inward investment in the past four decades then? and should we be worried by that :) $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Dec 24 '18 at 20:59
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    $\begingroup$ Not "enemy gold", but read about south american gold in spain here: history.stackexchange.com/questions/9060/… $\endgroup$ – Guntram Blohm Dec 24 '18 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ Research the Spanish empire around 1600, Phillip the 2nd, and their influx of gold from the new world and how it affected their kingdom. $\endgroup$ – Chloe Dec 25 '18 at 0:54
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It depends on who has more gold/Wealth. If kingdom bad had much more wealth than kingdom good; then yes it is possible. Then there is also the issue of gold reserves. I am guessing both countries have access to gold mines. If kingdom Bad just discovered a huge deposit of gold then they can indeed pull off this strategy. In fact, there is an African king that had so much gold, he gave it away in the streets. Richest person in history

From the side of Kingdom good; they need to have some sort of central banking system to monitor inflation rates if they want to defend against such an act. They can find ways to slow down the influx. (Check purses at borders and confiscate coins) but ultimately gold coins are easy to hide.

With that being said this is not a good strategy. Kingdom Bad can use the gold for their own troops, to hire mercenaries, hire assassins, bribe officials/ generals from kingdom good. Literally, any other strategy would be vastly better.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, I also drew paralels to Mansa Musa of Mali, the inflation of the late roman empire and the german ww2 plot to print false Brittish pound notes. But it never occired ro me as legitimate deliberate strategy. $\endgroup$ – Obak Dec 24 '18 at 16:44
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Yes, definitely, but it takes a lot of gold and a lot of time.

Basically, when a country has a large, long-term influx of wealth, the wealth-generating part of the economy will tend to drive out everything else. This happened to the Spanish Empire in real life: New World gold and silver poured into Spain and Spain spent it. The part that was spent internally caused inflation. The part that was spent to buy imports drove domestic producers out of business. In time, all that wealth pouring in meant that Spain had a big colonial enterprise, but was deeply backwards in industry and trade. And that doomed the Spanish Empire. It's sometimes called the "Spanish Curse".

There's a question on the History Stack Exchange which deals with this in more detail.

Actually, any resource that you just dig up (or steal from the people who dug it up) has the same effect if you get enough of it for long enough. (Oil-rich countries today suffer from the same problem.) The Wikipedia article on the "Resource Curse" does a nice job discussing it.

So if Bad has enough gold and is willing to pour it into Good for a generation or two, Good will be ripe for the plucking.

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  • $\begingroup$ Bad don’t really have a surplus of gold in forms of mines or trade. Bad is a totalitarian state while Good is feudal. Bad have twice the population of Good and Bad has also spent a lot on their army. $\endgroup$ – Obak Dec 24 '18 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ Some countries do manage to stay out of this trap. An example would be Norway, a country that is very rich in Oil, but puts a very large percentage of their profits into a sovereign wealth fund which is treated as an endowment. $\endgroup$ – Chuu Dec 24 '18 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ Yup. They read economic history and decided not to spend most of what they collected. It seems to be working. $\endgroup$ – Mark Olson Dec 24 '18 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ This sort of sounds like another way of talking about a single product banana republic, I'm also suddenly feeling this might be a worrying alternative way to look at the UK today & it's primarily finance orientated service sector exports, now I feel a little glum, I'm sure you didn't mean to do that to me though :) $\endgroup$ – Pelinore Dec 24 '18 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Sulthan Not at all. Bad’s industry would flourish, while Good’s would shrink. The standard of living in Good would be higher than in Bad, but only so long as the gold continues to flow. Then comes the reckoning. (It’s a crappy way to wage warfare, but it’s workable if you can stay the course. Costs a lot, too.) $\endgroup$ – Mark Olson Dec 24 '18 at 22:09
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This is exactly what happened when Mansa Musa went on pilgrimage to Mecca

From Wikipedia

Musa's journey was documented by several eyewitnesses along his route, who were in awe of his wealth and extensive procession, and records exist in a variety of sources, including journals, oral accounts, and histories. Musa is known to have visited the Mamluk sultan of Egypt, Al-Nasir Muhammad, in July 1324. However, Musa's generous actions inadvertently devastated the economies of the regions through which he passed. In the cities of Cairo, Medina, and Mecca, the sudden influx of gold devalued the metal for the next decade. Prices on goods and wares greatly inflated. To rectify the gold market, on his way back from Mecca, Musa borrowed all the gold he could carry from money-lenders in Cairo at high interest. This is the only time recorded in history that one man directly controlled the price of gold in the Mediterranean.

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It depends on how it's spend, and the culture of the good kingdom.

There was a King in history who went to another country and spend a crapton of gold. This caused the value of gold in that country to go down and with the value of each coin tied to the value of gold it meant everything needed more coins to buy. 2 copper or whatever for a full bread before the gold came in? Now it costs 4 silver. The people who had sold stuff to the King and had gold didnt have too much problems with this, but anyone else would suddenly need to pay multitudes more without earning more or having more in reserve.

Suppose the bad kingdom tries to exploit this: it pays specific groups of people money for wares and stuff, and ignores other groups. Just living becomes more expensive for everyone which will cause strife in the population. If the divide grows quickly enough and large enough people could revolt, destabilizing the country and making it an easier prey.

While you are at it, buy specific goods. Buying weapons might not be the smartest move as the sellers could just have an easier time getting more weapons. Buying all the ore and resources to build weapons could deplete the good kingdom's resources while destabilizing the economy, and if you offer a higher price for the resources than good kingdom then the people who own the resources would gladly hold out and wait for a bad kingdom guy to come for their goods.

Other resources to buy would be food, it might be the best choice. Buying food directly means more stockpiles for you, higher food prices for good kingdom coupled with massive inflation and less food for good kingdom to prosecute a war. Even better: if good kingdom tries to prosecute a war food prices will rise anyway on top of scarcity and inflation, it would probably kill the good kingdom the fastest.

Lastly a risky option: pay the military of good kingdom. If you are rich the rewards of combat pay suddenly is a lot less motivation to risk your life. A portion of Soldiers of good kingdom might just leave when push comes to shove and try to be alive and spending somewhere.

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As a short-term move, the Land of Bad might buy up some crucial resource, such as food, ores and even weapons, haul them out of the Land of Good—and then blockade it.

Under ordinary circumstances, the Land of Good would now have a lot of gold and use that to import whatever it needs. But, while it’s under a military embargo, it can’t do that. It’s now facing a sudden and unexpected shortage of critical resources, and all it has is a bunch of useless gold that it can’t eat or fight with.

The King of the Good had better have foreign allies and good credit. Although maybe the citizens of Bad will happily take gold and trade with the “enemy.”

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You can play on exchange rates of gold and silver in respective countries.

And yes, with a complication twist it happened before, see the Opium Wars.

Simplified, China was selling tea only for silver. When the cheap silver sources in Europe and European colonies was depleted, silver became more expensive (in gold), but China did not care. Hence, the driver of the Opium Wars. The basic scheme was:

  • let's buy opium in India for gold, cheaply
  • smuggle opium to China, either selling it for a lot of silver or exchanging it to tea directly
  • buy tea for cheaply acquired silver
  • bring back some (expensive) tea and (expensive) silver to the metropoles
  • sell them for gold.
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Yes, imagine that gold represents something like the king's favour.

There's limited gold, the king owns it all, and you need gold to pay your taxes. Thus you need to work for the king to get the gold you need to pay your taxes.

If there's suddenly another source of gold, people no longer work for the king, etc.

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