Stories, especially in role playing games and Speculative Fiction, tend to have economies that simply wouldn't work under any real-world economic system. Nobody gets paid, but everybody has all the money they need; economies are stable despite huge amounts of gold and jewels being dumped into them (or taken out of them) on a regular basis; or "we don't use money anymore"... the list goes on and on...
Please see UsefulNotes.Economics for a list of errors that frequently occur in works of fiction and a more detailed explanation of economic theories.
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Gamefly's recent commercials demonstrate a stunning lack of understanding of economics. Customers bring their used games into a store for trade-in (the name of the store is never stated but it's a clear Brand X version of Gamestop) and start freaking out when they are told that the store can't give them the full price they paid for the game when it was new. Apparently, in Gamefly commercial world, the value of a commodity never depreciates and you can sell it for the exact same price after using it for an indeterminate amount of time. Let's not even get into the fact that being given $9 trade-in for what was a $60 game when bought new is no justification for freaking out and wrecking the store...
Gamefly's point could also be that the store is only giving back $9 for a game they are going to repackage and sell for $30-40. College students face something similar when the bookstore only offers them $20-30 for a book they purchased for $150 and will be resold for $75-80. In that case, though, you might be able to sell the book to another student for $50 or $60, and you'll both come out ahead.
Anime & Manga
Averted in Full Metal Alchemist, where one of the three laws all alchemists must follow is to not transmute gold, even though it is a simple transmutation in The Verse, in order to keep the economy from destabilizing. This law, is, of course, broken by Ed (albeit by being a fraud), and transmuting elements will signify you're in possession of something you really shouldn't have.
Parodied in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, episode "The Stripping." Scanty and Kneesocks open a casino in a scheme to drive the world's economy to a halt. How? They take the money that people lose gambling to feed the Monster of the Week, in an effort to bankrupt the world by robbing it of all its hard cash. They never once consider there are other units of measuring assets, which include stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, precious metals, gems, and real estate.
Averted in The Dark Knight, where Wayne Enterprises accountant Coleman Reese does manage to trace the paper trail. He proceeds to try and blackmail the company, but Lucius Fox talks him out of it by reminding him that blackmail is a crime and Batman runs around beating criminals up.
"Damn the Expenses" is the flaw in most Cut Lex Luthor a Check scenarios, as the cost of the gadgetry to commit crimes typically outweighs the potential monetary benefit of using it for larceny.
Spanish comic-book Superlopez features the country of Tontecarlo (portmanteau of "tonto", meaning dumb, and Montecarlo). Citizens of Tontecarlo do not have jobs: They instead gamble and play state-owned lotteries anywhere — eg., the customs officers play shell games for money with any incoming tourists. The main characters, visiting tourists, notice that money flow cannot continue; however, tourism brings more money to Tontecarlo.
Marvel Comics used this and 'damn the expenses' as a plot point in 2005's Secret War: after a rash of super-suit robberies, SHIELD noticed that criminals with multi-million dollar suits were cashing in tens of thousands, and immediately deduced somebody was funding them.
Invoked in Superman: Red Son, Lex Luthor solves the budget deficit problem by... scribbling a formula on a piece of paper, if only to get Jimmy Olsen to stop bothering him. It doesn't work. Later, Superman's Soviet Russia drives America in ruin via embargo - being Superman, breaking said embargo is not healthy for one's life.
In Valerian there is a creature called the Grumpy Converter from Bluxte, which feeds on powerful energy sources (anything from a power socket to nuclear material), but also ingests small objects which it then duplicates by excreting more of them, converting energy into matter. Everyone in the comic treats it as a way to produce some quick cash for running expenses, instead of a highly illegal living forgery machine that any sane economy would consider it as.
Although depending on what it can duplicate, it might be the answer to all resource shortage problems.
It can only duplicate items small enough for it to swallow and excrete, and it's approximately the size of a rat. It's also fatal for it to keep duplicating an object for an extended period of time, so the only thing it's good for is making copies of small but valuable objects like jewels.
It wouldn't. Only when you copy actual physical money is it forgery. Because then you'd be copying money. Which is forgery.
They mostly use the creature to copy blutoks and eebeb pearls, which are the main legal currencies of the galaxy. They also copy rare objects considered valuable for their history, at times.
Slightly justified in that the things are stated to be ridiculously rare, in addition to the above mentioned limits to their ability to duplicate.
In Euro Trip, the exchange rate in Slovakia is taken to ridiculous levels. Scott flips one of the servants an American nickel, to which he proclaims "A nickel, I'm rich, I quit!" and walks out. This "joke" rests on a double economics failure: Slovakia's former currency, the koruna, was at an exchange rate of 1 USD = 22 SKK on its last day of existence, which means that the nickel Scott threw would have been enough to buy a couple of snacks at most, and Slovakia actually switched to the euro in 2009, making the joke even more facepalm-worthy.
The rich man Christoph Jenny meets happens to own the club in Bratislava that they are in. If their pocket change is worth so much it's assumed that this man may be rich enough to buy the entire country.
The Russian fantasy film Sadko (known to MST3K fans as The Magic Voyage of Sinbad,) has the main hero try to help out his home town by forcing its merchants to redistribute their wealth among the poor. It doesn't work so well since there doesn't seem to be enough to go around. (That, and the hero ends up giving away all the money he was going to use for his quest.)
The original story had him trying to buy all the goods in the city and monopolize the trade. Turned out the external trade scale was quite out of his league.
In Canadian Bacon, the president wanted to start some international problems so he'd have an excuse to reopen the recently closed munitions factories given the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Then again, his primary goal was really just to stir up Patriotic Fervor and boost his popularity.
There's no reason this couldn't work-it has many times before-though Canada is a poor choice of opponents.
The Mexican satirical film Un Mundo Maravilloso portrays an alternate Mexico which simultaneously has economic growth and stability and rampant poverty, widespread unemployment and plunging stock markets at the same time.
Well, seeing how that IS the reality in Mexico, as economic growth does not necessarily imply growth in all sectors, and in fact it is common for inequality to increase and job demand to remain the same while the economy grows. This wouldn't apply to stock markets, though.
In The Fifth Element, Zorg espouses the "Destruction Equals Employment" mentality, and demonstrates it by destroying a glass and explaining how the machines that clean the glass shards away employ so many people manufacturing them. However, Zorg doesn't mention that only companies like his, which profits off of war, stand to benefit, rather than society as a whole. Which is why he, as Cornelius pointed out, had no "robot to pat him on the back when he chokes on the little cherry" or no one to depend on when he inevitably screwed up.
Zorg tries to justify his actions with the fact that a completely static, stable system would quickly stagnate, but instead of introducing positive changes to combat this development he simply provokes disorder; a cure which in his hands is worse than the disease.
One might ask how and where was he going to spend the...whatever Mr. Shadow was paying him with, if the latter's agenda was "to destroy all life".
Though Zorg may well have had no idea why Mr. Shadow wants the stones, or what they will be used for. No real indication is even given of what exactly he's being paid with, aside from him stating that his "costs have tripled."
In Wisdom, a film starring Emilio Estevez and Demi Moore, the titular character, John Wisdom, goes on a bank-robbing spree, but not to steal money. Instead, he and his girlfriend destroy bank property records to help farmers. The film was released in 1986, a time when American farmers were having problems keeping their farms. The banks were seen to be the bad guys because they were the ones foreclosing when the farmers couldn't make the payments on the loans. In the film, John Wisdom is seen as a modern-day Robin Hood because he saves the farmers from foreclosure. Apparently, in the movie, the banks that are hit only have one copy of the records and when Wisdom destroys these records, there are no ill effects on the local economies.
Some Truth in Television: 19th-century Australian folk hero Ned Kelly did exactly this. As this was before the computer age, it's more likely that the banks indeed had only one copy of the records, or at least the loan notes. John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd were known to do this as well. In general, many outlaws recognized the only way they would avoid capture would be to invoke Robin Hood kind of banditry, so a sympathetic public would shelter them. Certainly the public had no love lost over banks for, then as now, financiers would be happy to push loans for farm expansion with high interest rates in times of boom, knowing that the increase in product supply would make repayment unlikely as prices fell accordingly.
Likewise, some European peasant rebellions were actually better thought-out than most people realize, in that the rebels would destroy any documents they found in the keeping of tax agents and other local officials. Their hope was that, even if their uprisings failed, there wouldn't be any record of just how much service they owed their manor lords each year.
In Street Fighter, Bison pays his underlings with "Bison Dollars", which are technically worthless due to having no economic backing, but Bison plans to force the Bank of England to value them at five pound per Bison dollar, by kidnapping their Queen. Brilliant plan. Even if they did agree to the plan, he'd have to hold her indefinitely since people would just exchange their B$ for real money (you know, with financial backing and stability) as quick as possible before the bank either collapsed or reneged on the deal when they got the Queen back. And that's assuming everyone involved would accept financial ruin just to save figurehead nobility. Then again, while a Magnificent Bastard, Bison is utterly insane, and the smarter of his accomplices reject the currency as worthless.
Other Peoples Money: Both Jorgy and Larry in their big speeches. Jorgy talks about how the wire and cable industry will recover when the dollar is a little stronger and the yen is a little weaker; actually, that would just mean that an American company like his would get priced out of the market by its Japanese competitors. On the other hand, Larry says that the fastest way to go broke is to have an increasing share of a shrinking market; that's true if and only if the market shrinks away to nothing, which is unlikely to happen for products like wire and cable. Otherwise, having an increasing share of a shrinking market is a way to become spectacularly profitable, since it eliminates all your competitors.
The Mayflowers' plan in Hudson Hawk is to find Leonardo da Vinci's machine for turning lead into gold, and using it to turn gold into Worthless Yellow Rocks and crash the world currency market. This is in fact good economics—in a world where currency is still backed by gold. However, the film was released in the early 1990s, at which point the only major currency linked to gold was the Swiss franc. While that would be enough to make for some nasty economic problems, it wouldn't be nearly sufficient to hold the world economy hostage. On the other hand, the Mayflowers are cartoonish villains in a slapstick comedy. It doesn't have to make sense.
The main focus in Johnny Mnemonic revolves around an evil Mega Corp's intent to withhold the cure for a deadly disease which half the world's population suffers from; the logic being that "treating the disease would be more profitable than curing it." However, this belief suffers from numerous problems. For instance, given that half the world's population is a very sizeable group, the Mega Corp could yield a tremendous profit from distributing a cure at an extremely low markup (if 500,000,000 people suffered from the disease, a cure would net $5 billion in the corporation's pocket if they only sold it for a $10 profit per person, after adding in the base costs for its basic production), and since it would only cure people who have the disease, it wouldn't prevent new people from getting it themselves, meaning there would always be a market with high demand for the product. Instead, however, they distribute lesser treatments that would need to be taken on a continual, never-ending basis for the exorbitantly high price of $2,000 per clinical unit, which would be far more than most people suffering from the disease could ever hope to afford, especially over any lengthy period of time, and ultimately would net noticeably lower returns.
Not to mention that people who are cured of that particular disease will continue to come down with other illnesses, which the company presumably had been making a tidy profit by treating in the years prior to that particular epidemic. Not curing people means that anyone who can't afford the sky-high prices simply dies, hence is lost as a potential future customer.
Many Real Life conspiracy theories claiming AIDS or cancer (forgetting that cancer is not just one thing) "really" has a cure which is being suppressed by Big Pharma and or the government suffer from the same poor logic.
The backstory to National Treasure: Book of Secrets is that John Wilkes Booth and his conspirators had a clue to the lost City of Gold, and tried to recruit Gates's ancestor to help them find it so they could restart The American Civil War. Fortunately he burned the clue the same night Lincoln was assassinated. But by that time the remaining Confederate leaders had surrendered, the Confederate armies had disbanded, the Union occupied all the important southern cities and forts, and the people had long lost their will to continue fighting. In short, no amount of money could possibly have restarted the war.
In the film of Mary Poppins, Mr. Banks' bank is alleged to have nearly gone under in the 18th century because it had financed the shipment of tea destroyed by the Boston Tea Party. Even in the 1700s, commodities being shipped overseas were generally insured against theft or loss in transit, and any bank so deficient in funds as to be imperiled by the loss of a few hundred crates of cargo wouldn't have remained solvent for long in any case.
Specifically, Dawes says that the loss of the tea shipment sparked a run on the bank. Even if the bank underwrote the insurance on the ship, it would have done so as part of a syndicate so as to spread the risk around. One lost cargo wouldn't have endangered them at all.
The run on Northern Rock actually started because the cash machines were empty, not because the bank was empty.
In Time is set In a World where they've "turned off the aging gene", and lifespan has become currency to combat overpopulation. That actually could work rather well... except that in the trailers, the Powers That Be seem more concerned with preventing overpopulation then maintaining a working economy; they've hiked the prices of goods and lowered wages so much that entire communities have less lifespan to their name than hours in the day - go to work every day or die.
In addition, the creators seem to be under the impression that you can just dump a lot of money (time) into an economy and have only beneficial impacts. I mean, technically those people would live longer, but imagine throwing a million dollars into a poor economy. Prices would just skyrocket. They illustrate this by having prices go up as more time is introduced, but the main characters seem to think that's by design, not just the economy naturally adjusting.
The protagonists are well-aware that they can't actually fix the system, they seem to be trying to destroy it instead at least in its current form as a way to force change. Throwing time/money into the local economy allows people to both stop working and easily cross time-zones so that the near-slave labour that supports the upper classes disappears into the middle classes overnight causing significant financial problems. It also implies that they have barely started to scratch the surface of upsetting the status-quo.
The overriding problem is the foolishness building an economy on the trade of something that's inherently useful like "the ability to live another hour". Unlike the obvious uselessness of paper money or the shiny-and-rare-but-you-still-can't-eat-it uselessness of gold, you have a supply of currency that will inherently dwindle as people... aw screw it. All the filmmakers want viewers to pay attention to is how cute Justin Timberlake is.
There is nothing to say that Time isn't being created. Certainly there is a lot more time in circulation than can be explained by human population growth (Several of the wealthiest people have as much as a Million years just in storage). Much like modern banks, they probably create time on their systems by using some equivalent of fractional reserve banking.
They never actually explained what "time" is. Where does it come from? How do you store it? How do you transfer it? It looked more like everyone has a "death clock" and you are just buying an extension. I'd have been more impressed if they found a way to just freeze everyone's timer so they never run down. Also there didn't seem to be any passwords or anything.
The most obvious problem is that, under such a system, there would be crippling deflation, as the time supply is constantly shrinking. The film depicts high inflation instead. When your Aesop is that all the world's problems could be fixed if we just gave away lots of free money to the poor, this is an issue.
Gordon Gekko in Wall Street commits the error of assuming economics is a zero sum game in his speech to Bud Fox. "It's not a question of enough, pal. It's a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn't lost or made, it's simply transferred from one perception to another." That's not true, but the way Gekko sees the world, in order for him to have more somebody else must have less, therefore he sees himself justified in wrecking a company solely to line his pockets.
This should be considered justified as the way Gekko makes money indeed is a zero sum game. Besides, while absolute wealth and value can be increased, relative wealth is pretty much constant. If you embrace the concept of the the positional good (as Gekko seems to), then you only advance by getting ahead of others. Only so many people can be in the 1%, only one guy can be the richest. If wealth is a measuring stick for status and control, you don't want "enough", you want more than everyone else.
Quite egregiously, John Nash in A Beautiful Mind erroneously defines a Nash Equilibrium. A beautiful blonde woman walks into a bar with her (supposedly) less attractive friends. He suggests that if they all target her, she will turn them all down and her less-attractive friends will spurn them because nobody likes being second-choice. They should all instead target the less-attractive women because they will be sure of succeeding. This doesn't hold up, because if each one of his friends was convinced that the others would target the non-blonde, they'd have an incentive to go after the blonde. It's also not how you define a Nash equilibrium. Admittedly, Nash's actual achievement is considerably less cinematic. A Nash equilibrium is one where the participants are in what is clearly a non-optimal situation, but to achieve the optimum would require co-operation, as any single actor defecting from the equilibrium is punished. To put it another way, A is worse than B, but in between is the even worse C, which is where any individual trying to get to B alone would end up. The situation at the bar isn't a Nash equilibrium because it's a metastable situation; any individual does have reason to leave the non-optimal "everyone hit on the blonde" position because they're more likely to get laid. They only have the incentive to move back if they think everyone else is also not hitting on the blonde. The optimal situation (everyone leave the blonde alone and get laid) requires co-operation, but the "everyone hit on the blonde" situation isn't a stable equilibrium that punishes anyone who tries something different and therefore isn't a Nash equilibrium.
Unfortunately the description of the Nash Equilibrium above is also flawed. There are many situations where the Nash equilibrium is the also the optimal solution. The Nash equilibrium is such a solution to a game/problem where none of the parties would get better results if they changed their decisions. The situation from the film simply does not have a Nash equilibrium.
In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce Wayne is bankrupted after Bane and his minions break into the stock exchange, hold everyone there at gunpoint, and make fake trades in Bruce's name using his (stolen) fingerprints. In reality, the major stock exchanges have the ability to quickly cancel trades if necessary and Bruce Wayne would have been easily able to get off the hook for those fraudulent trades. This is acknowledged in the movie a couple of scenes later when Lucius Fox tells Bruce that they'll be able to prove fraud but that in the immediate short term, Bruce is bankrupted. This also assumes that the computer program wasn't somehow inserting backdated trades into the system. Though that would presumably leave a trace, it would certainly take much longer to disentangle.
The whole situation is played similarly to a robbery or large-scale embezzlement. It's lampshaded by people on the floor.
Broker:This is a stock exchange, not a bank. There's no money for you to steal!
Bane: Really? Then why are you people here?
In the movie Margin Call about a trading firm at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, this is done in universe in that the top executives of the bank don't understand the products they sell. Which unfortunately is realistic. The following quote is from the company CEO.
John Tuld: Explain it to me if I were a small child. Or a golden retriever.
James Cameron's Avatar doesn't give enough information. By all accounts the operating costs of mining and shipping something from one solar system to another at less than the speed of light should prevent the RDA from making even close to a profit. Unobtainium would need to be both absolutely vital to technology on earth and un-synthesizable for their operations to be profitable.
This bit of Fridge Logic is part of why some people end up Rooting for the Empire in the film. While yes, exploiting the resources and lands of an indigenous population is a bad thing, if the cost of not doing so is crippling elsewhere it becomes much more of a murky ethical issue...
At the end of Babettes Feast, Babette reveals that she spent all her lottery winnings, 10,000 Francs, on the eponymous feast, as that was the price of dinner for twelve at the Cafe Anglais. Of course, that would be the price on the bill at the end of the meal, but that price would have to cover many other expenses beyond the cost of ingredients: the restaurant's rent (in Paris, no less, with its very high rents), the wages of the waiters, busboys, and all the kitchen staff (including Babette's), and, not least, profits for the owners. None of that would have been a factor in the meal Babette prepared in the film. Justified, in this case, in that this was really just an excuse by Babette not to leave the sisters and their village.
Michael Crichton's novel Rising Sun is accused of using the 'Exporting Good, Importing Bad' fallacy quite egregiously.
In a short story in the "Probability Zero" section of the Analog science fiction magazine, a primitive alien society discouraged greed by minting coins of refined uranium. Each (presumably very radiation-tolerant) alien stored his stash of coins in the basement, and if it accumulated too many, it was automatically removed from the gene pool.
In The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett doesn't seem to know that no stonemason in the medieval world "lost his job". Crafts were guild-based, not capitalist; guilds protected their members from destitution, so a stonemason would no more be impoverished by losing one client than a modern lawyer would. And there are apparently no religious orders, godparents, or childless neighbors that will take in children whose parents cannot care for them. These are probably Rule ofStraw Medievalism, though.
The Imperial Order from Sword of Truth is an incredibly large empire with a massive standing army capable of sending millions of people hundreds of miles away to conquer the world. While operating under an economic system so ridiculous it should be incapable of supporting a single city, much less an army. Essentially, it combines all the motivation problems of communist economics with a culture that actively despises hard work.
The Palace of Prophets gives all of its wizards unlimited quantities of gold, encourages them to spend it freely and have sex with local women, and if they get pregnant gives them lots more gold note They're trying to breed more people with the wizards' gift . This has been going on for hundreds of years, and does not seem to have had any effect on the value of gold.
Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern uses a bizarre form of competing currencies in the form of "marks", disks made of wood, which are supplied as blanks by one Hold (the territory equivalent of a country) and stamped with both denominations -ranging from 1/32 of a mark to 100 mark pieces- on one side and source -where the stamped mark hails from. However, each Hall (a type of Crafting guild, 10 in all) and each Hold (over 20 worldwide) has their own special and specific source stamp. The value of these marks has been shown, in canon, to vary on the cultural popularity of the Hall or Hold they hail from. In the first novel of the series HarperCraft marks were worthless, as Harpers were seen as trifling entertainers instead of educators. So in a way, it's not so different from global currencies today, but it's very badly defined, as any individual can refuse coinage from a source they just don't happen to like at the time, and completely up in the air as to what values can be ascribed to anything (when 1 mark can buy 1/8th of a cow, 192 hand-sized pies, or 1 whetstone, whereas musical instruments and riding horses start at 2 and 9 (and custom tack is 12) marks respectively, something is off).
The theory here is sound (a "mark" represents a promise of X amount of goods or services from the issuer), and is similar to many historic and modern "private currencies". The problem lies entirely in the books' descriptions.
Some of the price discrepancies may be due to the relative scarcity of goods on Pern. Until the Southern Continent was reopened in the books, wood was a lot more rare, since the Northern Continent is mostly rocky and mountainous. This was especially the case up until the long Interval that ended during the first book, since the Dragonriders kept a very tight control on the amount of greenery they had to protect before then. Even in later books, wooden furniture is considered a luxury item; most people make do with stone. Metal of all kinds have always been very rare on Pern, that's one of the reasons it appealed to the back-to-nature colonists who wanted to set up Pern as an agrarian society. That's probably why marks are made of wood; metal's too valuable to waste on coinage.
The economics behind The Lord of the Rings is a bit... sketchy. Similarly, Dwarves and Noldorin Elves put a lot of effort into making fancy jewellery and weapons which only a handful of other people in that world would have been able to afford, limiting their ability to trade with anyone, whilst often living in underground cities where, again, you would struggle to grow anything to eat.
The Dwarves are stated to buy most of their food from the local humans in The Hobbit.
Thorin and company were stated as having to take jobs in a human-owned coal mine before they went back to reclaim the Lonely Mountain. The implication is that dwarves are perfectly willing to trade almost anything they produce (finished or unfinished), and prefer to work at traditional Dwarven jobs of mining, smithing, and crafting and use the products of that to trade for everything else they need.
A partial aversion is the orcs of Mordor - unlike the trope it names, Mordor in Middle-Earth isn't just a blasted wasteland of doom. Volcanic ash makes the land extremely fertile, thus explaining how the massive armies of evil stay fed without the need for trade.
It is specifically stated that in the south, away from the active volcano, the land is green and well-farmed (although not really more pleasant).
The Petty-Dwarves in The Children Of Hurin and The Silmarillion mostly sustain on "earth-bread", strange roots with bread-like taste and consistency that endure well over winter, and are easy to find if you know their secret, which elves and men never did. The elves seem to need very little earthly sustenance, being powered by the fire of their spirit. The Silmarillion states that they can only die from violence or sorrow - not, for example, through starvation. They also seem to have some esoteric ways of making foodstuffs that were kept secret from the outsiders, but the books never elaborated on them.
Invoked in The Pale King, during Chris's description of the new tax laws in Chicago in 1978. Since the amount of taxes that needed to be paid were determined by the amount you spend per transaction, people did their shopping by buying one item at a time. The resulting lines and traffic are horrendous, and the governor loses his job over it.
A strange, and amusing, example occurs in The Lost Hero. King Midas (yes that King Midas) is bankrolling the Big Bad's efforts by...turning things lying around his mansion into gold and selling them to investors, thereby lowering the inherent value of said gold and making the price drop.
That would work as long as you didn't overdo it. It's not substantially different than financing your operations with proceeds from a gold mine. If the mine were so productive that the price of gold collapsed, that wouldn't work either. And yet gold mines can be quite profitable enterprises in real life, and are usually more profitable the more productive they are.
Could be justified in that Midas is older than modern economics and probably wouldn't understand how it works.
Averted in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Diamond As Big As The Ritz. The Washington family discovers a mountain made entirely of solid diamond, but cashing in would lower the value of diamonds to next to nothing and leave the family near-broke.
Despite being an otherwise amazing author who does the research, Orson Scott Card spit in the face of this trope by the second book of his Ender's Game series. Here's the problem, the Space Navy regularly "patrols" planets, and there is a very large shipping industry, but relativity is a core mechanic to the series so a round trip to one planet and back is roughly 150 years of time gone- enough that depositing any money in the bank will gain you huge amounts in return. There is no way anyone could run a shipping company, because even if you were flat broke, you could collect your wages from one trip, bank it, and go on a second trip, and bam! mega-milloinaire. The Navy could never afford to pay anyone, especially because if you deploy once you are guaranteed never to see any of your family ever again. Since anyone can do this if they are comfortable giving up their old life, there is nothing stopping anyone from taking run away interest with them on a new planet. Low on money? Trip to a new planet! Yet surprisingly, no one ever does this, despite it being canon that interest accumulates on money in real time. Even if most of Enders money came from Jane manipulating the markets, any sensible conservative investment group could take a spacefarers money and promise them a thousand fold return after a minimum of seventy years.
On the other hand, assuming risk-free guaranteed returns in excess of inflation is an even bigger Economics failure. Without Jane to manage your investments, there's a good chance of losing everything. (Consider someone in 1900 who invested in the Russian stocks instead of American ones)
The 1930s SF novel Ein Stern fällt vom Himmel ("A Star Falls From The Sky") by Hans Dominik deliberately tries to avert this, but doesn't quite manage to do so convincingly. When a huge nickel-iron meteorite (really more of a small asteroid) crashes into the Antarctic and is found to have contained significant veins of ore rich in, among other things, gold, keeping this discovery secret to avoid the obvious potential rush and impact on the global economy is just about the first thing on the mind of everyone in the know. It's the effectiveness of the method by which the secret wealth is nonetheless exploited and dealt with that comes across as dubious — basically, counting on nobody asking too many uncomfortable questions and on people valuing gold more than "inferior" paper money (thereby prompting them to hoard rather than spend it), a secret benevolent government conspiracy springs into existence in order to quietly mine the impact crater and allow those governments to return to a gold currency. In the novel, it works; of course, this kind of ignores that the total worldwide gold supply still has increased quite significantly by the end of it and that all favorable psychological factors aside it'd still be silly to expect millions of people to trade in one form of money for another just so they can then sit on the latter while still being out of the former.
In M.Y.T.H. Inc In Action the kingdom of Possiltum's expansion campaign enjoys massive popular support because the people have been led to believe that a wider tax base will decrease their individual taxes. It's only late in the novel that it's pointed out the extra layers of bureaucracy will cancel out any increased revenue from new taxpayers.
JK Rowling never does explain how the magical economy hasn't been swamped with thousands upon thousands of fake Galleons when literally any Hogwarts graduate would have the ability to transfigure trash into a realistic looking coin. You could potentially argue that no Wizard has the capability to create actual gold given how the alchemy research conducted by Nicholas Flamel and Dumbledore was a big deal in Book 1 but its also very unlikely that any establishment beyond Gringotts or the Ministry of Magic pay particular attention to what the coins look like - especially since there isn't even one example of any counter-counterfeiting charms being used. And even then if you still wanted to argue that Galleons somehow couldn't be copied what is realistically stopping you from transfiguring yourself a crate of diamonds or silver to sell? Based on the available evidence, no one in this community should be poor which would in turn inevitably lead to crippling levels of inflation.
The same reason that counterfeiting modern currency is so difficult. It is not that hard to make a bill - it is incredibly difficult to duplicate the watermarks. Presumably the wizard money has some variety of magical watermark that is exteremly difficult to duplicate. Also, while not discussed much, counter-transfiguration is implied to be taught at the final year at Hogwarts. Presumably, vendors use them like the counterfeit pens and lights nowadays that just about every gas station in existence has. A quick spell just to check higher-demonination currency as it changes hands.
Doctor Who: The Season 4 Christmas special "Voyage of the Damned" features a cruise ship of HumanAliens from the planet Sto, which apparently has some major economic problems. A couple claims that they'll never be able to pay off the 5000-credit debt they ran to get their tickets. At the end of the episode, the Doctor establishes a firm conversion rate: about 50 credits per British pound, or US$1.60. This occurs during the same night.
Mission: Impossible: An episode had the team infiltrate a group of neo-Nazis who had a Swiss Bank Account showing the location of a cache of Nazi Gold which they intended to use to create a "Fourth Reich." Aside from the immense improbability of this (the Nazis didn't plan for failure), and the overwhelming likelihood that the gold would be confiscated, it takes more than a few million dollars of stolen gold to take over a country and restart a movement that in the popular mind is now synonymous with pure evil.
And yet they thought it was believable enough to not only make it, but remake it for the later MI series. The plot in one episode of the original series, where a banker was plotting on flooding an African country with well-made forgeries and a lot of them, makes more sense, both from the money and economic standpoint.
Monty Python's Flying Circus: Brilliantly spoofed. Dennis Moore is a parody agglomeration of all the old folk heroes who "robbed from the rich and gave to the poor". He did so well he bankrupted the aristocrats but kept trying to rob them. As he said: "Blimey, this redistribution of the wealth is more complicated than I imagined." The sketch ends with him attempting a one-man vigilante ... progressive income tax.
Dennis Moore: Now. I've got a tiara ... you've got one... you've got one of the boxes... you've got one... anyone else got a tiara? Take your hat off! (passenger does so to reveal a tiara)... Oh, honestly, it's absolutely pointless trying to do this if you're going to cheat. It really is awful of you.
The Outer Limits: In an episode of the original series, a group of scientists is talking about harvesting rare minerals from an asteroid. One scientist remarks how this would wipe out poverty and the others agree.
Pawn Stars: Ends up dealing with a lot of people who fail Economics forever, either by assuming that an otherwise-worthless trinket they own is a lot more valuable than it is because it was owned by someone famous (as one of the hosts famously put it, "It doesn't matter if your lawnmower was owned by Bill Clinton, it's still a lawnmower"), or by doing some research, finding out the "market value", and then trying to to sell it to the pawn shop at that price. The staff have to constantly remind sellers that they are salesmen, not collectors, and that the "market value" is what a collector will pay.
Another repeat example is, "People automatically assume old plus rare automatically equals valuable", without taking any other factors into account. One of the most startling examples of overestimation includes a three-trigger shotgun, where the third trigger was used to open the breach (instead of a separate lever) while the two other triggers worked the side-by-side barrels as normal for a hammer-operated firearm. An expert was brought in to inspect it, and confirmed that yes they were very rare, but that was more because they were unpopular and not produced very long; a pristine-condition example could fetch between two and three thousand, but the one in hand had been heavily used (since it was intended as a private citizen's main hunting tool) and showed severe pitting and scoring of the barrel, splice-replacement of the stock, etc, so it was worth at most $800-$1000. This was somewhat of a shock to the seller, whose initial asking price - based solely off the fact that it was old and unusual - was $100,000.
Renegade: Invoked, when Reno infiltrates a town of only a few people he suspects of being robbers, and asks them how they make money. The leader says he buys stuff, and the other people buy it from him. The skeptical look on Reno's face is hilarious.
Revolution: The lack of an even small scale industrialized economy notwithstanding, the Monroe Republic doesn't even seem to have an official currency. However, we've only seen how the lower classes live; there may be currency in use by the elites. Medieval societies (and pre-modern or modern societies experiencing an economic downturn) often used this system, with barter for goods and services being the main form of exchange for the masses. But then, there have been several references to gold being a valuable commodity and presumably a medium of exchange.
Sliders has an episode featuring a world where all economic troubles are solved by allowing anyone who wishes to withdraw as much money as they want from ATMs in exchange for increasing the odds of winning a lottery. The catch? It's a Lottery of Doom, and winning it forces you to commit suicide!
The point of the lottery was to keep the population small, and other than the lottery the world was portrayed as a utopia.
Star Trek: This franchise and its descendants promised Gene Roddenberry's fantasy utopian future, which stated that money no longer existed. Unfortunately, that raised a whole slew of unanswerable questions. Like, without money or coercion, how do you get enough people to do necessary but thoroughly disagreeable jobs (although there are some very sophisticated robots). Heck, it becomes impossible to justify enough people deciding to wait tables. The biggest fail, though, is that without some means of exchange, how can members of the Federation deal with issues of resource management? Though it's supposed to be a post-scarcity economy, it still ignores that some things simply cannot be replicated at will, like a particular house in a particular location, seats at a particular show on a particular night, and are still going to be scarce (i.e.: not enough to satisfy wants). Not that this is necessarily that big of a problem. Apparently, Star Trek economics work much the same as its teleporters and warp drives do — "Just fine, thank you very much for asking!".
You simply can't get enough people to perform enough work to support a country without motivation via paying them, or force.
Credits existed in The Original Series, though seemingly only on the fringes of The Federation. After Roddenberry passed away, the galactic monetary standard of gold-pressed latinum was introduced. These helped a little. Deep Space Nine introduced the idea that the post-scarcity economy only existed on certain planets— Earth and Risa are two shown— and virtually every other planet had some form of currency, with the interplanetary exchange being gold-plated latinum. And Starfleet personnel get a stipend, at least if they're stationed on the station, as the crew never seem to be lacking for latinum to spend at Quark's bar.
Although Star Trek Online reveals most just like the game Dabo and use GPL as decorations for there room.
And in seventh-season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River", Nog describes a key facet of Ferengi philosophy that proves that his species truly are the greatest businessmen in the galaxy: The "Great Material Continuum".
Nog: There are millions upon millions of worlds in the universe, each one filled with too much of one thing, and not enough of another. And the Great Continuum flows through them all like a mighty river, from "have" to "want" and back again! And if we navigate the Continuum with skill and grace, our ship will be filled with everything our hearts desire!
In other words, a skillfully-built Chain of Deals will work out eventually, because economics is not a zero sum game. Pay attention, and you'll always find someone too happy to give you what you want for what you have. Nog, You Win Economics Forever!
From what we saw, the Federation is a communist state that actually works, due to technological inventions such as replicators, extremely cheap and plentiful sources of energy, combined with humanity being more noble than it is today. In First Contact, a local 21st century woman was told that humanity evolved from wanting more into perfecting oneself. Therefore, having a big ass apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower is not as big a deal as it is for us. For them, becoming a respected chef is more important than acquiring whatever goods are still scarce in their utopia. Life became about finding your place in the universe, not about material things. So a person waits tables because it can be enjoyable, and maybe he can learn how to run a restaurant and then move up to doing that.
Technically the Federation is a post-scarcity economy much like Bank's Culture novels. People work for lots of reasons, they just tend to be higher up Maslow's hierarchy of needs than modern economies. For example even being a lowly ensign redshirt aboard the Enterprise gives you the chance to go where no one has gone before.
There are some implications that reputation is very important (at least within Starfleet). This may simply be a leftover of copying large chunks of the culture of the US Navy in TOS, as reputation is extremely important in the US Navy for advancing your career (read: if people think you're a bad officer, you go nowhere good).
On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, they still never quite explained how Sisko's father was running a restaurant on Earth. Even assuming his food is superior to whatever his customers can get out of a replicator, how does he pay them, and what does he do with the money?
Its more of a hobby like Picard's family wine. The real question is why would anyone want to eat real meat in a Veganopia
The Tribe: Tries to institute an economy by having each vendor receive a loan of ten tokens at the start of the day to kickstart the system, and is expected to pay them back at the end of each day, and gets to keep the profit. To keep the system fair, the Mallrats also fix the price in tokens of each commodity. The system may be justified as the Mallrats are a bunch of kids with only the vaguest understanding of how economies work, but the fundamental premise seems to be that if you start out with a fixed amount of money, and just move it back and forth all day, at some point, it will magically reproduce.
In one series of Calvin And Hobbes strips, Calvin opens a lemonade stand in the dead of winter. ("It has natural refrigeration!") When he doesn't get any customers he decides the solution is to raise the price so he can become profitable more quickly.
Depressingly, this is exactly the argument used when I was a member of a Taxi Licensing Board: We aren't getting enough passengers, let us put our prices up.
Jeff Foxworthy used this in one of his early stand up routines. He was, as a young man, so broke that his bank sent a collections agent to take his car unless Jeff paid them $500. Jeff, naturally, didn't have $500 on him, even ridiculing the idea that someone would carry that much money, which led to this:
Collection Guy: Well, you can't write me a check?
Young Jeff:No I can't... a check? Hell yeah, I can write you a check! I thought you needed money! Tell you what, I'm going to go ahead and pay the whole thing off, right now.
Gary Gygaxlampshaded that the economic system of 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons didn't work, particularly with all the gold and jewels being taken into or out of the economy at different times, but it was justified due to Rule Of Cool: namely, it was just plain more impressive for the players to obtain large amounts of gold than copper. Not that this prevented many player characters from going after the copper and silver coins too...
Later editions still have quirks. Famously, in 3.5 edition, a 10 foot ladder is cheaper than 2 10 foot poles. In fact, it's perfectly profitable for players to employ laborers (whose daily salary is less than the profit made on a single ladder-to-poles conversion) to do this all day. Similarly, a spiked chain is cheaper than the same length of normal chain. Players could generate as much money as they needed just by being in the business of hiring laborers to craft these items all day long... except that also ignores economic truths about the supply exceeding the demand and driving the profit margin down, which a sensible Dungeon Master will quickly slap down to rule that Player Characters cannot abuse the fixed item values that way.
Rolemaster's coinage hierarchy used to place tin coins below copper. If you assume an earth-type world, tin is rare and expensive - it's the fraction that makes bronze so much more expensive than iron/steel.
And to add insult to injury, Bronze Pieces are worth more than Copper Pieces in the same coinage hierarchy.
The steel-based currency in D&D Dragonlance doesn't really make sense - you can end up with situations where a steel sword, if melted and forged into coins, would be worth more than its original cost (i.e. say the sword cost 10 coins. By melting it down you could get enough steel to forge 15 coins). Putting rule issues like that and selling a 10 foot ladder as 2 10-foot poles, the idea is decent enough, the execution just stinks.
The argument is that steel is more valuable than gold because steel is useful, whereas gold is pretty but useless, therefore steel is worth more. Which completely misses the point of currency.
Interestingly enough, Sparta did use iron money. The idea was actually solid: only Sparta uses iron money, and no one in Sparta accepts gold, so no Spartan could be bought off by outside money. Only Sparta could mint their own coins correctly (forgery was too hard to be worth it) and merchants bartered goods with Spartans. Theoretically, you could try to buy a Spartan off with a year's worth of Wheat, but where was he going to hide that?
In a World of Darkness manual, the author describes in great length how the extremely long-term strategic planning of centuries-old vampiric masterminds make US and European companies competitive against Japanese ones. Whether it's an economic Fail or not is dependent on how rigid that long-term plan is, and a key thing to remember is that a business run by immortals is likely to be more patient about returns than one held by mortals. In theory, there should be less emphasis on small short-term gains at the expense of larger long-term ones.
Pathfinder had a wonky economy which allowed one to buy mithril chain shirts and melt them down for a fraction of the price of raw mithril.
Legend Of The Five Rings, being based on feudal Japan and China, has a rice-based economy where one gold (koku) is the equivalent to the amount of rice one man will eat in a year. Or possibly what one family will eat in a year. There's some confusion as to which. Also, the exchange rate between gold, silver and copper coins means that even the smallest denomination of money in Rokugan is a fairly vast fortune. The handwave given is that it is beneath a samurai's station to be concerned with money, and that there is a sizable merchant class to deal with such matters.
The Hand Wave in the most recent edition is that the value of currency has significantly inflated in the past few centuries, and it now takes somewhere from 12 to 15 koku to feed a man for a year. This dramatically cheapens raw gold, but it brings the price of food in line with the price of everything else.
Maybe justifiable in games where NPCs portray monsters as dangerous beings to be feared, so the average person would be lucky to escape alive from an encounter with one. Only world-saving chosen heroes will go around killing monsters in numbers, and there aren't enough people like that to significantly affect the economy.
Some games handwave it as an insta-bounty on the monster, or instead has the monster drop Vendor Trash to sell.
Karl Marx Hates Your Guts. Not only is monster killing the easiest way to make money, it is often the only way to make money - no part of the entire economy can exist without regular infusions of cash from busting open a Money Spider. This probably explains why every shop in the game seems to be a Trauma Inn, or a weapon, magic, or item shop.
The Legend of Zelda combines the mentioned 'unlimited money' problem with a strict, if odd, aversion of the Wallet of Holding: Depending on the game, you can collect any number of rupies easily, but you are limited to how much you can carry. Purchasing the most expensive items costs more money than any wallet short of a one-of-a-kind magical artifact can ever hold. Makes you wonder who they planned to sell those items to, or why they don't offer loans.
The most hilarious example is the bomb merchant in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, who 'sells' his bombs for several orders of magnitude more rupees than you could possibly carry. He seems mighty pleased with his exploitation of his monopoly, forgetting that if you offer your products for several times the total wealth of the planet, no one who can go without the product will buy it, and those who can't go without it will just steal it, as the pirates do later in the story. The real reason for the outlandish prizes is of course to serve as a Broken Bridge, preventing you from obtaining bombs too early in the story.
In Ultima VII Part II: Serpent Isle, you can learn a spell that summons money from nowhere. The question of inflation is obviously not addressed. Prior to acquiring this spell, the player runs into a group of corrupt pike men who have 'arrested' the captain of the player's ship and want a bribe fine of a gold bar to release him (and let you get on with the game). It has to be a gold bar. You can offer them thousands of Monetari (the local currency), but they will always demand a gold bar. Many walkthroughs have mocked this, but given the existence of the spell, the pike men may be more canny than one would think.
This may be due to a bug, as the game manual states that the money created by the spell is temporary, which it actually isn't in-game.
This is particularly a major problem in MMOs, where, like their single-player counterparts, money is generated indefinitely by the players when they kill monsters or complete quests. Since an MMO, unlike a single-player game, actually has a persistent economy, this usually results in runaway inflation which developers usually attempt to curtail, to varying degrees of success, with "money sinks" — constant fees for things like travel, equipment maintenance, or all-but-essential sundries, and one-time expenditures of huge amounts of wealth for things that look cool but have little gameplay value.
One notable aversion to this is City of Heroes, which does not give actual currency to its heroes, villains, and Mirror UniverseGray and Grey Morality...superbeings. It gives Influence, Infamy, and Information, respectively. So, in effect, players are being given their goodies by shopkeepers out of respect, fear or in exchange for information. The player market is also meddled with by the devs every now and then to keep prices from spiraling out of control.
EVE Online has a very realistic economy. Unlike in most games where NPC shops have an infinite supply of items to sell, and will buy anything you offer them, Eve has (almost) no NPC buyers or sellers. If you want to sell anything, you have to find another player willing to buy it. All the ships, weapons and ammo in the game are manufactured by other players from raw materials mined at some point by even more players. If you suddenly need a large amount of a rare item, you have to make it yourself or pay someone to do it for you and then someone else to ship it to your location.
Heck, some of the larger clans have been able to successfully engage in economic warfare by buying up goods and weapons required for an upcoming clan battle, driving up the price of those items so the enemy cannot even begin to afford it.
The Pend Insurance corporation, however, Fails Economics Forever.
Interestingly, Ramin Shokrizade (who worked at CCP in the early days of EVE) blogged about how EVE's economic model was so true-to-life that he found it a good predictor of the Great Recession of 2008. Specifically, in the early days of the game most factories were bought up by speculators who sat on them and waited to sell them at high prices to other people who actually wanted the production capacity of those factories. This unfortunately made the game not a lot of fun to play for a lot of people who got locked out of the economic loop by not buying in very early, so they released a patch to make rent paid on those factories much higher than it used to be. This had the effect of reducing speculation and real-estate squatting, as only those who would actually profit by the sale of factory produce would find it profitable to own one. However, in the few months it took to get the patch out, it made a small number of early factory speculators fabulously wealthy.
DynastyWarriorsOnline averts this rather well. You never get money from nowhere. You're either paid by your general or you're getting it from selling stuff you found on the battlefield.
While earlier RPGs (and by extension MMOs) tended to give the players direct funds for defeating an enemy, newer MMOs tend to lean towards giving players random types of loot, which are usually parts of the creature killed and harvested. They are then traded for actual money, which can be spent on armor, weapons and potions which are (supposedly) made from the refined bits of the loot people collect and sells. However due to the needs of a game, the actual spawn rate (equivalent to the birth rate in Real Life) is unrealistically fast, making overharvesting an impossibility (which is a major problem in the real world).
Diablo 2 had a big problem in that gold coins were so easy to obtain in large amounts that the multiplayer economy was unwilling to accept them as a currency. The economy turned to barter and finally started using Stone of Jordan rings which were valuable enough and rare enough to be used as a currency for high value items. Later on various runes were used as an alternate currency.
The Red Moon Online: One item, called a "poison pill", was necessary to use regularly to make the game playable. The game had no upper limit on how many of a single item you could carry. So, many people stocked up on this item until a few people had millions of poison pills. Since there was a maximum number of poison pills in the game, no more were dropping and the price skyrocketed. They were going for millions of gold, far more money than most players had seen. The devs' solution? Give 1 million gold to every account one day. As you can imagine, the poison pills were soon going for hundreds of millions.
Fable II fails economics pretty hard. The player can buy shops and houses, and can set the price level on them. However, the laws of supply and demand apparently don't exist, as raising prices by 50% will increase your profit by 50%. No one ever pays attention if a shop a few hundred yards away is selling the same thing at half the price you are. The only real disincentive for raising prices is a hit on the Karma Meter. Slightly averted in that if you own enough shops in one area, you can affect how good the economy as a whole is doing. Also, it's realistically possible for the player to actually own every property in the country. However, in real life, even if you have a monopoly, you make the most profit by setting prices slightly higher than they would normally be. If you raise them through the roof, you'll make less (some people can do without, or just don't have the money), and if the good is really inelastic (like, say, water), it would spark a revolution at some point.
During the "King" phase of Fable III you are given a series of good/evil choices to make. The "evil" choices increase your revenue (raising taxes, turning an orphanage into a brothel, etc.), which you need to fight off the Crawler in one year's time. The "good" choices often cost you money but make people happy (such as refusing to mine resources under a lake because "it's pretty"). Once the choice is made, the decision is irrevocable, even after you fend off the country-destroying Eldritch Abomination. No mention is made of telling the public why you are doing these things, or leaving open the possibility of tightening the belts for one year, fighting off the threat, then changing things afterwards. One option, for example, is to rebuild a section of the city destroyed when you seized power. If you choose not to rebuild it when offered the chance, it never gets rebuilt.
Counter-Strike had this problem when it decided to go to a market-based system to determine the price of weapons. In theory, this would give a real-time game balance to each weapon - good ones would go up in price, bad ones would go down. Their problem was that their algorithm to determine what the prices of each weapon would be was bizarre:
Valve: The new price for each weapon is based on the total amount of money spent on that weapon. The percentage of money spent on each weapon during the week is used to determine the percentage by which its price moves the next week. So if 10% of all dollars world-wide are spent on the Maverick M4A1 Carbine, then its price will increase by 10%.
The increase was offset by a general reduction in price across all items, which caused less popular items to become cheaper. The end result of this system was that some weapons cost as much as ten times as much as others (including most of the preferred weapons), every 'worthwhile' weapon immediately skyrocketed to absurd levels and every other weapon's value plummeted. One weapon actually reached a negative price. The problem stems from the fact a market requires a limited supply. If supply is infinite, then demand alone can't change prices.
The entire point of Wario Land Shake It is about the Bottomless Coin Sack, which gives out infinite money to whoever owns it. However, the story obviously never considers just how utterly destroyed the economy would be for whatever country/world the owner actually used said treasure in. 10 million percent inflation? Assuming the bottomless coin sack was common knowledge; otherwise it wouldn't affect inflation at all until Wario inevitably bought a big chunk of the world's economy for himself.
Deus Ex Invisible War; Apparently, the so-called World Trade Organization is in the business of price-fixing and micromanaging the economy. Technically this is a Justified Trope because the WTO is really a front for the Illuminati and is thus only concerned with world domination. But, this doesn't explain why the WTO's areas are the richest ones in the game. Historically speaking, all attempts at price fixing (from Soviet Russia to Richard Nixon's America) result in economic disaster. It is quite possible that the WTO's wealth comes from embezzling someone else rather than actual wealth creation. It is also possible that the WTO only fixes some prices, however, they still get based for being "greedy capitalists". This is arguably also justified by the fact that most of the accusations are thrown by members of The Order (another Illuminati front), and a fake conflict is a potential part of the cover up. Trope is averted by Denton's faction, who's nanotech-based preference-agglomeration plan could theoretically bypass the economic calculation problem (by measuring people's preferences directly) and thus actually successfully generate "shadow market" prices (a la Oskar Lange) and thus make a centrally managed economy potentially efficient.
It's possible that the prices that the WTO fixes happen to also be at the ideal ones.
Except there's no such thing as 'ideal', since people always want a better product for a lower price. It's more what people are willing to to pay for in their product.
O Game's economy is the extreme form of Destruction Equals Employment. It only works because a planet can produce an infinite amount of trade goods and weapons effectively erase objects from existence.
The creator of Dwarf Fortress admits that as of now, the economic system doesn't work - and was removed from game. One reason, apart from the many sanity-related ones, is that computers asked to keep track of all those coins tend to struggle.
In Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light there's a minigame where you run a shop and sell off your inventory. Trouble is, while the customers do consider market prices to an extent, they will pay over the going rate, even for stuff you just bought from the same shop. Since both supply and demand are unlimited, you can just reap the profits until you get bored or decide you've got enough.
In Anachronox, Sender Station has five traderbots who buy and sell certain (useless) luxury goods. Their prices are wildly different, to the point that you can make a profit from buying low from one and selling high to another a hundred yards away. If you don't mind some repetitive clicking (as you have to buy/sell everything one at a time) you can make money utterly irrelevant as soon as you get there.
In the Civilization series, economic systems are tuned for balance. This can sometimes lead to odd effects like a leader of a pure Capitalist civ directly controlling Corporate executives and dictating the professions of its citizens.
It is more about providing bribes (which are "insignificant" by civilization standards) to promote certain industries.
It can be argued that the player (and AI players) do not represent the government, but a 'higher power' guiding their particular Civ - the highest difficulty level is 'Deity', not 'King' (this is made explicit in the SNES version of Civilization I). So if you're running a corporate government, then those libraries and hospitals are presumably being built by corporations. If communist, then the state (and so on).
That breaks down when nobody is willing to make food producing buildings when everybody is starving after President turned all the non-gold producing farms (because what profit is their in buying selling FOOD?) with cottages until the President gives them the order to do so.
There's a reason why letting the automatic workers change farms/cottage/etc as needed is usually the best idea. Monitoring the cities every few turns keeps the few exceptions from causing serious issues. Also, dumping too much in research or arts to gain relevant advantages can bankrupt the player in a hurry if they don't watch it.
Several games in the series have also been observed to assign significant advantages to economic policies that they acknowledge in their own documentation have never actually ended well in real history. Particularly egregious in the case of "planned economies" in Civilization 5.
The economy of the Great Underground Empireas described in the manual is hopeless. There is exactly one bank. There is no mention of trade. Every business in the country is a subsidiary of the mega-conglomerate FrobozzCo. On top of that, the government enacted a 98% tax rate, with the money going to frivolous projects that mainly served to boost the ego of its ruler, King Dimwit the Excessive, such as a statue of the king several hundred feet high. The whole point of this background information (Other than to provide hidden clues to be used as copy protection) was to establish the Flathead dynasty, especially Dimwit and his eleven siblings, as a pack of idiots.
The economy of Victoria 2 is supposed to be pretty realistic, but bugs and simplification make it a bit weird. For example, the factories don't store their manufactured goods anywhere. They just sell whatever they can and dump the rest somewhere. Even when this happens, they don't reduce the output unless they begin to lose money - when they begin to fire workers. Also, people buy their goods on the global market starting from the most prestigious nations. Because of that, it may happen that no worker in Germany can buy firewood, because everything has been used up by poor farmers from British India.
The X-Universe takes the trope Up to Eleven in that the economy doesn't work In-Universe either. Special mention goes to the Terrans in X3: Terran Conflict, who are guaranteed to essentially go bankrupt without a player-owned trade network propping them up.
Done by either the writers or by Peach herself in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. When the eponymous brothers first arrive in the Beanbean Kingdom, they're told (by a fellow who is transparently trying to fleece them) that their 100 Mushroom Kingdom coins are currently worth 10 Beanbean coins and they'll have give him 100 Beanbean coins before he'll let them pass. Later on, Peach gets kidnapped (as she is wont to do) and the MacGuffin she was kidnapped to activate broken into a set of Plot Coupons. Prince Peasley cockily bets the brothers 99,999,999,999,999 Mushroom Coins that he'll find the coupons first. When the brothers inevitably win the bet, he makes good, but the royal advisor checks the exchange rates and reveals that their massive winnings amount to...99 Beanbean Coins, meaning that somehow the Mushroom Kingdom currency's value relative to the Beanbean Kingdom's fell to a trillionth of it's original value. This means one of two things: either A)the Mushroom Kingdom economy collapsed entirely during the day or two that Peach was kidnapped, or B)both economies were in dire straits at the beginning of the game and the value of the Beanbean Coin was artificially reset during the course of the game to prevent the Beanbean economy from crashing. Either way it doesn't speak well of Peach's ability to rule her kingdom even when she's not kidnapped.
That, or Prince Peasley was lying to them to avoid paying up on a lost bet and counting on them not understanding economics.
Or, alternatively, the whole thing was a scam. Looking at the price of items in this game compared to the price of the same items in other games in the series, the exchange rate appears to be nearly 1:1. This points toward both the scam artist AND Peasley lying about it. Otherwise, the whole "exchange rate" is completely arbitrary.
According to the description of the "Something Special for Someone Special" (an engagement ring) in Team Fortress 2, it costs "approximately two months*
salary". It costs $100 in real-world money, which is kind of ridiculous, especially since people actually buy it and then use it to make jokes about how long it's taking Valve to release Half-Life 3, but who in a first-world nation gets paid just $50 a month? On the other hand, you can buy some pretty impressive weapons for $5 and under, so maybe in the Team Fortress 2 universe, currency is just massively deflated. (Ignoring the fact the Heavy once gave a trick-or-treater $7,000 just to make up for making the poor kid cry by being a Boomerang Bigot...) Or maybe it's just an Acceptable Break From Reality because this is actually real-world money we're talking about despite the fact the Something Special's description suggests it applies in-game. Oh, well...
In all fairness, the game is set in "the middle-ish part of a century a lot like the one we just had." Specifically, the year 1968. At the time, minimum wage was approximately $1.60. This brings a month's salary to about $250, which is somewhat more reasonable. Given that Team Fortress 2 exaggerates everything, perhaps it is making a joke about how much money is worth back then.
It could also be a joke about the advised amount of to spend on an engagement ring at one point being about two months of salary.
It's unclear why, in the Myst/Uru franchise, its villains actually bother to horde material wealth, if D'ni Writing can provide free access to any sort of world the Writer can imagine, potentially including Ages stuffed full of gold, jewels, etc. Possibly justified because they are villains, and get an ego boost out of laying claim to things that other cultures consider precious.
Magus: I can totally hook you up with straw turned to gold.
Sirleck: I'm already worth millions, and you'd just be devaluing gold in general if you made more.
Though this itself is actually an example of this trope. While technically, yes, as gold enters the economy the general value of gold declines, you could still make enough gold to be significant, even to an individual like Sirleck, without having any measurable impact on the economy. If it worked the way described above, no one would ever want to find gold mines because acquiring one would just devalue gold to the point where it would not be worth mining.
In Homestuck, Dave alchemises the 'SORD.....', a weapon so shitty it actually generates artifact grist to make it. That's not an example of this trope, as obviously videogame economies don't have to resemble real-world economies in any way. What is an example of this trope exaggerated and played for laughs is the fact that post-scratch Dave apparently managed to do this in real life, creating products that were so crappy that he actually made money making them, and did this enough that he made himself rich.
Kit 'n Kay Boodle features the town of Yiffburg, whose economy is sustained entirely by its single export, a combination aphrodisiac/contraceptive fruit that everyone in town eats on a daily basis and grows in their homes, to the point where the average citizen doesn't need to work to pay for things; instead, they use an ambiguous thumbprint-reading credit system. The fail continues when a lawyer points out that Yiffburg is a textbook example of an arrested economy with no money going into it— except that Yiffburg is essentially the world's only supplier of birth control Viagra berries, which are in extremely high demand to the point of being illegally imported. Every business in the city lets its employees freely have sex while on the clock, even in food service, so it's a wonder anything gets done at all.
The lawyers fail by describing it as "a textbook arrested economy", but the rest of their observations are held up by the comic in universe: their single export makes the city enough money that it can provide everything to its citizens completely free of charge so that they don't have to do anything but fuck all day. The few characters who have steady jobs often make themselves late rendering services because they're constantly having sex or masturbating instead of doing their jobs... and no one minds, because their ultra-communist society ensures that employment is more for personal enrichment than an actual need to work.
The Order of the Stick: Played for Laughs when a pair of potion sellers don't seem to get that by selling nothing but potions at less than the cost to make them, they are going to put themselves out of business. Vaarsuvius tries to explain the problem to them, but after realizing that nothing is getting through, the annoyed elf decides to take advantage of the sale they just announced.
Also unwittingly played on V as V and the RPG system being mocked assumes all manufacturing costs are static on a per unit basis. They fail to take economies of scale, time value of money, purchasing power, and market share into account when manufacturing goods.
These economics of Spellcasting are further mocked in a later stip when an apprentice caster proudly proclaims that she got a really good deal and paid below normal cost for a jar of rubies. Her master then points out that the spell they need to cast specifies the *cost* of the gems needed and not the amount. She therefore needs to go back & pay more before the spell will work.
Which is not entirely accurate. Most of the spell descriptions in-game specify that material components must be worth a certain amount of money, not necessarily purchased for that amount.
And since everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it, the material components are worth whatever you paid for them.
The point being that, rather than tell you a spell needs so-and-so many grams worth of diamonds or whatever, the game simply lists how much you'd have to pay to get the reagents at a fair price. If you stole them, and therefore paid nothing, they would still work just fine. D&D magic may be weird, but it's not that weird.
In Escape From Terra the United World tries to relieve its massive debt by annexing the anarcho-capitalist paradise Ceres. The Cereans initially attempt to turn it on the UW by presenting them a bill for 80 billion "Continentals" based on an estimate of all the social programs they would qualify for and public works projects they could benefit from, and stating that since they use gold as currency most business on Ceres would be "tax-exempt community barter" according to the tax code. The UW responds with warships.
An earlier "Big Head Press" comic, "The Probability Broach" has an alternate America with no taxes and thus a hovercar is worth only three weeks standard earnings and a decent-sized house can be paid off in six months. All because there's no taxes driving prices up. But really the lower wages of the workers who produce the products would cancel out the lower prices.
The Irate Gamer in his I Rate the 80s series shows he has no idea how businesses work. He complained that Kool-Aid no longer sold gimmick flavors, wondering why they stopped, and hoping they bring them back. Not once considering that these flavors didn't sell compared to the more popular flavors.
Linkara and Lee from Still Gaming love pointing out the illogic of "collector's editions" of both comics and collectible cards, respectively. In short, people have a tendency to collect "first edition" or "collector's/limited edition" versions of certain items, believing that the label would automatically translate to "rare" and, thus, appreciate in value over time. This is also known as "Baseball Card Tuition Syndrome", as an infamous example (described by Lee) involved people gathering up baseball cards in the 70's and 80's, believing that they'd be able to pay for their kids' tuition in 20 years with them. The problem is a lack of understanding of supply and demand; most of the more expensive comics and cards out there were made in a day where it wasn't common to print them in the quantities they print them out, nowadays (hundreds of copies instead of hundred thousands), would not have very many copies in good condition still in existence, and are usually the first ever issues of world-famous characters (like Spider-Man or Batman). Sadly, the companies also know this, so deliberately hype up the label of "collector's edition" to get more buyers.
This kind of market eventually backfired with serious consequences. Once people realized they were buying worthless piles of paper, they stopped buying comics and comic companies suddenly had stockpiles of hundreds of thousands of comics they couldn't sell. This led to a huge comic book crash which the industry never fully recovered from.
Another notable thing about why first editions of Action Comics #1 (the first appearance of Superman ever) comic sell for millions is that many of them were destroyed in paper drives in WW 2, which meant on a handful survived in any readable condition at all.
They are paid for consuming goods, presumably. If the system is reversed 100-% then it would work the same way real life works; just having money would mean you are poor and being one billion dollars in debt means that you are very rich.
In another DuckTales episode, young Scrooge creates diamonds by having elephants stampede over coal. (This is also Artistic License - Physics, but if comic-book physics allowed diamonds to be created so easily they would be worthless).
Diamonds already can be created that easily. The reason diamonds are priced so high is due to De Beers monopoly. It's relatively easy to synthesize chemically and physically identical diamonds cheaply.
Synethetic diamonds can be detected under a microscope, and the conspiracy prevents these from being accepted as "real" or even tolerable as a novelty, more in line with "counterfeit" than anything else; as such, synthetic diamonds mostly see use as an industrial abrasive.
The "America The Bankrupt" fallacy is parodied in The Simpsons episode where Lisa becomes president. Not only does it have China (amongst other countries) demanding repayment, but Bart (who's grown up to be a deadbeat-not surprisingly) is able to use his own money-mooching skills to deflect them ("I totally remember mailing a check to you.")
One episode of House of Mouse involves Professor von Drake inventing a special credit card that could "end poverty" by giving everyone in the world an effectively unlimited cash supply. It seems to exist solely so that the villain could steal the only one and... well, use it to do exactly what it was created for. None of the characters question the logic, despite the fact that such an "invention" would render the entire economy obsolete almost immediately.
The Rankin Bass Christmas special Jack Frost has a village that is completely penniless all year except for the winter, because they take the icicles and carve them into coins and thrive that season. This is... to say the least, not at all how anything works ever.
The Manga Magi not only averts this - it's also made a cause in one of the Arc! The King of Balbadd adopted the Kou Empire's Currency system, which used paper money as opposed to their coin one, without having the market prepped for the introduction of this new currency - Resulting in inflation rates that not only left a majority of the citizens destitute, but also fuels animosity towards the royal family and higher class (who ended up benefiting from this) to the point that the bad guys are able to incite a violent revolution against them.
And what's worse - the King and the other nobles became so addicted to the currency and the lavish lifestyle that came with it that the King agreed to marry the Empire's Princess and was willing to sign a contract that used the citizens as collateral via slavery, just to get more money!
Crocodile's plan from One Piece is a more well-thought out version of the H.A.W.X Example. He plans to use his mercenary organization, Baroque Works, to stage a coup on the country of Alabasta. However, this is only the first part of his plan, the second part was to use the revolution as a cover to sneak into the palace and find the blueprints for the superweapon Pluton.
Not as well-thought out, however, is the Arlong Pirates' money-making scheme. They take over Nami's home island, by and large cutting it off from the rest of the world, and demand a monthly tax from its residents in order for them to keep their lives. On their first sweep of Nami's village alone, they get roughly 25 million berries, which would indicate that, during the eight years leading up to the story's present, that one little village paid over two billion berries, an incredibly staggering sum. Given that the island is a small backwater fishing and farming community instead of a bustling port, one has to wonder where on earth that one little village procured all that money from, to say nothing of the other villages spread across the island.
Part of the problem with that is that the relative value of Berries to any real world currency. 25 million from a village would not be so strange on Yen values, but would likely be insane on something like the dollar or the pound sterling. Given that monetary values in the series are often only portrayed for very-high-value things like Bounties, Aristocrat slave auctions, or the sale of large amounts of treasure, the basics of the One Piece economy are in general hard to derive.
Spice And Wolf not only averts this trope, but it's based entirely on Economics, so it would be a disaster if this trope was played straight
The comedic Elseworlds book Superman: True Brit: Superman tries to solve the UK's debt by turning all the coal in the British Isles into diamonds. Later at a press conference, a Lord tells Superman that because of "basic economic theory", diamonds are now worth less than coal. Not only does this make Superman's stunt useless, but thousands of coal miners have now lost their jobs and there is no coal for people to heat their houses with. Superman (a bit of a Ditz in this universe) then suggests going into outer space and bring back gold from other planets to give to each family, causing the Lord to shout "You just don't get it, do you Superman?"
Even worse for Superman personally, as the Lord points out, income tax is assessed on the original value of the diamonds and since they're now worthless, he's hopelessly in debt to the British government. A revenue service being this obtuse in real life is Truth in Television. In real life he could probably write off the depreciation and charitable contributions to get him out of the hole.
The DystopiaBrave New World. Useless, overly complicated stuff (squee! complicated sports involving autogyros!) is made by unnecessary amounts of manual labor not to stimulate the economy, but simply to keep the people busy enough with full-time jobs. It was possible to have a well-running economy with four-hours-a-day jobs, but an experiment with Ireland showed that having too much free time had bad results, the population getting bored and excessively using the government drug of soma.
However the book screws up in assuming that there is infinite amount of raw resources on Earth to be able to support such an inefficient economic system. The author tried to handwave all this away, claiming the human population is kept artificially low and recycling technology has advanced to unprecedented sophistication.
Also, at one point one of the characters asks why they don't structure society with smaller lower classes. The response? "But then who would do all this work we need done?"
In another experiment, the world government set up an island entirely of "Alphas" (the highest class) which caused strife when they attempted to order each other around. So they feel it's socially necessary to have inferiors.
One Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei episode has an in-universe example/parody, which also counts for Logical Fallacies. First, the Prime Minister is inspired to give everyone one of Komori's blankets, so they feel optimistic and will spend stimulus money, and this is shown as working well and helping Japan's economy. However, someone points out that Nozomu has no financial worries because he's a civil servant, and so the P.M. gets the idea that since civil servants are economically secure, it would be great to make everyone a civil servant. This completely crashes the economy.
In an episode of Disney's Aladdin Iago is granted (semi-)Phenomenal (nearly)Cosmic powers for the day, with a few provisos... a few quid-pro-quos... After he distributes conjured gemstones freely to the public, the people of Agrabah all practically worship him, until they realize it takes bushels of rubies just to buy bread.
House of Mouse: an episode had Ludwig von Drake invent a machine that could multiply any money you put into it... and had him promptly arrested for counterfeiting.
Huey, Dewey, and Louie find a machine that lets them duplicate dollar coins en masse. Inflation promptly kicks in and loaves of bread cost $200 before they find the reverse switch. This episode was loosely based on Carl Barks' A Financial Fable and The Fabulous Philosophers Stone which are also notable aversions.
A fun one *
based on Barks' story "Tralla La"
involved a civilization which operated entirely on the honor system being intoxicated and then inundated with bottle caps. First they were rare, and everybody wanted one. Then they were common and used as currency, then inflated because Launchpad was air-dropping planeloads in order to break the rarity. The value of the caps fell so quickly, that they were arrested for throwing dump. They eventually got rid of all the bottle caps just to put a stop to the madness.
In one episode Huey, Dewey, and Louie wanted a fancy scooter thing, but were not going to get allowance until Saturday, and the price of the Scooter was going to rise on Saturday so they wouldn't be able to buy it. So they convinced Scrooge it was Saturday. Being the important businessman he is, passing on this notion "it is Saturday" to other powerful people of the world, this small date confusion spread worldwide and brought the entire world's economy to a grinding halt.
In a Don RosaScrooge McDuck story, The Quest for Kalevala, Scrooge briefly gets his hand on the Sampo, a mythic handmill that can produce infinite amounts of gold. Normally business-savvy Scrooge gets struck by a severe case of gold fever, and starts rolling out tons of gold. In a boat. In the middle of a storming sea. The economic implications were left unstudied, since immediate survival quickly becomes a more important matter. Knowing Scrooge — he probably wanted more gold just to swim in.
An Italian Scrooge McDuck comic has him trying to hunt down a second-rate philosopher's stone - it can turn any metal into silver - because he owns a majority of the world's silver mines, and its existence would make silver worth much less (presumably, anyone who gets the stone can duplicate it). The Beagle Boys, on the other hand, are merely thrilled at the idea of making silver out of common junk and getting rich selling it, and try to steal it from him.
Yet another Duck story. Donald gets into the world of numismatics after he discovers how precious rare coins can be, and cons Scrooge into exchanging modern money for old (from the depths of his hoard) to subsequently sell the old pieces for a profit. Scrooge gets wind of it, and cons Donald back by selling him a whole bag of old coins... only that the collector, whom Donald sold his coins, won't buy them anymore as the market is already saturated.
A Paul Murry-drawn Mickey Mouse comic has a villain that has discovered a literal mountain made of diamond. This makes him incredibly rich, as long as no one else knows it exists, since he can control the amount he sells. Hence, his villainousness consists of seeing to it that no one who has seen his property ever gets away alive. Disturbingly, this sort of artificial scarcity is Truth in Television for how the diamond industry actually works (and it was worse under the infamous DeBeers monopoly).
The webcomic Nodwick averts this when the party meets up with a kobold accountant, who gets them to spare his life in exchange for advice on how to make the most of their treasure. He introduces them to the idea of inflation, for a start, and suggests they pay more attention to gathering treasures other than gold coins. Later, after they've slain a dragon, they were subsequently asked to "STOP DESTABILISING OUR ECONOMY!"
The first Night Watch book explains why that series averts this. It is said that transmutation is relatively simple magic, which could allow the Others (and specifically the Watches) to manufacture money (or any other resource). It is said that most non-Watch Others would be severely limited in the degree to which they could do this, whereas the Watches themselves assign minor Others to the task of managing their business holdings to fund themselves. It's explained that they do this because they don't want to ruin the local economies (which, considering that the books are set in Russia, are bad enough as they are).
The useless B-Ark people who crash on prehistoric Earth in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe try to set up an economy using leaves as a currency, but there's so many leaves about that they're instantly devalued. Solution: burn the forests. Dumb, but it would work.
A similar problem to Brave New World arises, though such a model requires infinite resources, unless incredibly efficient recycling methods have been developed. The book handwaves this by saying that even the leaders behind the scheme realize eventually their standard of living will get worse over time as well— they don't mind as long as they are sufficiently ahead of the proletarians.
There's also speculation - both in-universe and in the real world - that the "eternal war" was actually just part of the all-encompassing governmental propaganda. In fact it was the first step: convince everyone in your empire that the entire world is caught up in a massive global stalemate, so that in a patriotic frenzy they'll slowly start to accept more and more hardships, and in paranoia over the "unconquerable enemy" they'll accept more and more invasions of security. The massive amounts of war supplies produced aren't explicitly accounted for; they may be recycled, they may be sold off to other nations, or they may in fact be funneled into a completely unwinnable military situation and the entirety of civilization is teetering on the edge of collapse.
Or it could be like with North Korea (as Christopher Hitchens noted, "You almost get the feeling that Kim Il-sung was handed a copy of 1984 in Korean that year  and asked, 'Do you think we could make this work?' And he thought, 'Well I don't know, but we can sure give it the old college try.'") and there forever is a cold war. North Korea only claims this-the truth is they just don't have the means to feed their population, but then again half the point of 1984 is that the system destorts the truth so they don't know that part.
An apparently similar scenario appears in the segment of Katsuhiro Otomo's Memories entitled Cannon Fodder, which depicts a day in the life of a city devoted entirely to firing countless cannons at the unseen, possibly fictional "Moving Cities" of an unknown enemy, with the populace kept in line by an authoritarian government utilizing ubiquitous propaganda.
There's at least one real Moving City, the one protagonists live in, and we are shown only a small portion of its works. It is entirely possible for the City to have a functional, if really imbalanced, "garrison economy", the point of the episode was more about the futility of war in general.
Similar to the Nodwick example, in Tales of MU "Delvers" (adventurers) have one of the highest tax-liabilities in the Imperium, but delving gear is tax-deductible. This encourages delvers to keep most of their wealth in the form of high-end magic items rather than simply flooding the economy with excess gold.
Beyond This Horizon is set in a society where everyone is given the basics for free. However, they still had money and the economics made sense in Context. Though to be fair that's pretty easy: just give out really crappy basics, kinda like issuing everyone on a dole an orange jumpsuit and feeding them on prison loaf.
Another of his novels For Us, The Living, has an extended (multi-chapter) digression in which the main characters play a game modeling the economy of the time the book was written (mid-to-late 1930s), before using the same game as a general case that they can modify to reach the "ideal" that the USA of the book's setting used, based on the economic theory of Social Credit.
In Pumpkin Scissors, we see the sad state of The Empire after the war they've had, in which there was barely any post-war relief efforts done until the formation of Section 3, and their jobs are difficult (one of the characters even find that his superiors were intentionally keeping the cost of commodities up by purchasing them from a province where it is more expensive, and the main character suffers something of a Heroic BSOD when the difference between her own lifestyle and those of the people she helps is brought to her attention). Let's not even get to all the effort and resources they've put into the Invisible 9, and you could infer them to having a "Destruction Equals Employment" policy going on by the amount of resources the military gets.
The show's main message seems to be that Aristocrats Are Evil (Alice herself notwithstanding), and the Empire's economic hardships were largely an illustration to that thesis.
The Discworld novel Making Money does a reasonable job (for a comedic fantasy) of dealing with the transition from coinage to paper currency, and issues like market liquidity, convertibility, and cost of acceptance. In the first book, the Patrician tries to explain to Rincewind why Twoflower spreading gold all over Ankh-Morpork is not the Good Thing everyone else believes. Rincewind doesn't really get it. (It indirectly leads to the entire city being burned to the ground, but he was talking about runaway inflation.) He also hints that it would destabilize political relations between Ankh-Morpork and the Agatean Empire.
The fire wasn't caused by the gold spending, but by Twoflower enlightening a bar owner about the concept of insurance policies, and the latter coming to the inevitable conclusion.
To explain the above two statements - not knowing how valuable gold was in Ankh-Morpork, Twoflower insured a pub for the price of half the city.
He also forgot to mention to the bar owner that insurance generally doesn't cover intentional arson.
The "Elmo Saves Christmas" special of Sesame Street, when Elmo wishes for every day to be Christmas. After the first few days of this, nearly everyone's parents are broke and the presents are valueless because he has so many of them. After a year, everyone is permanently out of work, Christmas trees are an endangered species, and Santa is forced to retire. As a way of explaining the Law of Diminishing Utility to pre-schoolers, it ain't half-bad.
In Matthew Reilly's Temple, the Big Bad threatens to destroy the Earth unless he is paid $100 billion, which he then plans to dump on the market at absurdly low prices, destroying the world economy.
In Metalocalypse, Nathan takes over Florida and immediately drives the country into the ground by rationalizing that the best way to solve poor people's problems is to print more money. Needless to say, Florida money is made quite worthless. Nathan went on to destroy the state with a hurricane, though, so nature balanced it out.
The Fairly Oddparents: Fairies cannot grant wishes for money because it would necessitate either stealing or counterfeiting, and they are not allowed to grant wishes that break the law.
Played with in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle; Reese is advising Malcolm via earpiece on how to talk to a girl he likes, and has him state that he wishes the government would turn 1 dollar bills into 100 dollar bills so that nobody would be poor. Malcolm rolls his eyes at the idea, but says it anyway. Fortunately for him, the girl is as much an idiot as Reese, and takes the idea as a profound statement of social conscience.
"Murder Most Fowl," a short story by Deborah Militello printed in Dragon Magazine, subverts the Money for Nothing type to hilarious effect. It's set in a world where Jack (he of the Beanstalk fame), has become lord of the realm on the strength of his gold-egg-laying goose. At the beginning of the story, the goose is found strangled, and a hapless courtier is set to finding out who had committed the seemingly senseless crime of destroying the source of the national wealth... only to learn that, in fact, the endless supply of cheap gold was wrecking local industry, undermining the basis of the feudal economy, and threatening to plunge the country into war. Meaning that EVERYONE from King Jack on down had an excellent motive. And then it turns out that the culprit was the one person who had no motive: the castle cook, while drunk, had mistaken it for another goose and wrung its neck with intent to roast.
The somewhat obscure submarine adventure simulation SubCulture has a quite well-rounded economy. You can gather several raw materials (like, metal, thorium, or nicotine) in the ocean and sell them at the various cities; or buy wares from one city, sell it for a profit to another. Buying raises prices, selling lowers them.
Isn't it strange that during every dragon hunt, some or other sorcerer strongly associated with the jewelers' guild always hangs around. For example, you. And later, when one would think gems must flood the market, they for some reason don't go there, and prices don't fall.
The villains in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged run an odd combination of 'Digging and Filling Ditches' and 'Exporting Good Importing Bad' (with a bit of 'Destruction Equals Employment' in the form of a Death Ray project). Eventually it culminates in Directive 10-289, which proponents claim will solve the crisis by requiring people to buy and sell exactly as they did the year before. This is meant to be a nonworkable system, though; the book is an Author Tract about the evils of controlled economies.
And critics are quick to point out that the protagonists' "fuck you, got mine" system only works because they have a perpetual motion machine, and cloaking device to hide Galt's Gulch from outsiders. Not exactly the mark of real-world applicability.
In a chapter of one spinoff manga of Tenchi Muyo!, the group tried solving a Broke Episode by having Princess Ayeka ask her father for some money, and he immediately gives them a massive shipful of gold. They either send back or just sit on most of it rather than living like kings, noting that he had given them enough to destabilize the Earth's economy. In contrast, in the original OVA they didn't really suffer from money problems to begin with.
Averted to a large extent in The Belgariad series, especially considering military logistics and Silk's business exploits. Possibly reaching Crowning Moment of Awesome status in the prequels, when Polgara enumerates (and demonstrates) how turning unpaid Arendish serfs into paid laborers would ultimately result in not just a healthier economy, but more tax revenue.
In the movie Trading Places, the main characters perform an elaborate scheme in the commodities market to get rich quick and bankrupt their opponents which is legal within the boundaries of the market during the time the film is set. Though in a case of Economics Marches On, Congress would pass a law dubbed "The Eddie Murphy Rule" made to prevent using misappropriated government information as in the movie.
In Baccano's "Children of the Bottle", Elmer cites his reason for getting into alchemy was to learn how to turn metals into gold and distribute it so he could end poverty... and the reason he gave up alchemy being that he realized that the economy simply does not work that way.
The vintage computer game M.U.L.E. is all about teaching basic economic theory.
As is the board game Container.
Hilari Bell's A Matter of Profit is chock full of subversions of this trope. It blatantly takes a realistic look at the nature of money and trade itself and how it can bring cultures together peacefully (you don't want to fight the people you depend on to buy your product).
The movie Harrowhouse 11 focuses on a complex plot to rob a stockpile of diamonds from a company that has a near-monopoly over the trade, and is withholding the diamonds to keep the market price up. At the end of the movie after a successful heist, the protagonist is fully aware that if they put everything they stole into circulation, it would cause the value of diamonds to plummet. He ends up burying most of the diamonds in concrete, and keeping only a fraction.
This was probably a reference to the De Beers diamond monopoly, which has at different times flooded the market to bring down diamond prices and ruin its competition, or alternately withheld supply to drive prices up.
Kazaam does at least twig to this. In one scene, the Big Bad announces that the first thing he intends to wish for from the genie is "all the money in the world". The Kid with the Leash, panicking and trying to stall, points out that this wouldn't work, the economy would crash and all because no one else would have any money. "So I'll wish for all the money...then give some of it back."
In the early novels in the Honor Harrington Series, the People's Republic of Haven has an economic model where anyone who wants to can live somewhat tolerably on welfare for their entire adult life. As a result of this having been practiced for generations, the vast majority of their citizens didn't see any point in working, so the employment rate was somewhere around 10%, at most. This resulted in low productivity, which meant that the government had a small tax base, which resulted in their slowly going bankrupt. The only thing they could think of to prop up their budget was to conquer their neighbors and loot their economies, something that only provided a short-term relief, as they introduced their flawed systems to their conquered planets, resulting in millions of more unproductive Dolists (people who spend their entire lives on the dole) draining away their budget.
Of course the leaders knew that their system has failed, but they couldn't see a way to solve the problem, as the only places they could cut the budget enough to make a difference were the BLS (Basic Living Stipend, the permanent welfare program), which would cause the Dolists to revolt, or the Navy, which would result in attacks from neighboring planets that were at the top of the 'to be conquered' list and revolts on recently conquered planets. The one nice thing you can say about the people who murdered the Legislaturists and took over was that while they may have been just as monstrous in their own ways, they did manage to fix their country's economy - by finding a propaganda spin that made the Dolists volunteer to actually work, by going to war with Manticore. This also, incidentally, led to they themselves being overthrown in the end and the original Haven Constitution being restored.
The reason why the Legislaturalists' Government feared the Dolists' revolt was that they were kinda squeamish about the means they'd have to employ should it break out. When the much more ruthless Committee of Public Safety introduced their wartime measures (which included the sharp BLS cut) revolt did promptly break out, and was mercilessly put down by orbital bombardment (earning one of the characters the in-universe nickname of "Citizen Admiral Clusterbomb"). There was actually very little actual volunteering, the government forced everyone to start working, as the new BLS was essentially a starvation budget, and they already had conscription for the military. The whole thing was David Weber's cautionary tale about the danger of a welfare system run rampant.
Sid Meier's Colonization has a strong economic element. Colonies earn a profit by selling goods back to the mother country. Specialist citizens can increase the value of raw goods by turning them into finished products, like turning tobacco into cigars. But if all the colony sends back is cigars, the cigars will drop in value while other products like rum maintain a high price. Eventually, the rising tax rate robs all products of their value. Two products get special treatment: silver fetches a high price in the early game, but its value later drops and never recovers; while purchasing guns becomes prohibitively expensive as the European power stockpiles them in preparation of fighting the colony in a War of Independence. There is, however, one important Real Life economic element that the game completely (if understandably) ignores: slavery.
The Council running the Iron Hills in the Corean Chronicles was made of trading factors who ran their government to suit their own business interests. They kept tariffs low to cut costs to themselves, then didn't have enough money to fund their military. When a war broke out, they had to raise tariffs and get war loans to pay to increase their militia to a size that might have enabled them to avoid the war in the first place, and the moment the war ended, they immediately cut tariffs again to restore their profits, forgetting that the government now had more expenses (Paying off the war loans). These decisions based on short term personal financial gain bankrupted their country, which cost them their independence, demonstrating a failure to understand both economics and politics in one go. As a bonus, they were also completely incapable of realizing that just because a product is expensive, it doesn't necessarily mean that the person who makes it is rich. Thus they put high taxes on goods that were expensive to buy because they were expensive to make, thus putting many of the producers of one of their key exports out of business.
In Tropico, there is an edict where you can print money if you're in too much debt, but the prices of building everything goes up.
The player must deal with some realistic economic situations that existed for many real islands, such as embargoes, and massive taxation on traded goods. The player is forced to find other ways to make money in these scenarios.
Averted AND played straight in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. In an early chapter with Harry in Gringotts, he notes how the Muggle and Wizardry economies must completely be detached from each other because of the ability to bring in one's own gold/silver/bronze, and then being able to convert between Galleons, Snickles, and Knuts. Using a conversion scheme by buying any of these three metals while it is low, and then converting it into a higher priced metal which he could sell, would allow Harry to utterly break the wizard economy (and become VERY wealthy) "in a week."
Which happened in Real Life in Japan shortly after the end of the Senkoku era. Since the value ratio between silver and gold was roughly 5:1 in Japan and 15:1 everywhere else, currency speculators went to Japan with five pounds of silver, bought one pound of gold with it, and then went home and bought fifteen pounds of silver with the gold, netting a 300% profit less traveling expenses. It nearly destroyed Japan's economy before the government forcibly changed their exchange ratio to match everyone else's.
The Salvation War makes mentions the economy of the Earth and the USA during the war. Or, as one character says, "What economy Sir? We don’t have one any more, we've got a train wreck instead." The books show just how bad such a total focus on militarization is for the world economy, and the mess that is left in it's wake.
And then you consider the fact that Earth had just conquered Heaven - where the capital city has gold and jewels apparently collected from a hundred planets or so.
Averted in the ''Web of Spider-Man'' episode titled "Gold Rush!" in which the Beyonder innocently turns a whole building into gold in the middle of the night; the U.S. government however decides to keep it a secret and pay the Kingpin to forever keep the gold out of reach (i.e. secretly throw it into the ocean's depth) since its discovery by the public would destroy the world's economy. Doesn't stop Spidey from swiping one item, a gold notepad, though; he just uses it to help pay off Aunt May's home to prevent it from being repossessed.
Extra points for also averting failing physics since the comic shows how the building collapsed moments after being turned into gold because the inner structure couldn't support the weight of its heavier new material.
Similarly, an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had the turtles visiting the home world of an alien race of sentient turtles who planned to move to Earth to escape a monster menacing them. One of the reasons the Turtles seek to prevent them from doing this (by dealing with the monster themselves) is the fact that the alien turtles can manufacture gold and use it as construction materials, thus if they moved to Earth, the global economy would be ruined.
While Fridge Logic dictates that the economy of the Pokémon universe should have collapsed a long time ago, they did avert this on one occasion. The Magikarp salesman sells the useless pokemon at high prices. He does this by convincing smart customers that the Magikarp will make them rich by having the Magikarp have children, and then the next generation will have more children, and soon one will have an infinite amount of Magikarp and an infinite amount of money. However, it is made very clear that the only one making any money off this scheme is the Magikarp salesman.
Da Orks of the Warhammer 40000 universe actually use their teeth as money. Disgusting, but they do make for an inflation proof currency. They keep growing back their teeth like sharks, and the teeth do degrade with time, so it is impossible to hoard the stuff, forcing Da Orks to constantly be spending it.
They also have a barter economy in weaponry and "shiny fingz", which can be traded for each other. Not to mention perpetual war to keep consumption high.
The creator of Exalted was a passionate economics student, and so rigorously and realistically defined how the economics of Creation worked, even accounting for the presence of supernatural elements (most banking is based on the salt rate, which is determined by the value of sacrifices that need to be made to salt gods for them to tolerate their salt being mined).
Most business sims, such as Rail Road Tycoon and the like, have at least some grounding in real world economics, since it is what the entire game is about.
According to some throwaway comments in Roommates the wish and favor based "economy" of the magical people (at least partially) owes its existence to the older ones realizing that messing with the mortal monetary systems is more trouble than it's worth (like giving away large quantities of gold/money can cause inflation, and exchange rates are a pain).
Fullmetal Alchemist does allude to one of the common problems with working alchemy: it is stated at one point that alchemists are forbidden to mass-produce gold. The reason being, of course, that this would cause the economy to collapse. Presumably this taboo extends to other forms of precious matter, for the same reason.
In the most recent film adaptation of Animal Farm, Napoleon spends all the farm's income on luxuries for the pigs instead of necessities for the farm. Between this and his policies alienating a sizable portion of the other animals into fleeing the farm, the farm quickly falls into ruin.
The Singularity has arrived! Technology has advanced to the point that practically anyone can have practically anything for practically nothing. Often involves Nanomachines. In other words, A Wizard Did It - with SCIENCE! Put more charitably, complete automation via advanced AI (etc.).
Bonus points for those cases that deal with the fact that some things are still scarce because of their very nature. The ability to effectively infinitely replicate any commodity does not mean everyone can have a house just like Fallingwater, the front row seat to a particular concert, or the authentic, original Honus Wagner tobacco card.
Gianni Rodari's story Planet of Christmas Trees features a planet on which all work is done by robots and machines and everyone has access to any resources the want, to the point where entire castles are built just to be smashed by people who need to work off some frustration. Also It's Always Spring, every day is Christmas, and the government has grown unnecessary.
The Midas Plague features an unusual situation where there is too much production. People are expected to work less and consume more; and the ratio of possessions to social standing is completely inverted. For some reason, probably comedy, the thought of simply reducing production is considered unworkable.
Robert Anton Wilson's Schroedinger's Cat trilogy studies a number of Alternate Universes, including a Utopian one, where a manual laborer who invents a way to automatize his work will get a high standard of living for lifetime, and everybody else in the same business gets a comfortable one, as machines multiply the production rates, allowing a part of the surplus to be used this way, since capitalism requires consumers in order to function. The system has its problems to a careful reader - one would imagine that people would cry foul when major parts of the formerly working class populace get free lunch without doing anything, while others continue to toil at least until someone in their ranks manages to mechanize that particular industry, as well. Still, the people who have jobs that can't be automatized are depicted as the lucky ones, since permanent vacation isn't all that it's cut out to be, and as a result adult education flourishes.
John Ringo's Council Wars series applies before the war. Society and Technology have made it so that everyone gets a ration of power each day, more than enough to provide for a comfortable lifestyle. There is a small scale economy in the background, with some luxury goods produced and traded, but it's hardly essential to the setting. This lasts perhaps 100 pages into the book, before things go straight to hell.
The Eldar in Warhammer 40000 used to have an economy like this. Their technology had advanced to the point where all work could be done by machines and everything necessary could be easily produced, eliminating scarcity and the need for labor. It didn't end well, as their society eventually slipped into decadence and resulted in the creation of the Chaos God of Squick, annihilating the majority of the Eldar in the process.
Which is either something of a Broken Aesop (if you do away with the need for hard work, your civilization will be annihilated by the personification of self-indulgence) or highlighting exactly how unfair the WH40K universe is.
Not even necessarily a Broken Aesop, since some economists think that's a very real danger in such a society (related to why communist systems collapse when what workers put in has no connection to what they get back). For a modern comparison, look how quickly people start copying movies, music and games when the internet makes it as easy as buying them.
People who live in the civilized empires of Orion's Arm can easily go their entire lives without ever having to work, Archailects can provide anything they need and much of what they want for free. The most common professions are those concerned with raising the next generation, either through parenting or by altering non-sentient species so that they become intelligent enough to join galactic society.
The NoCoZo is the biggest exception, being dominated by a number of Mega Corp.
Cory Doctorow's Bitchun Society has eliminated scarcity (by way of free energy and universal assemblers) and death (by way of brain uploading and cloning). Exchanges of the remaining scarce goods (those that require human labor, especially human creativity) are mediated by "Whuffie", which is a digitally-compiled estimate of your reputation in the eyes of the whole world.
Charles Stross enjoys working with post-scarcity societies; Accelerando chronicles the creation of one straight through the singularity. Protagonist Manfred Macx is one of the first people on Earth to realize that in such a world the best way to get truly rich is to help other people achieve great goals and become rich. In Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise the most valuable resource in the universe are the entangled quantum dots that enable faster-than-light communication and which have to be transported slower than light. After that the most valuable things are information and creativity.
There are particularly odd things such as the market for reputation in Accelerando... exactly what a valuable reputation is was not defined in the novel, nor what one might do with it.
Accellerando also mentions "Economics 2.0", the foundation of the society of the post-scarcity transhuman intelligences formed by modified uploaded humans and AI. It apparently isn't possible to understand nor engage in Economics 2.0 without your conscious mind being altered to the point where you are quite clearly no longer human, which also handily avoids the need for the author to explain what such godlike beings might trade in, or why.
Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising takes place in a world where Nano Machines can create anything from dirt, and created a post-scarcity world where money is no longer used. The villains consist of The Remnant of the old guard, seeking to tear down this system and reinstate scarcity so they can reclaim their old power and influence.
Strugatsky Brothers' Noon Universe is a classical post-scarcity society, which, ironically, was explicitly called communism — and that gave them all kinds of trouble with the authorities, as their take on what communism should look like (in short — like anarcho-syndicalist technocracy) didn't fit well into the official party line, even if such portrayals were actually common with most Soviet Sci-Fi, they just fleshed it out a bit more than others.
In Stanislaw Lem's Observation on the Spot one of the countries Ijon Tichy visits on Entia is Lusania — a thorough deconstruction of post-scarcity utopia, where everything is done by nanomachines and people cannot hurt each other, but because of that hardly anything has any real value anymore. Many Lusanians long for the "simpler life" others have.
In Eclipse Phase habitats operating under a "New" economy don't use money, instead most items are produced by public nanofabricators that are supplied with raw materials by robot miners, and everyone who contributes a few hours of "community service" each week is allotted enough resources to feed six people each day. Anything that can't be nanofabbed or requires more resources than a person is allotted (services, implants, spaceships, earth relics...) are either bartered for or obtained as favors from one's social network, which assign "rep" scores to people based on their actions. The Titanian Commonwealth has a variant where the government quantifies people's economic output as "kroners" that are invested in microcorps which do anything that nanofabs can't and give their employees rep.
There are also habitats with "Old" economies that ban nanofabricators and "Transitional" economies that have money and public nanofabricators which can only be used to produce goods without electronics or rare elements.