The new HBO series Deadwood is the richest source of economics and management insights that the legacy media have ever produced. It also won two Emmys and has been renewed for a second season. No word when that will be or whether the first season will be out on DVD.
BTW: no intention to offend anyone ... the show repeatedly uses the words whores and pussy, so I will too where it follows the show.
Here's what I got out of the second episode, which originally aired last spring and in repeats this past summer.
The episode begins with Farnum, the hotelier, taking Driscoll's body to Wu, the Chinese butcher. Wu feeds bodies in need of quick and quiet disposal to his pigs. Several episodes later we find out that Swearengen protects Wu's opium trade. In this episode, we find out later that Swearengen buys the allegiance of petty criminals with opium.
The other two highwayman that murdered the Swede's come to Swearengen. He is upset that they did the job without his permission. They claim it was a random meeting, and offer Swearengen his cut.
Bullock and Star want to buy their lot rather than rent it. They find out that a barber paid $600 for the adjacent lot ten days before. They offer $750, which Swearengen counters with $1000. He is concerned that they will open as a hardware store, then turn it into a saloon, and use their friend Wild Bill Hickock as a draw (Hickock has just met Bullock while enforcing frontier justice on a highwayman, but Swearengen is sure there is a deeper relationship). Star denies any such plans, to which Swearengen remarks that "In a camp like this, Sol, there's no law or enforceable contract." He then counters again with an offer of $500 now, and half of their net until October (about 3 months). Bullock says he will settle for $1000 and his word that there will be no saloon. Swearengen declines.
Bullock is too hot to deal with Swearengen, so he names Star as his proxy.
Bullock is too hot to deal with Swearengen, so the latter sends a whore to divert his attention while he deals with Star.
Valuing a Derivative
Garrett quickly concludes that the claim Nine Above Discovery is useless. He goes back to Farnum in the hopes that he will buy it, but Farnum refuses. Garrett smells a rat. He speculates about hiring Wild Bill Hickock to defend his interests for a fee plus a percentage.
Opportunity Costs of Lives
The doctor and Calamity Jane take in the orphan of the Swede's. She cannot overcome her fear to speak. One of the highwaymen remarks that he can't be sure the girl can't identify him, and the value of her life drops sharply. Swearengen goes to see the girl himself, and pinches her to consciousness, dropping the value of her life even further.
Swearengen also sets up the two highwaymen to kill Wild Bill Hickock. Hickock's life was of little value to Swearengen, and it is worth even less if the gets into business with Star and Bullock. But, the highwaymen fail, and one is killed.
Swearengen is now left with one girl who can finger the highwayman who can finger him, or one highwayman who can finger him anyway. This puts the value of the highwayman's life lower than that of the girl, and Swearengen kills him.
See my earlier posts about Deadwood.