The HBO television show Game of Thrones, based on the books by George R. R. Martin, has begun its fifth season. Martin wrote the books in part based on the concern that J. R. R. Tolkien had focused on the war against evil and had neglected the difficulties of governing. Martin’s books focus on the latter.
I know my Game of Thrones mainly from the television show rather than the books (although I have read the first book). So it is always possible that my thoughts here might turn out to be inconsistent with later developments in the books.
(Spoiler alert: the following post assumes that you have finished the fourth season of Game of Thrones. If you have, it is safe to read.)
My view is that Martin believes that desirable governance is something of a golden mean between two extremes. On the one hand, there is the philosophy of governance of the Starks – Ned and his eldest son, Robb. Both of these leaders are admirable men in a way – they are mainly honorable and seek to follow moral norms. Yet disaster befalls both of them. Ned is killed largely because he does not act strategically or decisively, warning the Queen and allowing her to act against him. As a result, his family is devastated.