Could somebody wise in the ways of hobbitses explain to me how hobbit economy works. I have become quite perturbed by it. Admittedly my perturbation has been prompted by playing Lego Lord of the Rings, which does differ from the books in several small details. (1) However, the books (admittedly a fairly dim memory a them) also feed my perturbation.
At the start of The Hobbit, Bilbo is a well-to-do hobbit, presumably living on inherited wealth, since he never seems to do anything that would earn him money. (Although I suppose it's possible that he's living on the royalties of the novelty song that he wrote in his youth?) Where does he keep his money? Where does he spend his money? There are pubs, but I can't remember any shops. He has luxury consumer items like silver spoons. Silver spoons don't grow on trees, nor are they created by rural cottage industry by simple rustics who then trade them with their neighbours for marrows. They need mining and crafting, which implies shipping and trading and selling. Wagons full of dwarf-produced products arrive for his party, but this is remarked upon as marvellous. How do hobbits that aren't Bilbo get their silver spoons and their saucepans and their umbrellas? Where are the travelling salesmen and catalogue distributors and peddlers? Why don't Frodo and Sam wade through endless streams of such people on the road? (2)
And who maintains the bucolic rural utopia that they live in? Bucolic rural utopias don't come for free, like clouds or daisies or foxes. Hedges and fields and rolling green hillsides are not the natural state of things. (3) They are the result of a lot of people working very hard for a very long time. I grew up in an area famous for its bucolic rural utopianess (4), and look back a few hundred years, and virtually everybody would be out there in the fields agriculturally labouring away (or fighting soldiers for the rights to engage in illegal tobacco growing, but that's another story.) Yet in the Shire, although we have Farmer Maggot, we see precious little sign of anyone being an agricultural labourer.
So how does it all work, oh ye who are wise in the ways of hobbitses?Footnotes
(which I initially wrote as "Footnoses")( 1 )( 2 )( 3 )( 4 )