So what is the Boots Theory?

With my change of Twitter handle a few people have asked about the name, “Boots Theory”. So it’s as good a time as any to re-post one of my favourite Terry Pratchett quotes, from Men at Arms.

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

4 Replies to “So what is the Boots Theory?”

  1. Personally, I don’t think Vimes was that far off. Take efficient lighting for example. An efficient light bulb costs so much that the poor can’t afford to buy them and so they’re stuck with buying the cheap incandescent light bulbs resulting in them paying more in power.

    This is where regulation can save a lot and not just in money but in resources. Regulating inefficient light bulbs off of the market would have brought down the price of efficient light bulbs as economies of scale kicked in and the decrease in demand of electricity would have, according to the economic theory that we labour under, resulted in a decrease in power prices. Of course, National always did plan to sell off the power generators and they wouldn’t want to do anything that would impact their profits.

    These sorts of things apply across the board. More expensive housing with better insulation cost less to run as well and so would end up saving people money. IIRC, National also whinged about double glazing becoming a minimum standard for housing as well complaining that it would cost too much for poor people.

    National always seems to come down on the side of cheaper solutions for poor people that help to maintain the profits of the few.

What do you reckon?

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