Friday 4 September 2020

Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness

I happen to be a big fan of Terry Pratchett and a quote of his has been doing the rounds that truly resonates with me:

“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.”

 Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms:

Since becoming a single mum 11 years ago I have come to discover how true this theory is! Being poor is so expensive:
  • if you have a car it's old so costs more to maintain, it uses more fuel and the vehicle tax is higher 
  • many social housing homes have prepayment gas and electricity - this costs more per unit than paying by direct debit
  • as Vimes states cheap footwear and clothes are affordable to buy but need replacing more often
  • if your wages and any benefits don't actually last out in any given period then you are stung by overdraft charges and credit card repayments
  • essential white goods and appliances often have to be bought on expensive store credit which means they end up costing a lot more by the time they are paid for
Can you think of any other way that being poor is socioeconomic unfairness?


  1. If you don't have a big freezer and extra storage space you can't go to cosco and buy in bulk for cheaper prices per item. If you don't have a car you can't get there anyway and you can't bring all the bulk home. You can only afford one week's worth of shopping at a time so the it's all immaterial.
    An American friend used to get free return flights to Europe every couple of years because she spent so much on her credit card that she had enough air miles.
    Cheaper appliances are the same concept as cheap boots and an old car.
    A very interesting post with a lot of truth.

  2. yes I forgot about that! I have no money/space to bulk buy


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