Capital, My Man!

Of all the economic systems, capitalism is the one that most fits.

I can say that breezily and without fear of contradiction because I am, of course, a complete amateur. Unrestricted by higher learning or dogma rammed down my neck by university-types, I’m free to figure stuff – and pontificate – away.

That, friends, is the nature of freedom.

But in this case I think I’m right. The basis of (pure) capitalism is the price-finding mechanism. Price is how we determine the value of something, whether it be a good, a service or something more abstract like happiness. This is not a perfect system. Ok, let me underline that: THIS IS NOT A PERFECT SYSTEM. No system is. But my observation of people’s behave over most of the continents leads me to this point.

Price is about normalization. When we say an orange is worth fifty cents, and a book is worth five dollars, we’ve normalized two completely different items. We can look at the relationship between them by saying, well, with this five bucks I can buy this book or I can have ten oranges. And vice versa. We bring a common denominator to bear.

There are a few big prerequisites for all this to work. We need an agreed transfer agent, in this case, currency. We need a ready way to exchange that currency. And for markets to be useful to everyone, the mechanism must be at least tacitly agreed. Your local supermarket works because we agree to swap currency for goods displayed at the stated price.

All over the world, this model occurs pretty much without anyone imposing it. We call it trade, but it’s really just shopping. Trade is at the heart of capitalism, because ultimately capital is useless without stuff to buy. You can’t eat capital. So the incentive for people to provide us with oranges and books and movies and iPads is because we have needs (and wants) and if we have the capital, we swap it for our stomach’s (and heart’s) desire. We get fed and entertained, they get some of our capital to do with as they choose.

It’s that simple.


Autumn Coffee.

Ah, fall weather at last. I like this photo because you can smell the cool air. That’s an especially beautiful thing here in mostly muggy Florida.

The coffee’s good too. And somehow I need to work smarter at being able to have more morning coffees and fewer stressful work mornings. One thing in my favour is that I do have a pretty good picture of what that future looks like – coffee, newspapers, room to think. Of course the reality will always be different, but the general direction is clear.

Occupying my mind of late is the thought of how to reduce monthly outgoings forever. First is accommodation. There must be a way to get someone else to pay for my mortgage or rent AND the associated bits and bobs. You know, house maintenance if you own, utilities, cleaning, repairs, upkeep. All the stuff that no-one bothers to think about when they buy a place can cost a lot more than renting a similar place. But I’m over-detailing.

Imagine this: reducing your budget by the entire amount of your housing cost. That leaves a lot of room for morning coffee.

Fireworks or Success?

From the beginning I had the idea to be a pro. This is my past flying career I am talking about. From the get-go, my goal was clear, but so equally was the pathway. It was never, ever going to be easy.

Passion for being a jet pilot (Boeing 727 please) got me going. What motivated me was the sure knowledge that despite the drudgery, boredom, expense, uncertainty, disappointment and time spent, the only way to give myself the chance at success was to simply keep going. One has to go through the grind of all that stuff in the hope that everyone else drops out. Last man standing wins the day, or, in this case, a nice uniform and a shiny jet.

My point is that passion didn’t help me through the long nights of study or the dead-end jobs I took for the money. Passion fades when you have spent everything on getting qualified and still no-one wants to hire you.

What did get me to the end was understanding completely that it was an endurance test. I set myself up to take that test, so I damn well better finish. It’s neither sexy nor especially gratifying at the time, but at the end…well, at the end you forget about the misery.

It is as if it never happened.

Choose This For Now

I am lucky. I am lucky because early on in my education, the need for prioritization stood up as being a valuable skill. It came with the territory of becoming a pilot.

When you’re operating something as potentially dangerous as an aeroplane, you choose what’s important right now, and do that. Then you do the next thing, and so on, all the while evaluating your list as circumstances change.

That, in a sense, is the trick of prioritization: Keeping a list of stuff to do in order of importance. It’s just a list, but an actively managed list.

Key is understanding that constructing the list, the ordering if you like, determines the value of that list. Your decisions about what actions are either time-critical or not will tell you (eventually) whether you are any good at prioritizing.

The more consciously we construct our list, the more likely we are to get better at doing it. That’s the beginning of a life-skill that might change your life. Or just keep you alive, which might be the triumph you’re looking for.