Microentrepreneurship

No more will there be career jobs. No more retirement parties. No more gold watches on your last day (if this ever happened at all.)

Fewer wasted days. Fewer years spent as a small cog in an unfathomable machine. Fewer opportunities noticed and missed.

Less inertia. Less living in a rut. Less tolerance of waste.

More change. More opportunity. More energy.

Greater flexibility. Greater distribution. Greater networks. Greater options.

I think it comes down to this: Instead of employers finding what they like about us – what they think will be of use to them – we’ll have no choice but to figure out how we can use our own talents and skills.

In other words, we will be the interview board. Every day. Every week. Every year. We’ll need to continually assess what we are able to to, or what we think we can productively try. Then we’ll find the tools to harness ourselves, for our own benefit.

This might mean a lot of small enterprises. It might mean 24/7 devotion to one big thing. For most of us it will likely mean a combination of employment, self-employment and micro-entrepreneurship. A patchwork of income. And no gold Rolex. Who wears a watch thesedays anyway?

Scarce and Profitable

What is scarce commands price.

What is abundant commands nothing.

What is profitable attracts capital.

What loses attracts government.

These are clear ideas for which I take no credit. They’re obvious canons of supply and demand, with the added kicker that we must consider governments because they’re both too meddlesome to ignore and too big to not influence.

There are no markets left, except in a few niches.

If you are inclined toward capitalism like me, what interests us is the scarcity. What is scarce thesedays? What will be scarce tomorrow? And – most valuable of information – what will be scarce at the end of 2019?

If we can answer the last question today, we can act tomorrow and reap some benefit in a few Christmases time. Even if we’re close, it’ll be good enough, because most folks look behind them, not to the horizon ahead.

Big Boats

I see that the guy who invented the Go-Pro will take delivery of an enormous yacht in 2017. $40 million worth of luxury and bilge pumps is being built for him in Holland as we speak.

[This machine will take one tenth of the capital cost to operate each year, making it as big a commitment as anything we can think of outside marriage and children. Ahem.]

Good for him. This is as close to the acme of the capitalist dream as we’re likely to see. Nick Woodman’s passion for surfing and capturing his rides on video made him a billionaire. Now he chooses from a very large and expensive catalogue of stuff he can afford.

The question is: Can we do this? Why aren’t we deciding on bed linens and modern art for the state rooms this Christmas? Is this kind of success open to regular Janes and Joes?

The answer is yes. But I have a bigger question. What do we want? What is the goal that we actually have in mind each morning when we wake up? Do visions of megayachts fill our minds, or would we prefer knowing all our needs will be adequately met, our bed is comfortable and there’s a great cup of coffee waiting for us at our fave coffee joint?

My motivation now, today, is to be healthy, build a little of my business, and to increase my budget horizon. Today. Small. Achievable.

Pathway to Now

Our memory is a variable quality asset. Ask any defence attorney. Eyewitness accounts of an (alleged) crime are often their way to acquittal. On forgetfulness and doubt are borne the many releases of the guilty.

Forgetting is not restricted to courtrooms and police interviews. How many economists remember the 1990s? Do they remember the nervous tensions surrounding the big, decade-ending party, the Y2K event? They do not, it seems.

My memory is particularly clear, and unusually specific. On January 1st, 2000, I was scheduled to fly from Sydney to Manila, in a Boeing 747. I was the pilot in command. The fear within the airline was not about the aeroplanes, because they’ll either work or not. If they start and get going, they’ll keep going. The uncertainty lay with all the electronic ground infrastructure it takes to co-ordinate the progress of an airline flight between the many jurisdictions involved. Primarily there is Air Traffic Control. Secondarily there are ground-based navigation aids. And thirdly are the facilities and handling equipment for passengers and freight at either end of the journey. No-one was quite sure how much of this stuff would work…nor what to do if it didn’t.

These and many other problems were forseeable, of course. The date was right there on the calendar. Whether embedded computer routines in actuators and chips would work when the year read “00” was a matter of much speculation, all of it junk.

In the US, Mr Greenspan too was in touch with this problem. Being a central banker, and this being a problem big enough to be worthy of his valuable time, he applied his rigorous analysis to it and came up with the answer. Guess. Yep. In an amazing turn of events, the Fed decided that the answer to any possible computer problems was….TADA!… more money.

Preceding the turn of the calendar, the Fed provided hitherto unprecedented amounts of “liquidity” to the banking system. The idea was simple (and ostensibly reasonable) enough – if there were big problems, especially with power grids and big industry, they would need to borrow lots of money fast. The fix for large-scale outages would necessarily involve lots of money, which the Fed deemed beyond the ken of the businesses concerned.

As anyone who woke up that morning and flew to Manila learned, there was no problem with the flip to the new century. And by no problem, I mean literally and worldwide no problem. We sailed across Australia and into Indonesian and then Filipino airspace with the usual aplomb. Of course we were talking on WW2-era radio (High Freqency) but all the ATC co-ordination worked, as did the Ninoy Aquino airport and the Manila Hotel when we got there. Well, it worked as much as it ever did.

The big day of highly anticipated problems came and went without any difficulty. And what did the Fed do? Well, nothing, as it turns out. All that money they’d provided for “the system” was still there, sloshing around. One wonders where they thought it would all go, because, like water, the cash has to go somewhere. Dollars find the path of least resistance. and that they did. Right into 2007, and the weirdness in which we find ourselves – still – in 2015.