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wealth, boots, Terry Pratchett, bootstraps, money, poor
Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

The Sam Vimes "Boots" Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness explains one way the rich get richer.

This story originally appeared on 01.28.22


Any time conversations about wealth and poverty come up, people inevitably start talking about boots.

The standard phrase that comes up is "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," which is usually shorthand for "work harder and don't ask for or expect help." (The fact that the phrase was originally used sarcastically because pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is literally, physically impossible is rarely acknowledged, but c'est la vie.) The idea that people who build wealth do so because they individually work harder than poor people is baked into the American consciousness and wrapped up in the ideal of the American dream.

A different take on boots and building wealth, however, paints a more accurate picture of what it takes to get out of poverty.


Author Terry Pratchett is no longer with us, but his writing lives on and is occasionally shared on his official social media accounts. Recently, his Twitter page shared the "Sam Vimes 'Boots' Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness" from Pratchett's 1993 book "Men At Arms." This boots theory explains that one reason the rich are able to get richer is because they are able to spend less money.

If that sounds confusing, read on:

Pratchett wrote:

"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."

In other words, people who have the money to spend a little more upfront often end up spending less in the long run. A $50 pair of boots that last five years essentially cost you $10 a year. But if you can only afford $10 upfront for a pair of boots that last six months, that's what you buy—and you end up paying twice as much over a five-year period.

There are so many areas in which this principle applies when you're poor. Buying in bulk saves you money over the long run, but you have to be able to afford the bulk cost up front. A reliable car that doesn't require regular repairs will cost more than a beater, but if the beater is all you can afford, that's what you're stuck with. You'll likely spend the same or more over time than if you'd bought a newer/higher quality car, but without the capital (or the credit rating) to begin with, you don't have much choice.

People who can afford larger down payments pay lower interest rates, saving them money both immediately and in the long run. People who can afford to buy more can spend more with credit cards, pay off the balances, build up good credit and qualify for lower interest rate loans.

There are lots of good financial decisions and strategies one can utilize if one has the ability to build up some cash. But if you are living paycheck to paycheck, you can't.

Climbing the financial ladder requires getting to the bottom rung first. Those who started off anywhere on the ladder can make all kinds of pronouncements about how to climb it—good, sound advice that really does work if you're already on the ladder. But for people living in poverty, the bottom rung is just out of reach, and the walls you have to climb to get to it are slippery. It's expensive to be poor.

When people talk about how hard it is to climb out of poverty, this is a big part of what they mean. Ladder-climbing advice is useless if you can't actually get to the ladder. And yet, far too many people decry offering people assistance that might help them reach the ladder so they can start taking advantage of all that great financial advice. Why? Perhaps because they were born somewhere on the ladder—even if it was the bottom rung—and aren't aware that there are people for whom the ladder is out of reach. Or perhaps they're unaware of how expensive it is to be poor and how the costs of poverty keep people stuck in the pit. Hopefully, this theory will help more people understand and sympathize with the reality of being poor.

Money makes money, but having money also saves you money. The more money you have, the more wealth you're able to build not only because you have extra money to save, but also because you buy higher quality things that last, therefore spending less in the long run. (There's also the reality that the uber-wealthy will pay $5,000 for shoes they'll only wear a few times, but that's a whole other kind of boots story.)

Thanks, Terry Pratchett, for the simple explanation.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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You could say Marine biologist, divemaster and National Geographic Explorer Dr. Erika Woolsey is a bit of a coral reef whisperer, one who brings her passion for ocean science to folks on dry land in a fresh, innovative and fun new way using virtual reality.

Images courtesy of Meta’s Community Voices film series

Her non-profit, The Hydrous, combines science, design, and technology to provide one-of-a-kind experiential education about marine life. In 2018, Hydrous produced “Immerse 360”, a virtual underwater journey through the coral reefs of Palau, with Dr. Woolsey as a guide.

Viewers got to swim with sharks, manta rays and sea turtles while exploring gorgeous aquatic landscapes and learning about the crucial role our oceans play—all from 360° and 3D footage captured by VRTUL 2 underwater storytelling VR cameras.


Hydrous then expanded on the idea to develop two more exciting augmented adventures using Meta Quest 2 technology: “Expedition Palau,” a live event where audiences can share a “synchronized immersive reality experience”, which includes live narration from Woolsey, and “Explore,” a “CGI experience” to enjoy the magic of the ocean at home.


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“I’ve been extremely fortunate to explore and study coral reefs around the world,” Woolsey said, sharing that it was “heartbreaking” to see these important habitats decay so rapidly while the latest scientific reports did not clearly lead to widespread compassionate action.

“How do we care about something we never see or experience?” she reflected. As she discovered, virtual reality would be a powerful solution for eliciting empathy. “VR has the ability to generate presence and agency and make you feel like you’re there. It's that emotional connection that can bridge scientific discovery and public understanding”

The combination of virtual reality and the ocean’s natural breathtaking beauty is, as Woolsey puts it, a “match made in heaven” for getting people more engaged in ocean education. “When you’re floating you can look up and down and all around you…seeing a school of fish surrounding you and reefs in these cathedral-like structures. Rather than watching a video of a scientist, you get to become the scientist.”

Hydrous also has special kits to provide middle school students hands-on learning about ocean life. In addition to a journal, activity cards and a smartphone VR viewer, each kit includes lifelike 3D printed model pieces of a coral reef so that middle school students can try building their own.

These reef models even turn white when temperatures rise inside the aquarium, which mimics the real “bleaching” that corals endure when they die due to higher than normal ocean temperatures. Students really do become scientists as they figure out how to bring color back to their reef.

While it’s true that the health of our oceans affects us all, the growing threats our oceans face—pollution, overfishing, climate change—don’t always affect us on an empathetic level. Through the use of technology, Woolsey has created an innovative way to connect hearts and minds to one of the Earth’s most important resources, which can inspire real and lasting change.

“We can’t bring everybody to the ocean, but we’re finding scalable ways to bring the ocean to everyone.”

To learn more about Hydrous, click here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


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