Being poor is expensive
I get ruffled when other people try and use Terry Pratchett to illustrate some or other point. (Its fine when I do it though, because, you know, I’m usually right… eh… of centre).
Enter the quote in question…
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 a 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 socio-economic unfairness.
Guards, Guards – Terry Pratchett
I love Vimes. He is one of my favorite denizens (which include both the living and the ‘dead’) that inhabit the Discworld… AND on fighting dwarves in bars and dealing with trolls I would trust him implicitly… but I think I’d wary of following him into the breach of socio-economics and infrangible haberdashery.
- At this point in the story, Samuel Vimes is probably drunk. (I think this particular observation is pre-Carrot) And he has likely been struggling with alcoholism for quite some time now. (In fact, as I recall his father was also a drunkard who who fell over in the street and got run over by a cart)
- Samuel Vimes smokes cigars. And we all know, smoking and drinking are expensive vices.
- The money he has left over he gives away to the Widows and Orphans of… either the Nightwatch or the Watch (I can’t remember exactly)
It’s no wonder he’s poor.
In any event, I don’t necessarily disagree with the concept that poverty can be ‘expensive’ (at least as far as I’ve thought about it)… but… let’s be honest, Vimes could totally afford an ‘expensive’ pair of boots. He’d just have to save up and maybe draw up a budget (not on the back of dive-bar napkin) and maybe give less money to those pesky orphans.
4. Also… I think Vimes might like ‘honorable’ suffering. (as a sort of psychosis) seeing as he marries into one of Ankh-Morporks wealthiest families but doesn’t really ever embrace the… ‘benefits’ that money brings. Because, you know… eh… actually I don’t know. I would have bought myself a decent pair of boots.
I think fans on Terry Pratchett like to imagine him as politically this or that. (I include myself here). But in all honesty I’m not sure he ever ventured an opinion on the subject (that I’ve read) other than to say ‘Its usually complicated’.
Although I have seen it argued that he was anti-democracy and that Lord Havelock Vetinari (my other favorite character) takes on the role of Plato’s Philosopher King in his fiction. I could probably get behind that. Besides his humanism the only other -isms that come through in his writing are that of cynicism, epicurism and stoicism. Which I find is fantastically summed up with…
‘You can’t trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there’s nothing you can do about it, so let’s have a drink.”
Which is likely as a good a rule to live by as any.