‘Boots’ Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness

I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett for a lot of reasons. Somewhere between the fantastical worlds he writes about and the recognisable, relatable characters that inhabit them, between the magic and the mundane aspects that move forward the plots, I always find something new in them. I have loved his books since I was at primary school and read my first one; they work on many levels and I suspect the things I love about the books now I hadn’t even picked up on the first time around.

Are you a fan? Or have you never read a single Pratchett novel? Or have you read a few but don’t see what the fuss is about?

I’d like to pull out one example of fantastical characters making a point about their world which rings very true in ours.

This quote comes from Men At Arms and is about the footwear of the of the Watch guards. Captain Samuel Vimes walks around the city on Ankh Morpork all night when he’s on duty (which is most nights). There’s a lot of crime there don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to keep him busy, but he also has plenty of time to think. For example:

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.

What do you reckon? Terry Pratchett sometimes expressed his frustration that he was pigeon-holed and dismissed as ‘just’ a fantasy writer – what do you think of him?

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4 thoughts on “‘Boots’ Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness

  1. I always enjoyed the boots theory from that book. The guards ‘series’ was probably my favourite though I had a huge soft spot for some of the standalone novels such as pyramids and also Moist in Going Postal.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think any writer is ever just one genre. You can explore deep (or not so deep) philosophical or economical questions through any genre in my opinion. In my opinion, writing fantasy novels (like Going Postal or Making Money) give you a more objective view of the sometimes absurdities of how people spend money and how economics actually play out. I haven’t read this one yet! Will have to add it to my ever expanding list of Pratchett books to-read.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoy many of Pratchett’s books bit I have a bad habit of burning myself out when I find an author I like. After my 15th or so discworld adventure I was finding the humor a bit forced.

    Liked by 1 person

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