In the future, wealth will be measured not just by the amount in your bank account, but in your ability to structure your affairs to realize complete individual autonomy and independence. Excerpt from “The Sovereign Individual”, published in 1996.
Right before our eyes, we’re seeing the emergence of a new career and life path, what I’m labeling the Solo Capitalist. The Solo Capitalist is part independent worker, part investor, and part global citizen.
In order to understand how the Solo Capitalist is best prepared to navigate today’s increasingly digital and independent world, we first must take a stroll back in time to see how we got here.
The History of Violence
One of the main factors to explain the way we organize ourselves as humans is based on the basic need of maximizing our security, our efforts to protect our life and those of our loved ones. Our instincts to defend or attack are incentivized by different factors.
In the hunter gatherer age our only job was to find food. There were no possessions or sense of ownership so we had little to defend besides ourselves against animals. Hoarding was also impossible given food would rot before it could be eaten. We lived rather peacefully in tribes.
Then in the agricultural age, the emergence of property changed everything. We owned land but had no way to defend it. So a feudal society emerged controlled by Lords and ruled by Kings. We had no choice but to organize ourselves in a hierarchical system.
With the invention of gunpowder, any farmer could now defeat a knight. By punching through a knight's armour and demolishing the King’s castle, gunpowder brought an end to the Middle Ages and paved the way for the Renaissance.
In the Industrial Age, society consolidated into nation-states for protection and economies of scale. We depended on the nation-state for ‘guns and butter’. The democratic nation-state proved successful for over 200 years because the increasing scale of violence made consolidation of power more important than efficiency.
We’re living through the beginnings of the fourth transition of human society known as the Information Age. The digitization of society makes the role of the nation-state less important. Weapons are commoditized – it’s now possible to build guns at home with 3D printers, so we’re less dependent on government factories for their scale of production. Conventional warfare remains less of a threat, we now fear cyber-warfare, something government is less equipped to defend. When the Pentagon wants to find a vulnerability, it calls a white hat hacker, individuals who use their powers for good, to help make technologies more secure.
In this period of history, we’re seeing a decline in the presence of institutions; since the turn of the century, the percentage of U.S. adults without religious affiliation has more than doubled, from 8% to 19%. In 2019, roughly 35% of Americans participated in the “gig” economy, and that’s expected to grow to 43% this year.
The Information Age will leave individuals far more responsible for themselves than they’ve been accustomed to in the past. Faced with this new reality, we’ll need to reorient how we think about work and life.
Solo Capitalist: The Individual Ensemble
Technology turns the individual of the past into an individual ensemble in the 21st century. As our access to technology grows, we’re able to multiply our abilities. It’s now possible to work a full-time job and run an online business simultaneously. It’s also possible to learn any trade or skill online and then profit from it, all in the same week. We’re no longer limited by our own geography and proximity to individuals – it’s possible to find an audience anywhere in the world at the click of a button.
The Solo Capitalist is the individual as an ensemble, able to navigate today’s economy as an independent worker or entrepreneur, active investor, and global citizen. Some characteristics that embody Solo Capitalism:
- Independent Worker: Rise of independent contractors and entrepreneurs and the fall of the ‘company-man’. The opportunity to focus on your intellectual and creative craft; less time administrating, managing, and sitting in meetings. Soon a ‘job’ will be a task that you do, not a thing that you have or identify yourself with. With that weight off your shoulders, you're free to follow your curiosity, collaborate with like-minded individuals, and most importantly, overcome an employee mindset.
- Active Investor: In a society without intermediaries, there's unprecedented financial opportunity to actively manage wealth. In a world of zero interest rates, how can the average person save for retirement with a traditional 60/40 portfolio? We’re going to have to get educated and find ways to put money to work in assets that have better returns.
- Global Citizen: Thanks to the internet we can transcend locality and become global citizens. People are starting to pick their home-base the same way they shop for products and services; based on value proposition. Besides improving quality of life, we’ll prioritize for tax-savings so we’re better-off financially.
This isn’t the last time you’ll hear the term Solo Capitalist from me – it’s the modus apparatus that I’m applying to my life and career. In future editions, I’ll dive deeper into the three facets of Solo Capitalism and how we can apply the concept of the individual as an ensemble to thrive in the Information Age.
So here's the Hidden Lever: The Solo Capitalist is the individual as an ensemble. Through technology, we’re able to multiply our abilities to give us infinite leverage. It's now possible to be part independent worker, investor, and global citizen.
Until Next Time,