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Issue #1003: A case study from the 19th century railroad boom

Issue #1003: A case study from the 19th century railroad boom

Jun 1, 2021
Marty's Ƀent

Issue #1003: A case study from the 19th century railroad boom

Here's a great 30-minute video that I recommend you freaks check out when you have some free time this week. Geoffrey Botkin dives into the story of James J. Hill, a titan of industry who built the only profitable transcontinental railroad company during the railroad boom of the late 19th century, and how he approached his business. While watching I couldn't help but draw parallels to the industry sprouting up around Bitcoin at the moment and the lessons we can glean from how JJ Hill approached his business.

As others throughout the railroad industry were taking government handouts and taking on massive amounts of debt in the hopes of taking advantage of a mania and the capital that would be thrown at the mania, Hill shunned government subsidies and stayed away from debt. Instead he opted to bootstrap his railroad business using profits from his other successful business endeavors and continuously reinvesting the profits back into the business as they flowed to bring his vision to fruition. That's the other thing that stuck out to me, Hill's vision, which wasn't to get rich, but to uplift society. Particularly those members of society who worked on, lived near, and leveraged his railroad systems. JJ Hill wasn't in it for insane riches, he was in it to better the world. It just so turns out that by bettering the world by being a consummate and savvy business professional with a moral compass, he also became insanely rich.

Another illuminating point of this video was the fact that Hill leveraged three types of capital; his financial capital, land capital, and human capital. By investing wisely with all three of these various types of capital Hill was able to build a private business empire that uplifted an untold amount of people from poverty. Hill did something that most fiat-minded individuals would scoff at an ridicule; he gave away thousands of acres of land located near his railroad to immigrants. Incentivizing them to till and nurture the land with farming competitions. As a result, he bootstrapped a solid customer base that needed to move their products across the country using his railroad that led to significant profits and proved his land give away to be a genius ploy. The families who claimed this land benefited greatly while helping to make America a farming powerhouse in the process.

"What the hell does this have to do with Bitcoin, Uncle Marty?"

Well, I think more people building businesses around Bitcoin need to adopt the JJ Hill mindset of doing things the right/hard way slowly over time because it leads to better outcomes for bitcoin, and by extension society, overall in the long run and prevents the government and regulators from messing up an industry with insane potential. Bitcoin provides a unique opportunity to build on a new open-source financial frontier. I have a feeling that it will be most advantageous for business owners within the space to own as much of their operations as possible as they build their businesses out over the course of bitcoin's monetization. That means providing quality services that are profitable and reinvesting those profits back into the business to deliver a cheaper and better product over time.

Of course, this can apply to any industry and not just Bitcoin. However, I can't help but feel that the parallels between the Bitcoin boom of today and the railroad boom of the 19th century are more apparent than other industries.

Final thought...

Mare of Eastown did a good job at depicting Delco.


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