Time and Social Capital: The Ultimate Constraint

What started off as a metaphor for a book I’m working on has turned into a theory and I’m now wondering if it in turn needs it’s own book. It’s the concept of applying the principles of capitalism to a broader definition of capital. Thinks like knowledge and trust, things being described in theories around Social Capital and Human Capital.

You can read my last few posts under the tag Capitalism and you can read some amazing thoughts and questions from others that have really helped me formulate my own theories better.

Jason Moriber, a frequent contributor here has posed in posts and in comments the idea of time as a form of Social Capital and frequent commenter Jill has also added support for this idea, (read most of that discussion here) yet I have been reluctant to put time in that category.

The reason I have struggled with time as capital is because I can’t really invest time nor can I create more time. Time is constant regardless what I do. This lead me to look at the definition of capital and capitalism again and I went back to my notes from Capitalism: A Very Short Introduction and the reason capitalism works is because you can pool your resources together to overcome certain constraints like distance, scarcity, risk and time.

In todays fast paced World the ultimate constraint is time. There are very few scarcities that exist and “risk” as we talk about it in the business World is never life or death and modern transportation and the Web has almost completely eliminated distance. I usually value something more if it saves me time.

A persons time is valuable to me not because of the amount of time they spent but because of the amount of time they save me.

Now in order for you to overcome the constraint of time to read this post and (hopefully) leave me a comment the value you receive from my post has to be greater than the constraint of time. But if I don’t overcome that constraint you are likely to quit reading.

Time is not capital because I can’t create more. Time is a constraint, it is the ultimate constraint on all of us. I can reduce the constraint of time by either providing more value for that same amount of time or by taking up less time but I can’t give you more time.

I can give you more attention and I do think attention is a form of social capital.

Photo credit by Bikerock

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