frontier capitalism

Frontier Capitalism  on Discovery Channel

I recently came across a television series on the Discovery Channel called Jungle Gold. In a nutshell, it's about these two mid-thirtyish Utah real estate speculators who lost all of their money and then decided to go to Ghana to dig for gold. If you are looking for gold these days Ghana is still one of the best places on earth to do it in. It's the Saudi Arabia of the metal, from what I hear.

Being broke, the two protagonists, Scott Lomu and George Wright, raise some seed capital from investors back home to fund their expedition and the excavators and other heavy equipment they will need. In the very first episode upon arriving at the acreage they've leased to mine, they discover that the Chinese are already mining it. Not only that but the Chinese have grim-looking armed guards staring the duo down. So they high-tail it back to town to appeal to the tribal chiefs for help. The old guys are surprisingly sympathetic to their plight but explain that since the Chinese have far more fire power than they do, there's nothing to be done about it but go dig elsewhere.

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Frontier Capitalism Documentary - Cowboy Capitalists

I know you guys like the frontier capitalism material, so here's a documentary about another adventurer who travels far away to start a business. Hit the expand icon in the bottom right corner for full screen viewing and escape to exit it. Check the tag cloud for other posts on the topic.

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Frontier Capitalism's Latest Frontier

Speaking of frontier capitalism, or "extreme capitalism" if you prefer, I recently discovered that one of the most isolated and interesting places on earth is now booming, economically-speaking. I am referring to of all places, Mongolia.

If you are a history buff like myself you no doubt have a fascination with Genghis Khan and the Mongol Hordes who swept across Asia and Europe roughly 800 years ago. If there's a documentary on Mongolia and its people, you can bet your money I have seen it. The Mongols were perhaps history's most intimidating warriors. Try to imagine a Mongol horde of 300,000 horsemen thundering across the Russian steppes towards your city.

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Frontier capitalism: Economics in transition from state ownership and control of resources to a private ownership system in which the price system is used for resource allocation.

While you have no doubt heard of extreme sports by now, my hunch is that many of you have never heard of "frontier capitalism," which is the "extreme" version of capitalism." Personally, I don't think the frontier capitalism label actually goes far enough in capturing the essence of this high stakes game played in some of the most dangerous regions around the globe. Therefore, I prefer "extreme capitalism."

To get a better handle on what it is it helps to understand what happened in Russia right after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. In a nutshell, the economy collapsed to Third World levels. Average life expectancies for Russians plummeted by 15 to 20 years. People  were literally starving and dying in the streets because the old command economy was no longer there to feed them and nothing else had filled the void. As a result it wasn't too long before the old Communist Party started telling Russians, "See, we told you capitalism and free markets wouldn't work. Now you need to re-elect and put us back into power." During the 1990s Boris Yeltsin was the president of the newly formed Russian Federation. While he was committed to reforms that would bring about a western-style economy, he also had to deal with the catastrophic consequences of the overnight transition.

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How Do You Sell to and Grow in a Market That Can't Afford Your Product?

If Horace Greeley were alive today he would no doubt be advising, "Go east, young man," to Africa specifically, to anyone seeking advice on how to make their fortune.  I will add that, in my humble opinion, there is no better way to make one's fortune than in an adventure. It's the stuff of biographies and movies. Who wouldn't want Martin Scorsese eventually doing a biopic of their life?

I have mentioned the billionaire founder of telecom Celtel, Dr. Mo Ibrahim, before with the intention of taking a closer look at his growth strategy in Africa. It's a fascinating story about creative problem solving. Unfortunately a few projects got in the way and before I knew it a couple of years had passed. Now I return to him.

However, before we take a look at how he made Celtel so successful, I want to take a minute to explain how and why a West Coast kid became interested in Africa and what deterred me from doing business there.

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