Every July, France hosts one of the world’s great sports spectacles, Le Tour de France, and it offers something for many appetites. For fans of individual sports there is the points leader and the king of the mountains. For fans of team sports there is the famous yellow jersey and the overall team competition.
For entrepreneurs, there are races within the race, constant innovation, and rewards for superior specialists. For progressives, there is the equality of the peloton, the sacrifice of the domestiques, and the meager financial rewards for all but the elites.
The peloton is the big group of cyclists that includes members of all teams. While it may look like a random pack with lots of colors, it is well organized. The peloton is a wonderful example of spontaneous order. Every rider knows their role, but not the designs of the other riders. Each individual’s role depends on their team’s goals for the day, the moment they are in, and unexpected changes in their plan.
A great way to understand the peloton is from the front. There, viewers can see the teams that are setting the pace, and see their colors lined up in single file behind their leader. These are the the trains, and the team leader will never be the locomotive. He is being protected and enjoying the slipstream; conserving energy for the mountains and the overall victory in Paris.
The peloton falls into disarray when winds shift, roads steepen, riders attack, or riders crash (usually in the middle or rear of the peloton, it’s safer in front). Markets fall into disarray when the force of government intrudes on an organic process, picks winners and losers, and inevitably cause brutal crashes at the front.
Like a business, each team has specialists – leader, climbers, sprinters, generalists, time trialists, and domestiques. The GC rider is the team leader being protected to stay in contention for the General Classification victory. To have a rider on the podium in Paris is a major team victory, so the GC guys will never endanger themselves in sprint finishes.
Not all teams contend for the three week GC victory, but they all contend for daily stage wins. On mountain stages, the sprinters become domestiques or fall off the back. The generalists do it all, as the name implies. They are competitive sprinters, good climbers, and reliable in the peloton regardless of the terrain. Today’s premier generalist, and the rider that’s most fun to watch, is Peter Sagan of Slovakia.
Elon Musk is that entrepreneur, a young man with a vibrant sense for living life with confidence. They are the product of rigid principles, creating a vision, anticipating the future, and deferring rewards. Not only does this attitude lead to success in the arduous competition that is the Tour de France, it leads to cultural and artistic enrichment for entire societies.
The Allegory of the Peloton
Like economies and markets are dynamic, the peloton cannot be rigid, planned, or controlled. There will always be a break-away group of riders that symbolize new ideas and innovation. At Poetic Justice Capital, no authoritarian could ever anticipate this. A free market, like its allegorical peloton, is flexible and ever-changing.
The peloton is a network of voluntary cooperation. Its cyclists have a long-term vision that the group does not. Individually, they have traded immediate rewards for intense physical and mental training; the payoff being greater future rewards. This attitude is natural and necessary for the culture of cooperation that is the peloton, and in a larger sense, all peaceful and prosperous human endeavor.
All riders have a vested interest the success of their fellow cyclists. This prevents crashes in the short run and inevitably leads to greater potential rewards for everyone in the long run. So enjoy the spectacle of Le Tour, understand the elegance of its various forms, and appreciate the bright future symbolized by its motion and purpose.