Ethics of ERE

Simple living, extreme early retirement, being wealthy, ...
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Post by mikeBOS »

That was the same reasoning industry barons used to rationalize only paying subsistence wages. Anything extra would just be wasted on gambling and alcohol. They were saving the workers from themselves, who wouldn't be able to use free time or money properly.

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Post by Surio »

@Hi jeff,

Re: OP's tangent developments that you point out, Communism thread I understand, but where was "Hitlerian" thought mentioned? I missed something or have forgotten something.
> People are inherently self-serving;

I submit it isn't always like that. This mentality is an outgrowth of several generations of Homo Industrialis type thinking and a consequent collective conscious indoctrination. (Hey, I don't say it to insult anyone here in particular. I just say, that that is how it is. :-))
Slightly involved to write in whole here (will refer to my other write up), but documented contrasts between "old world" vs. "new world" style of thinking of Humans has established that we inherently look out for the whole, for our community and not for the self. In this topic, looking at how female cats automatically come up with "extended family" arrangements is an excellent exercise.
Now, put in a machinery that serves self-interest and the mindset you speak of develops, thereby eroding social capital, thereby further breaking down the social fabric, thereby eroing more social.... it is a massive negative feedback loop.
Which is why, despite being a capitalist and an individualist, I am very vocally opposed about many of capitalism's otherwise insiduous practices.
Here's the write-up I spoke of: On a series of posts I wrote earlier, in this one I speak of Ladakh. ... -part-iii/
Part I of the post deals with Resource Frontiers (Case study: Balikpapan) and Part II (Case Study: Ladakh) deals with Peripheral Capitalism. It is Part II that I would like to cite in this context. If you are pressed for time, just look for mentions of the hydroelectric plant in Nurrla village straight away which was an 'ambitious modern solution' to their age-old community maintained and well functioning canal.
You're all welcome to leave thoughts on the post in the comments, if there are any.


Mr. Overlord
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Post by Mr. Overlord »

I've really enjoyed the last few comments here spurred on by Jacob's insightful point that the freedom itself provided by ERE can inspire self-directed creativity that in turns winds up pushing society forward.
The last few comments have discussed whether most people who achieve ERE will actually use their free time for self-directed productive pursuits in the same way that Darwin did, but let's assume for a moment they will. Jacob says that such self-directed productiveness is a good thing: "Wouldn't it stand to reason, that if demand for consumer junk went down, maybe people would aim higher rather than lower? Am I deluding myself here? Are people really that bad?"
If such self-directed productiveness/creativity is a good thing (and so far those who have commented seem to feel that way given all the examples that are being cited about people who've done great things in ERE, i.e. Darwin, etc.), what I'm interested to know is how everyone feels about the ethics of someone in ERE who chooses NOT to spend their free time this way. In other words, if we believe that what Darwin and others did in their free time was good, is being "lazy" or "doing nothing" in ERE bad? If Darwin's experience inspires us to "aim higher", are we wrong to not emulate his example by aiming lower?

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Post by Surio »


This kind of argument is a fallacy called "Survivorship bias"

Survivorship bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that "survived" some process and inadvertently overlooking those that didn't because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways.

It is just plain wrong to argue on those lines. Please let's not go down that road and waste our time.

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Post by George the original one »

> what I'm interested to know is how everyone feels

> about the ethics of someone in ERE who chooses

> NOT to spend their free time this way.
As long as they're not a burden to society, then it matters not. Not everyone has the talent and not everyone is recognized for the talent they bring to society.
For example, Darwin's observational talents weren't recognized as important until AFTER he published his book -- many, many years after he wrote his notes. If you looked at Darwin's early life, he was merely someone who went on an extended vacation (at the government's expense) watching animals and then lived a nice safe life at home reminiscing.
Fleming recognized the potential of penecillin (he wasn't the first discoverer of it, either, but we recognize him as the discoverer because he understood the potential), yet he is not the one who put it into production because no one wanted to partner with him. If penecillin had not gone into production for WWII, it is likely that Fleming's fame would have had to rest on the discovery of lysozyme. Basically, the guy was fond of watching cultures grow in petri dishes, noting peculiar reactions, and his laboratory wasn't very clean.
So, it's impossible to pre-judge what a person's value to society is merely by what they're doing today.

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Post by BeyondtheWrap »

Regarding firefighterjeff's comment that not everyone will use ERE for good, I counter that not everyone will use jobs for good either; their jobs might be making no or negative contribution, or they might spend their money in destructive ways. We can't consider ERE immoral. It depends on the person who is ERE.
In response to Overlord's question, I do not see anything wrong with doing nothing in ERE. Who says we have to make a contribution to society? Animals don't care about making a contribution; they just use what they need to live their lives.

As long as someone isn't harming anyone else, I have no business telling them how to live their lives.
If you're retired, you're not freeloading at all. You're paying for everything with money that you earned. In general, I don't think anyone has a problem with short-term saving up money to buy something. So how is saving up enough money to last the rest of your life any different?

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Post by B »


Yes, I'm slowly coming to terms with myself as a risk-taker. I've found it's the best way I learn. I break things along the way, but I think it will pay off. I hope that what I will be able to build as a result of the risks and battlescars will overshadow what was broken.

You're discussing something I alluded to as well, the "wild animal". In many ways I think we're talking about the same thing. Tapping into something primal and free, with disregard for civilized restraint. But there's also something incomplete about that representation. Wild animals we might be, but humans are extremely social. I think what I'm getting at is that there is more than one way this social nature of the "wild animal" human scales.
I think I've picked the wrong way. Corporate tribalism, the paradoxical marxist worship of labor that comes with it, the crushing hierarchy that lives to sustain itself, etc. It's something I can't quite explain yet. It's very complicated and very good at convincing otherwise intelligent, moral people into wasting their lives doing stupid, immoral things, not for the paycheck, but for "security".
That's why I advocate a "wild" approach. Bust wide that golden cage.

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Post by Beaudacious »

My inner nerd is about to show... Since art imitates life, this discussion on ethics/morality reminds me of "alignment" conflicts that you tend to see in role-playing games. A good breakdown of alignments can be found here:
The purpose of establishing an alignment in a game setting is to give your character some depth and help guide your character by internal motivations consistent with that alignment. You'll see in some games that people will choose an alignment early on, and that will help determine their fate (Dungeons & Dragons). Other games end up defining your alignment by the actions that you take (the Fable series).
I personally find myself (if we use the D&D format) in the Chaotic Good camp, while others here might align themselves with the different subgroups of the Neutrals. I find it fun to play around with.
Anyway, the great thing about alignments during game play is that they give the game more depth than just task-completion. You start to wonder who is doing what for which reason, which can help you determine how to respond to other players actions. And you start to question what is ultimately right vs. wrong... which lends to a discussion like this.

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Post by jacob »

"What makes a good man go neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?"

--- Zapp Brannigan, Futurama

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Post by Myakka »

The meme of this discussion is really annoying me because it revolves around fictious future scenarios that are unlikely to ever be relevant. It reminds me strongly of what passes for news these days -- where there is lots of discussion of "might"s and "could be"s and very little time spent on what happens and its context.
However, at the same time it is also fascinating. The question brings out how ERE really is heretical to American capitalist dogma.

In that dogma work for the boss is the only kind of work that counts (is paid) and the more you do of that the more moral you are. This is the nationalistic ethic of the USA.

In alot of ways Nationalism is the dominant religion* not only in the USA, but in nearly every nation across the globe. Within this dogma of course it is true that ERE is unethical. And being heretics we ERE-ers draw down on us the wrath of those who think they are benefiting from the current system.
*If we may go beyond the traditional notions of religion where it is something most people do at most for one hour on one day a week, and look at religion as the way of life a person pursues all the time, then Nationalism is the dominant religion of the world today. It is the one promoted in every commercial, in all our schools, and often even within traditional religions as well.

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Post by FrugalZen »

I see the post was dormant for about a year until Myakka posted.
I flipped through it a bit.
I personally don't see the relevance of the Puritan Work Ethic..."Work Because Its Good For You" unless you are doing something you WANT to do....not because you have to find a way to pay for your iPad's 4G connection.
The dominant cultural norm cannot abide people who ERE so we will always be a minority.
I also think the only difference between ERE'ers and the 1% is the amount of capital we control and live off of.
I think everyone should read Ayn Rand's "The Virtue Of Selfishness".

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Post by RealPerson »

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
In this Republic's founding document, reference is made to each individual's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is left up to the individual to use their life and liberty to define what happiness means. If ERE describes happiness for you, then that is your right. If it is not, you have the right to pursue whatever happiness means to you. Luckily for the ERE types, most people choose the materialistic way. That's great for the rest of us who receive passive income from investments. What could possibly be wrong with that? We all are free to choose, even if not everybody can recognize that freedom.

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Post by EMJ »

Here's an opportunity to get 1.75% interest on 5 year loan -
Is this more ethical than other investments?

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Post by anomie »


I also think the only difference between ERE'ers and the 1% is the amount of capital we control and live off of.

Another important difference is the DIY Renaissance ethic; the 1% have no specific ideology.

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Re: Ethics of ERE

Post by ChrisAtTTL »

This topic is probably an appropriate one to come back to life in our current age of pandemic and social unrest.

How could ERE principals apply to the socioeconomic side of inequality that furthers the rift we're seeing?

Also, from the OP:

"That is to say, if everyone only worked a few years of their life (10, e.g.), not much would get done. In addition, there wouldn't be much to invest in since everyone would be trying to retire!"

It seems we're having a little experiment, at least, in the US--where a massive portion of the population isn't working and is subsidized by various government programs. Not suggesting it's not necessary to fight the virus. But, it'll be an interesting dataset in hindsight (years in the future) to analyze.

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