Ethics of ERE

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

@Chad

>> If you weren't going to continue the

>> conversation, why start it?
I just wanted to acknowledge that I read the near 5000 words between my previous posts, but I didn't want to take the time to respond to everything individually. I gave you a little something to berate me with! :P


jacob
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Post by jacob »

@pax - To understand the difference between changing jobs and (semi-)retirement or financial independence see
http://earlyretirementextreme.com/graph ... ement.html
Also see
viewtopic.php?t=769
It seems we need to have this discussion every other month or so, because ERE is so different from traditional ways that ordinary prejudices/definitions no longer apply.
I think the important thing is that everybody understands what everybody means when certain words are used. I hope this discussion has at least been somewhat illuminating about where 'retirement' and 'work' means within the ERE philosophy.
This is really not much different that having people from two different religions discuss what the word "god" means.


Surio
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Post by Surio »

@Jacob,

Knowing there has been a lot views exchanged on the thread, I had devoted a paragraph on the issue of semantics of retirement in my summarisation.
I am not sure if Pax's fully grasped the nuances yet, for there are still things like "there is a lot of 'ERE is the best!' sentiment here" in his/her responses. A little baffling, since I don't think any of us actually tried saying that.
I think it is up to Pax now to internalise the discussion and to salvage whatever it is to be taken from the thread.


veganprimate
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Post by veganprimate »

I've just skimmed the replies on this thread, but I didn't see this particular angle mentioned. Most people achieve ERE by working at traditional jobs and receiving an income. Now look at our ridiculously huge population and our unemployment rate. If someone worked forever until they die, they are actually being socially IRresponsible because they are preventing someone else who is entering the workforce from having a job. If a person can work a few years and retire, it opens up jobs for more people, right? If people were frugal enough to live on part-time wages, more people could have jobs. So, it seems to be more social responsible to follow the ERE path.
Besides, the idea that things don't get done doesn't really fly, b/c there is so much slack time in most jobs, anyway. Most people could get their work done in 4-6 hours if they didn't surf the net, chat at the water cooler, take long lunches, etc.
Someone upthread mentioned the medical field. Well, I'm a medical technologist (I perform the lab tests your doctor orders), and I can't tell you how much waste there is. I perform c.diff screens, ova and parasite examinations and stool cultures on formed stool specimens, sometimes even rock hard specimens (hint: the major symptom for all of those is diarrhea). Doctors routinely order basic labs every morning that a person is in the hospital, regardless of whether or not they have been normal for the past few days. There is such a thing as physician-induced anemia.
I think having to fill our days with activity and be productive at all costs cause us to do inane things, worthless things, etc. That is socially irresponsible, too.


jacob
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Post by jacob »


slacker
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Post by slacker »

@jacob:

> It seems we need to have this discussion

> every other month or so...
lol...true!


slacker
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Post by slacker »

@pax: consider (any) language in its present form-clearly a human invention, and evolved/developed over thousands of years.
Now you may ask, what's language got to do with the ethics and morality of ERE?
The point is,morality, like language, is another human invention, evolved/developed over a long period of time...and continuing to evolve all the time.
Now what do these 2 inventions (if i may call them that) have in common? I can think of: 1)Both are almost indespensible to us 2)Both have flaws that absolutely cannot be ironed out, no matter how hard you try.
Yes, both are flawed, but serve excellent purposes nonetheless. We can do nothing but accept the limitations of language and morality and get on with it.
Consider language (again): There is this thing called the liar's paradox (i guess)...and numerous other 'flaws' in english..just as there are, i'm sure, in every other language. Because there is a paradox in a sentence construction that hints at ,say an unstable universe, the universe is not going to collapse on itself! Its the language's problem, not the universe's , and we are not evolved enough to iron out the flaws is all there is to it.
morality too has its share of flaws/ambiguities. Consider the numerous thought experiments that the philosophers have been pondering about for eons. Just consider the concept of free will (or the lack of it) and its consequences on morality.
What I'm essentially trying to get at is that like Jacob mentioned, we've been having the ethical/moral discussions once a month and its always back to square-one after a while, no matter how long or deep the discussion. While it must be said that a lot of misunderstanding is owing to a few of us not bothering to understand what ERE stands for, and instead taking it at face value, debating abut the sematics etc ( something like the the 'you're not retired if you work an hour a week and make 50 dollars with your freelance gig' argument)
What I'm trying to say is, even if the concept of ERE were to be understood and appreciated in its entirety, its morality, just like anything else's, could still be sincerely questioned.
ironically, inspite of the 'extreme' in everything ERE, i think its an extremely responsible and balanced approach. like i said..its flawed..but its the best we've got...IMHO :)


Marius
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Post by Marius »

I didn't see the point of reflecting on the ethical side of ERE.
...until I read the comments on the recent ERE book review at Get Rich Slowly.
Apparently someone who comes up with such a strategy had better be well prepared to defend the ethical aspects. It seems people who are still trapped in the cave like to nitpick on it.
So by all means go ahead, these musings are useful after all. :)


jacob
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Post by jacob »

@Marius - I've greatly enjoyed the ethical discussions here and on GRS. Much more so than the discussion (see GRS review comments) whether my terminology is sufficiently politically correct, e.g. whether 'man' in Renaissance Man (it's a classification term used in the book for those who haven't read it) implies a gender exclusivity within ERE. If you think the ethics cave is bad ...


DVDend
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Post by DVDend »

I have been thinking this and I believe that I now understand what the discussion is about. It is not about ethics. In fact, as Jacob believes that ERE world would be a better planet for everyone (less waste, consumption, environmental damage), one might argue that he is morally obligated to act accordingly.
The discussion is about the social contracts. I currently struggle with a social contract issue similar to ERE: whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate my younger son. Vaccines have done much good to the point that diseases with common vaccines are essentially gone in US. I can safely not vaccinate my kid and he is going to be just fine. Given that vaccines sometimes (very seldom but it happens) cause serious side effects including brain damage (vaccination court has given compensation to 47 such cases where serious brain damage was caused by a vaccine). Given this, my infant is in my calculus better of not having vaccines. If I believe this, is it not my moral obligation to do what I think is best for my son?
Now, someone is going to point out that vaccines only work if everyone is vaccinated and I should sacrifice my son for the common good. As more and more people do not vaccinate their kids, the diseases will make a come back. Either society mandates mandatory vaccinations or people will start to take the vaccines based on recent statistics on diseases (diphtheria is on the rise, better take that one). As an individual, I get the best deal if almost everyone vaccinates so I do not have to. Understandably, parents that vaccinate are not happy about those who don’t. It is against the social contract that everyone vaccinates (all for one and one for all!).
ERE is a similar issue: Society has many social contracts that are based on the assumption that everyone works until 63-68. This makes it possible to have free or subsidized educational system, Medicaid, Medicare, social security and other good things. If I decide to retire after 5 years, I still benefit from these (I certainly benefited from public educational system and I do feel that I “owe” something for it). So people who do work are going to be mad about me retiring early. It is against the social contract. If the majority of people retire early, the above programs will most likely fail. This will make ERE more difficult. So as an individual, it is better for me (if not the planet) if I can be one of the few that retire early.


Chad
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Post by Chad »

@Pax
I wasn't talking about your last response. I was talking about your first question. Why bother with it if you didn't want to discuss this topic? And, to be a little facetious, isn't not finishing the conversation allowing work to go undone?


JasonR
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Post by JasonR »

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DVDend
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Post by DVDend »

@JasonR - Vaccines: This is way of topic (ERE) but I guess this is my fault. Granted, 47 court proven cases of serious brain damage is a small number but so is the current incidence rate for the diseases (for example, diphteria has 5 reported cases per year). So changes of getting diphteria right now are tiny and it can be treated with antibiotics. The only reason to give this is for common good. My kid does not need the protection. He may need it if others reach the same conclusion, drop the vaccines, and diphteria becomes a problem again.
Same with ERE. World does not need Jacob to be working 40 hours/week. But if everyone did this, it would be a problem for the current system.
Hitler: I am not sure of your point. I think we can agree that ERE is morally less evil than killing 50M.
I did not say that if it is in my best interest, I should act it out. I said that if one believes (as Jacob does) that world will be better with ERE, then one should act it out. From your writing, I can tell that you have much more education in philosophy than I have. You can probably break my logic with your non-dominant hand! Be gentle with me :)
The main point I had is others take on issue with ERE because ERE is doing something that one is not supposed to do in the current system. It breaks the assumptions that allow this system to work. I felt the same way when I first read this. I thought, that is not fair, one is not supposed to do that, I sacrifice by working, you are gaming the system, this is not right. So ERE is against commonly held belief about how society should function. This makes it controversial.


ffj
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Post by ffj »

Look, this guy has asked a fair question and maybe I'm not reading as deep into it as others, but I think his concern is whether we are paying our fair share and not relying on others to subsidize our lifestlye. I don't think he was anticipating all of these wild tangents. So, my interpretation of his question is, do we have an obligation to give back to the same society that has allowed us to prosper? I say yes, you may say no, but for God sake answer the question.


JasonR
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Post by JasonR »

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DVDend
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Post by DVDend »

@firefighterjeff: Thank you for simplifying this!
I think ERE person does benefit from societys safety nets that were set up with assumption that everyone works. Even if I do not plan on benefiting from SS or Medicare, I benefit from having this option as a back up. And as ERE, I will not pay my fair share (=I can withdraw a lot more than I paid in). In doing so ERE breaks a social contract(s). The problem is, that these were forced contracts. I had no choise in the matter.
To answer your question: I feel I have obligation to give back to society that allows me to ERE. But I also think that ERE can be socially responsible as long as one is not relying others to subsidize ERE lifestyle and uses some of his/her time and resources to give back to society. So ERE is not itself socially irresponsible. It is about what one does with ERE.


jacob
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Post by jacob »

I think think reaching ERE means having giving enough back to fulfill the social contract (which to me means paying your own way, but not more than that, particularly not being expected to work beyond that). What you earn is what you give to society, and what you spend is what you take from society. The difference is your net contribution, your savings, what society actually owes you. Having not spent that, it can be invested. This is essentially what it says on the back of the ERE book and this is my position. For instance, $300,000 in investments will create a company that will make $70,000 in revenue and pays a salary of $40,000 yielding $30,000 in earnings some of which are retained and some of which are paid out to me (this is using typical financial statement numbers from one of the companies I invest in).
So I have worked for 7 years, I have saved enough to create a full time job for someone else and enough to pay for myself without taking government handouts. I just make my money through investing instead of showing up on a job.
So I think I'm good.


DVDend
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Post by DVDend »

@Jacob: How do you factor in the free education you received into the equation?
Me: I went to school for 20 years without paying for it. If a now pay my own way after working for x years, don't I owe something for this education?


JasonR
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Post by JasonR »

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jacob
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Post by jacob »

@DVDend - Hmmm, how to calculate that ... on the whole education is very inexpensive. Divide the salary of one teacher (40k-60k) over 20-80 students and multiply by the number of years. Let's say $2000/year for education (40k for 20 students) with the rest being mostly unnecessary overhead. I spent ~20 years to get my masters, so that would cost $80,000. Then I spent 4 years in the PhD program---I would hardly call that education as much as an underpaid apprenticeship which included teaching students. I was paid $20k/year under market rate (for someone with a MSc in physics), so that's $80,000 short. Overall, I'd call it a wash.


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