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Old 12-14-2007, 08:20 AM   #41
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I wonder if the OP has taken into consideration that those of us who are ER'd or on their way are much more likely to have a larger amount invested in stocks than the norm. It's a given that we need that $$ to grow in order to support us financially. A wonderful byproduct of our "selfishness" is that the businesses of the nation and the world use that $$ in order to expand operations, hire more people, and research and develop new ideas.

The monetary gains from stock purchases are taxed at a much lower rate than regular wage earnings (at least here in Canada). I'd suggest that means that the government notices and appreciates that those of us who invest money are indeed bettering society.
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Old 12-14-2007, 08:42 AM   #42
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I've still never seen a connection between this inverted schadenfreude and the alleged selfishness.

And I thought I made this all look foolish enough in that other thread.

I gave up a job where I could have fawned in success and money, selfishly feeling better about myself , in exchange for a job taking care of my family and property. Some young turk got my old job and can now do better for himself and his family. I spend more into the economy than most people. My investment and tax dollars fuel industry and growth of both the government and private industry.

So aside from the jealous and the folks who cant accept that others can lead a life different from their own, and the judgmental people...can anyone else explain this alleged selfishness?

We have the following definitions:

1: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

2: arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others <a selfish act>

Where is the disregard that seems crucial in these measures? Who have we disregarded so as to gain an advantage?

Poppycock.
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Old 12-14-2007, 09:08 AM   #43
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This is even more true in other cultures. India for example. Family has the duty to care for you in your old age, so there has been no history of social security and government programs to care for citizens. This doesn't mean the people in India are less happy than a country of individualists. Heck, they could be more happy because there is less choice and less to agonize over.
I have a friend from Taiwan and we were discussing parental care. She told me that children in Taiwan are legally required to take care of their parents. If they fail to meet their obligation, the parent or even a neighbor who notices the neglect can take the "child" to court and the court can enforce parental care. She said this seldom happens because adult children almost always care for elderly parents without any legal prodding. I should note that her family is rather wealthy, but she assured me that the expectation is the same regardless of wealth. She thinks I am peculiar because one of my goals is to never be dependent on my children in my old age.
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Old 12-14-2007, 12:06 PM   #44
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I wonder how selfish the over 45 crowd will be considered if they retire in droves when and if some form of universal health care is enacted. I think of all the members of this forum as well as former colleagues at w**k who are only working for health care benefits because its so pricey.
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Old 12-14-2007, 12:45 PM   #45
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You guys stay up late! There are a lot of comments, and I canít respond to all of them, but I will try and respond to some general themes.

First on my motivation. I was recently goaded into posting this by some comments on the thread referenced by CFB, but obviously this has been on my mind for some time. A couple people in this thread commented that this is so obvious why would I bother writing it, but in that other thread I was challenged, and so here we are. Yes, this is somewhat motivated by my personal experience. I am not retired, but do plan on leaving my current job well before age 50, despite the fact that I have more obligations than most others here. Iíve wrestled with how to balance my obligations, my willingness to take on new obligations, and my own self-interest. I hang around here (and this is the only internet forum I frequent) because, despite my concerns about the ethics, there is a lot of stuff here I do find useful. While reality is much more complicated than my posts, long as they are, they are not purely rhetorical devices to stimulate discussion. I hope they do stimulate discussion and thought, but I stand by them as something close to what I believe to be true.

There have been a couple comments along the lines that selfishness is good, all actions are selfish, people should ignore the opinions of others, or that there are no true societal obligations. I canít see that there is any evidence behind these statements (short of fiction like Rand or Heinlein), and I donít know if you can really argue against axioms. Iíll try a couple quick things: saying ďall actions are selfishĒ (even if technically correct Ė which I dispute) reduces the word to meaninglessness. Social contracts exist for a reason. They are not perfect, some may even be unfortunate, but they are not arbitrary. Parents are obligated to take care of their children. Children are obligated (socially if not legally) to take care of their parents. And so on. Even the strange worlds of Heinlein and Rand have societal obligations Ė just not ones as well developed or grounded in reality as our own. Capitalism is good because it uses our natural selfishness to function. This does not imply that selfishness is good because it helps capitalism function.

The idea occasionally is put forth that giving up your job is good because someone else is then allowed to take it. The fallacy here is that we do not have a fixed number of jobs in our society or even a fixed number of good jobs. Also people confuse consuming with contributing. You contribute by producing.

Some have pointed out that peopleís reactions to early retirement are driven purely by envy and have nothing to do with the stuff Iím talking about here. There are certainly other reasons why people donít like the idea of early retirement. Envy is one. A unhealthy opinion of wealth might be another. The way the ERís success makes someone elseís spendthrift choices look foolish, or destroys the ways they have rationalized their own behavior is yet another. Still, many people do still believe in the work ethic, not just as a rationalization for baser emotions, but for good reason. Some people ďERĒ having never worked at all. I know a family that survives on welfare in the woods of Montana. Their parents are mortified Ė not envious. This is not the same thing as people around here, but it illustrates what Iím talking about.

There have been a couple comments that, while ER is self interested, it is not detrimental to others, and therefore not selfish. I tried to address this before, and it is not clear if you are disagreeing with me, or I simply didnít make myself clear. ER is detrimental to others both directly and obliquely. It is not hugely detrimental, it is not evil, but it is detrimental. We all depend on the work of others, and by dropping out of society you are not holding up your end of the bargain. In our society, allowances are made for people like police, firefighters, and the military. There is a reason why; those jobs have always been assumed to be too demanding for a lifetime of service. Whether that is true today, or applies to the desk-bound versions, is another story, but we have that tradition.

No one should be forced to work, and no one is expected to work beyond their ability. But when someone is perfectly able to work, and they simply chose not to do so, then people disapprove, and for good reason.
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Old 12-14-2007, 01:00 PM   #46
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Social contracts exist for a reason.

"from each according to ability, to each according to his need"?
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Old 12-14-2007, 01:12 PM   #47
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I think most of us agree that bongo2 is barking up the wrong tree wrt selfishness, but ....

I knew a guy who ER'd before me. We were both FI, but he decided to stay home, make some babies, and practice guitar while I still had an entrepreneurial itch.

At the time, I did have an ethical problem with his ER, but it wasn't because I thought he was being selfish.

I think many of us subscribe to the ethic that "man's reach should exceed his grasp." And that "life is a journey, not a destination."

So if ERs are being judged, I think those are the ethics we're being judged against. Man always needs to struggle and grow. This is something I think about once in a while, but I plan to address it after a lonnnng vacation.
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Old 12-14-2007, 01:16 PM   #48
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We all depend on the work of others, and by dropping out of society you are not holding up your end of the bargain.
You must be kidding, so... the only way to participate in society is through work? "Work" as defined by who? This sounds suspiciously like religious dogma to me, with all due respect to the Protestant/Puritan ethicists among us, I don't buy it.
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Old 12-14-2007, 01:41 PM   #49
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Also people confuse consuming with contributing. You contribute by producing.
This might be true in purely economic terms, but economics doesn't seem to account for certain qualitative contributions that are hard to measure in $'s, for example the contribution of an early ER parent who has more time and energy to devote to being a good parent. The "quality" of the resulting child (the product!) who develops into a happy, stable, responsible, economically productive or at least not an economically burdensome adult (the final product!) might be something that cannot be measured by economics. What is the most important product of society--fully-realized citizens, right?

Other posters have already given examples of what ER has allowed them to do to help other family members, friends, neighbors, or volunteer organizations with their time and effort. Those aren't measured by economics.

Hopefully, most ER's are happy and relaxed, and it's easier for them to be kind, so that adds to the quality of life for those who are within their social circles. Kindness can't be measured in dollars, either.
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Old 12-14-2007, 02:08 PM   #50
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If one strongly wanted to retire early but couldn't, one might adopt a belief system which challenged the propriety of that unreachable goal. That would make it seem less worthy, softening the harsh reality, sour grapes as it were; yet a bit comforting.

Others might simply accept their reality and carry on. A few might turn cynical.

Methinks some protesteth too much -- the "proposition" seems a bit strained. Just an impression.
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Old 12-14-2007, 02:55 PM   #51
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There are certainly other reasons why people donít like the idea of early retirement. The way the ERís success makes someone elseís spendthrift choices look foolish, or destroys the ways they have rationalized their own behavior is yet another.
That's an utterly terrible reason to discourage ER, in my opinion. If my good choices remind people of their own poor choices, then that's too bad for them. It's absurd to suggest that we should live our lives in such a way that others can maintain an illusion that wasteful living is OK, and we should hide the positive results of our own sensible choices so we don't hurt their feelings.

Poppycock.
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Old 12-14-2007, 03:59 PM   #52
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It's absurd to suggest that we should live our lives in such a way that others can maintain an illusion that wasteful living is OK
You misunderstand. I was contrasting the work ethic with those other, definitely bad, reasons.

Some good points: why does there have to be a relationship between money earned and the merit of the way you spend your time? Isn’t some unpaid work more “virtuous” than some paid work? Yes! I totally agree and said so in my original post. When someone stops work to raise a family or join the peace corps do we say they “retired?” Not typically. When you say you’re retiring you are implying that you are not leaving your job to work in a more altruistic fashion, but rather to do work on something like your golf game. If someone is retiring early because they have found something more important to do, rather than something more frivolous to do, then they should say so and avoid the stigma. In addition, money is a guide, albeit an imperfect one, for value. Without the measuring stick of money it is more difficult to judge the value of the way you are spending your time. I think, unless you have a specific calling, people are going to be suspicious of your ability to judge the worth of what you do, or your discipline to stick with it. Of course, most don’t have this problem because they are explicitly retiring for their own enjoyment.

By the way, I use examples like the peace corps not to suggest that anything less is selfish, but just for contrast. There is always a middle ground, and that’s probably the best one. And communist? Please. Talk about a false dichotomy – you’re either an Objectivist or a Commie!
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Old 12-14-2007, 05:13 PM   #53
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Other posters have already given examples of what ER has allowed them to do to help other family members, friends, neighbors, or volunteer organizations with their time and effort. Those aren't measured by economics.
I had to go back and read this whole thread again. In the pages of posts there are maybe 20 words on this. Also in the thread "what are we all retireing to" there is barely a mention of this sort of thing. I think the evidence is heavily against you here.
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Old 12-14-2007, 05:29 PM   #54
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I had to go back and read this whole thread again. In the pages of posts there are maybe 20 words on this. Also in the thread "what are we all retireing to" there is barely a mention of this sort of thing. I think the evidence is heavily against you here.

Why should people have to justify themselves to you?

Is there some reason you are gracing us with your presence?

Are there other fields where you can push your plow?
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Old 12-14-2007, 05:59 PM   #55
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Rather than judging, why not just compare two people - a typical ER and their non-ER work-mate:

Say the ER works for 25 years, saves and invests, then retires. The ER will get a smaller pension and smaller SS for fewer years worked. The investments helped drive the economy.

The non-ER works for 45 years, didn't save or invest much. Will get a larger pension and SS. Their spending helped drive the economy.

I don't see the fallacy in saying that when the ER retires, a job is opened up? If the company didn't need that person, they probably would have laid them off - they would normally replace the person that is retiring (on average, not always). So the same amount of 'producing' is going on, unless so many people retired early that unemployment dropped close to zero. It really does seem like an ER is opening up an opportunity for a younger worker (likely lower-paid, so in theory, efficiency could be going up?).

So I don't see any big 'judgmental' position to take. It is a choice. Now, if I ER and expected somebody *else* to pick up the tab, and not do it with my own funds, *that* would be different.


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Old 12-14-2007, 06:14 PM   #56
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We all depend on the work of others, and by dropping out of society you are not holding up your end of the bargain.
It is not through labor alone we are productive. Saving is itself not selfish. It is a choice that most of us through our hard work and accumulation have arrived at this point. We are productive in many other ways. We are productive through our saving, our capital, our investing. We may not have jobs, but our capital provides them. We may not produce ourselves, but our capital can and does. I realize you don't value this, but it is every bit as necessary as more hands at the till. Now you may say, that is your capital, not you, but it is only through my efforts that it exists. You may say, you can do more, and I would say I would love to do more, but as someone involuntarily retired, no one has expressed any interest in my doing so. No doubt if I cut my salary in half, I could find something, but that really would be taking a job from someone that needs it more. There is nothing selfish in providing the funds the world needs. It is generosity.
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Old 12-14-2007, 06:36 PM   #57
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but as someone involuntarily retired, ....
Now *that* brings up an interesting point. All those people who *don't* at least *plan* to ER, could be laid off at any time and unable to find a job. Since they did not prepare for ER, they are now in a position where they may need to rely on others for support.

So, isn't it more noble to be prepared to be independent? Seems those non-ER, consume, consume, consume types are putting the rest of society at risk.

So who is being 'selfish'?

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Old 12-14-2007, 07:08 PM   #58
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I am not retired, but do plan on leaving my current job well before age 50, despite the fact that I have more obligations than most others here.
Bongo2, could you tell us a little more about yourself? What obligations have you incurred? Did you take them on willingly or were you just having a good time between the sheets when they came along ? You seem to be a saintly type. What have you done to make the world a better place? You have told us you are under 50, could it be you are just beyond your teen years?
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Old 12-14-2007, 08:05 PM   #59
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I'm depressed by this thread and the contention of the OP that we are some cog in a machine and that we must mesh with the other cogs.

Quote:
"We all depend on the work of others, and by dropping out of society you are not holding up your end of the bargain"


What's a misanthrope to do? There are a lot of bent cogs with teeth missing on this forum, who'll just **uk up the machinery if they stay in it, so its best for everyone that we get out.

The OP has an extreme version of the protestant work ethic, whatever happened to "La Dolce Vita". I pay taxes when I work as anarchy is not the prevailing norm, but I never signed a contract that I have to work all my life. My labor is my own and if I choose to use it to drink Gin and ITs on a beach that's my choice, anyway I'm contributing to society by incresing the amount of pleasure and happiness in the world. Now I'm going to watch Anita Ekberg dance in a fountain, that's my kind of cog.

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Old 12-14-2007, 08:30 PM   #60
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Seems more of a communist ethic than a religious one, although I initially bent that way due to the reference materials posted.

Seems to me that the OP has confused the literary non worker who lays about dependent on the kindness of others, in combination with a ruling class/upper class that bends the working class to its detriment...with people who have worked their work, made their money, and wish to stop earning money "the old fashioned way".

I find it ironic that a glove is thrown regarding ethics and morals, yet the protester feels inclined to mill about with the morally and ethically challenged to gain some sort of benefit from their knowledge. And his intent to some day do the same.

All the while stating that his obligations are superior to most of the chaff he choses to mingle with.

Well, faced with a morally and ethically superior being whose efforts exceed mine, I'm afraid I have little option other than to fold up my tent.

What I felt like actually saying is "Had I not gone shopping half the day and dealt with a gigantic horde of dou---bags, I'd feel more offended right now..."
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