Author Topic: Living off of other people's work  (Read 73733 times)

Zeb

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Living off of other people's work
« on: April 30, 2013, 01:37:25 PM »
I raised this question yesterday on the Frequently Complained Questions post but MMM pointed out that it would be better to pursue the discussion in the forum. I put it here because it is possibly critical of one of the main tenets of Mustachianism and maybe its motivation.

It's simple: Is it ok to live off of other people's work? Why or why not?

Investment income is a portion of the value produced by work. But the investor does none of the work to produce the value he receives. It comes to him merely by virtue of the fact that he has legal title to some property.

While I find that very system questionable, I'm not so interested in criticizing capitalism as I am in wondering what should a moral person do who finds himself in a capitalist system? I wholeheartedly endorse the Mustachian lifetstyle for its freedom from empty consumerism and its low environmental impact. But I'm wondering if the early retirement bit can be justified as a personal decision. Normally when people who are perfectly able to work live off of other people's labor, say through welfare or dubious disability claims, that is viewed negatively. But here, when a person does it by socking away a million dollars over 10 years, it is applauded.

A few caveats: I realize the investment of excess income is necessary for our economy (as a small business owner I depend on it). I realize interest is a necessary incentive to get people to invest, and it is also necessary as a price signal to allocate capital where it is most productive. I want to isolate strictly the investment income - not the part of income on a rental property that covers management and maintenance; not the part of income on a stock portfolio that pays for risk or inflation or capital allocation - just strictly the part that comes from the fact that the people actually doing productive work don't own the property they need to, and so must give a portion of the production to the owner because he says so and has the law backing him up. I am not asking about living on savings built through prior productive work and padded for inflation. And I am not asking about the morality of simply receiving investment income, since that's the system we're in, but the morality of living on it rather than living on one's own productive work. A person could live the Mustachian lifestyle, building up a huge amount of savings, and direct the interest into more value production or into charity. That seemed to be the more way of the great famous capitalists like John D. Rockefeller or Warren Buffet.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2013, 01:41:52 PM by Zeb »

aclarridge

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2013, 01:46:44 PM »
But the investor does none of the work to produce the value he receives. It comes to him merely by virtue of the fact that he has legal title to some property.

Well one could argue that somebody had to work initially to get the capital together to buy that legal title. Rather than buying depreciating assets, they chose to buy an appreciating asset. Any gains after that point are "deserved".

I see where you're coming from though, and I think it comes down to each person and their sense of purpose/fulfilment. Once FI, I probably wouldn't feel too good about myself if I stopped didn't start having a measurable positive impact on society.

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TLV

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2013, 02:05:44 PM »
I want to isolate strictly the investment income - not the part of income on a rental property that covers management and maintenance; not the part of income on a stock portfolio that pays for risk or inflation or capital allocation - just strictly the part that comes from the fact that the people actually doing productive work don't own the property they need to, and so must give a portion of the production to the owner because he says so and has the law backing him up.

I don't think you can isolate those - they're different labels for the same pile of money.


tuyop

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2013, 02:06:48 PM »
Is it ok to live off of other people's work? Why or why not?

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

All that you see, know, and can know is a consequence of the society that you live in, the contributions of people around you, and the hundreds of thousands of years of human achievement before you. You might as well ask if it's moral to wear clothes, since you did nothing to discover farming, spinning, weaving, dying and sewing yourself. All of us live off of the fortune of human culture.

The immoral act is abusing that culture by failing to steward it and the resources upon which it depends so that you can pay the wealth forward.

I have felt incredibly guilty about this fact for most of my life. I see a huge existential bank account with an infinite amount of debt that I can never do enough to repay. I'm trying now to look at my activities from the perspective of love and stewardship. If you can honestly say that what you're doing helps someone who needs it, or makes a small piece of the world a little bit better than it was before you did that thing, then you shouldn't feel guilty or sweat your livelihood.

No Name Guy

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2013, 02:08:37 PM »
Quote
I am not asking about living on savings built through prior productive work...

This is the very definition of capital and how one gets investments.

Example:  I was a substance farmer.  I worked 12 hours a day in the fields and grew JUST enough to support myself and the family.  The rest of the time I had to grind the wheat and bake bread, and then fell into sleep, to repeat the next day, year in and year out.  One day, I noticed these shiny rocks.  But alas, I had no time to look more closely. 

Wanting to make the time to investigate the shiny rocks, I decided to forgo some sleep and put in 13 hours a day in the fields, so I could grow extra this season.  I do this for a few years, carefully rotating and storing the excess until finally, one year, I have enough extra wheat saved to allow me to only work 8 hours a day in the field, yielding 4 hours a day to investigate those shiny stones. 

Turns out after a bit of experimentation I get this great metal out of 'em.  After a bit more experimentation, I manage to make a tool that allows me to till the field in half the time I did before.  The next year, I go back to working 12 hours a day, but due to my productivity, I can now grow more than I need.  So the year after, I cut back to only 8 hours a day, and take the time to make a second tool.

I carefully explain how this tool works to my neighbor, who was in the same situation as I was, several years ago.  He's seen with his own eyes how it works.  I offer to rent him my tool in exchange for a share of his yield.  If he works 8 hours a day with the tool, he can grow the same as he did in 12 without the tool - just enough to feed him and his family, but now he'll have 4 extra hours a day.  I offer to rent him the tool if he works 2 hours a day in MY field, allowing me to permanently work less.  He's still better off (working at least 8 in his fields, plus 2 in mine is less than the 12 he used to have to do - perhaps he chooses to work 9 in his fields and his family eats better, and he STILL has a free hour a day.)

After several more rounds of this process (living below my means, spending time making tools, etc), I have 5 tools being rented out (I really only need 4 tools at 2 hours / day / tool to have my fields fully worked, but I'd rather pile up a bit of surplus each year, which I can dole out as charity).  Each person is using my tools, that I worked very hard to make.  These tools allow them to live better lives, in exchange I now am able to lead a life of leisure.

Is this Moral?

You bet.  Had I never decided to accumulate that capital in the first place, the tool I invented would never have been made.  No one would have been able to benefit from it.  Now, multiple families are both eating better and having to work less - my reward is leisure.  Win - win.

AJ

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2013, 02:10:11 PM »
There is a LOT to unpack here - and a LOT of unspoken assumptions, down to the very way you have phrased your question.

Is it ok to live on another's work? Well, we all do that. I rely on the work a Farmer does to eat, since I do not do this labor myself. I rely on the work of the military and police to protect me and my belongings from harm - I cannot do that myself. I rely on bankers and investors to purchase my home - because I just didn't want to wait until I saved up enough myself to buy it with cash. So, we all rely on one another in some fashion. Your questions attempts to shoehorn a complex and nuanced concept into a simple loaded question to elicit a particular response.

Then the question: Does work have value unto itself? Which is to say, should we all work as much and produce as much as we are physically/mentally/spiritually able? That's a moral judgement that people will disagree on. Puritans and their descendants (Americans) will say wholeheartedly "Yes!" I, personally, say no. Forty hours a week seems an arbitrary number to say every capable person should work. Why don't we work 50 or 60? Because there is more to life than work, that's why. We are all valuable to our fellow men - more valuable than simply our commercial output. Is my retired grandfather's woodworking hobby  output? Does it change the answer if he receives income for it? If I spend 80 years laying in a field thinking and on my deathbed write one book that forever changes the spiritual path of mankind, was I productive? Was a I being productive at year 60 - when all I had done was lay around thinking?

Your post also seems to imply that there is moral superiority in creating additional productivity. Why? Why is progress inherently good? Why would spending his days working and then donating the proceeds to charity be superior to MMM spending his days encouraging people like us to live less consumer-driven lives(via this blog) and raising his young child?

« Last Edit: April 30, 2013, 02:11:58 PM by AJ »

tooqk4u22

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2013, 02:30:09 PM »
Quote
It's simple: Is it ok to live off of other people's work? Why or why not?

While I find the subtext of the OP somewhat offputting and troll-like I will play...my answer is unequivocaly YES.  In fact, I will go even further and say that not only is it ok, it is mandatory, and even further by saying that it is even charitable in nature.  For if I stayed employed even if I didn't have a need I would be robbing some other individual of that opportunity that beneifited me so much and if I didn't invest my hard earned savings and simply dwindled the principal then I would be robbing many many many people of the opportunity to work, save and invest and improve thier lot in life - to do otherwise would be disadvantageous to so many.  To me that makes investors the ultimate humanitarians.

Erica/NWEdible

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2013, 02:32:09 PM »
You've got two choices: accept that you have to crack eggs to make an omelet, or be prepared to start laying your own eggs.

In other words, simply by being part of the system in any capacity you are benefiting from others work and they are benefiting from yours. Sometimes the distribution of benefit is unfair. But the only real way to escape that particular problem is true, complete, total self-sufficiency. And who really wants that when thoughtful interdependance works so much better?

BPA

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2013, 02:50:16 PM »
I don't think it's a trollish question at all.  My politics are left of centre and I have thought similarly.

One thing that I would like to do is make sure that I invest in socially conscious companies whenever possible.  Companies that aren't union busters and treat their workers well would be important to me.

I'm part of a DBP which makes things really difficult since I don't have input into what the investments should be.  And I know one person who has clients who work on my pension plan and this particular person hates teachers and lets it be known how overpaid she thinks we are even though she easily makes at least 4x what I would if I worked full-time. 

I'm still working out what I will do to avoid exploitation as much as possible.  I think there can be some balance (since I would love to invest in companies that provide livable wages and good working conditions for their workers) but I may take a hit on returns as a result.  That's okay with me.

brewer12345

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2013, 02:58:12 PM »
Capitalism is the worst system of all, except for all of the other ones that have been tried.  There is a reason the USSR is no more and China is Communist in name only.  Give it a rest and get over your Protestant work ethic complex.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2013, 03:06:00 PM »
I don't think it's a trollish question at all.  My politics are left of centre and I have thought similarly.

I think the question itself is fair, its how it was presented with the the if this, ignore that, not this, but that web that was trollish to me and the suggestion that it is immoral....not to mention it was the first post of the person - always suspect and seems to be more of that lately.



As AJ indicated:

Quote
There is a LOT to unpack here - and a LOT of unspoken assumptions, down to the very way you have phrased your question.

AJ

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2013, 03:20:18 PM »
Normally when people who are perfectly able to work live off of other people's labor, say through welfare or dubious disability claims, that is viewed negatively. But here, when a person does it by socking away a million dollars over 10 years, it is applauded.

You're asking why people frown on welfare and disability fraud, but then turn around and endorse years of hard work and frugal living? Do you really not see those as two different things?

That seemed to be the more way of the great famous capitalists like John D. Rockefeller or Warren Buffet.

The tycoons you cite didn't work for work's sake - they enjoyed the very activity that was profitable for them, and therefore continued to accumulate well beyond what they needed or wanted to spend. MMM does the same thing with this blog and his construction work. Free from the work-a-day world, he is operating in his highest and best calling(s), and thus continues to amass funds because those callings happen to be profitable. If Warren Buffet had loathed stock trading and instead loved painting, do you think he would have forgone the latter in order to make billions of dollars to give to charity? No, certainly not. And I don't think anyone in that position *should* do that. Everyone should operate in their highest and best calling as best they are able. For some, that will be their career. For some, it may be an avocation. For some, it will be parenthood. For many of us here, our highest and best callings are not immediately profitable. We are front-loading our income-producing efforts to get them out of the way so we can go on to bigger and better (though, perhaps not monetizable) things.

Capitalism is the worst system of all, except for all of the other ones that have been tried.  There is a reason the USSR is no more and China is Communist in name only.  Give it a rest and get over your Protestant work ethic complex.

+1

the fixer

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2013, 03:28:55 PM »
The question implies that you think of investment as a free lunch. While it seems that way over the long term, in the short term it is not; there is no guarantee I will make another penny in the stock market this year. I'm taking risk by putting my money there. In the long run I am compensated for that risk by getting a positive return.

Working definitely has a social value, but so does risktaking.

BPA

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2013, 03:29:24 PM »
I don't think it's a trollish question at all.  My politics are left of centre and I have thought similarly.

I think the question itself is fair, its how it was presented with the the if this, ignore that, not this, but that web that was trollish to me and the suggestion that it is immoral....not to mention it was the first post of the person - always suspect and seems to be more of that lately.


I wonder if it comes down to one's own political convictions.  It didn't seem poorly worded to me at all, but it might if I viewed the world differently than I do.  This thread has the potential to explode, but I think challenging our own assumptions is a good thing regardless of where our beliefs fall and whether or not we ultimately adjust them. 

And I think that a middle ground where the investor and employee both truly benefit is possible.  Socially conscious shareholders are good for employees and employees who appreciate a fair wage and decent working conditions tend to be better employees, but it isn't always easy to walk the fine line.  For example, I worked for nine years for Loblaws and really appreciated the company as an employee.  I had pretty much decided to invest in  Loblaws stock once my mortgage is paid off, but then the Bangladesh disaster happened and many of those killed were producing clothing for the Joe Fresh at Loblaws. 




Dr.Vibrissae

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2013, 03:47:25 PM »
I want to isolate strictly the investment income - not the part of income on a rental property that covers management and maintenance; not the part of income on a stock portfolio that pays for risk or inflation or capital allocation - just strictly the part that comes from the fact that the people actually doing productive work don't own the property they need to, and so must give a portion of the production to the owner because he says so and has the law backing him up.

I'm confused, by this point, assuming I did 'productive work' (or in this context meaning work that produced capital, since arguing over the term is beyond the scope here) to amass a certain amount of money/resources so that I no longer need to do that task anymore.  Now someone else comes along, and they wish to utilize those resources, because they don't currently own the property they need.  If they do not, in turn wish to provide me anything for said resources, then aren't they living off of my work?

As long as both parties mutually benefit from the transaction, I don't really see the moral dilemma. 

mustachecat

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2013, 03:52:08 PM »
Zeb, did you recently read Das Kapital or The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism?

Jamesqf

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #17 on: April 30, 2013, 06:36:39 PM »
While I find that very system questionable, I'm not so interested in criticizing capitalism as I am in wondering what should a moral person do who finds himself in a capitalist system?

I wonder, are you deliberately being offensive here, or just blind to your own prejudices? 

Assuming the latter, where do you come by the hubris that allows you to think that your socio-political opinions constitute morality?

Now as others have pointed out, if I live off investments (and I purchased those investments with money I earned, rather than inheriting or stealing them), I am not living off other people's work, I am putting my own work to good use, as those investments are used for production. 

Now if you want examples of people living off other people's work, we could start with the union worker: that is, a member of a gang which extorts more for their labor than it would be worth in a free market.  Then we could move up the scale of the socialist elite, all the way to Kim Jong Un.  Try as I might, I can't really see any of these as exemplars of moral living.

matchewed

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2013, 08:10:52 PM »
I have to agree with the majority of posters. Since humans have lived in societies a certain amount of interdependence is necessary. We may as a species disagree on some of the particulars but in general we are all helping and are being helped by someone. But you may be substituting help with a different word, a cynic may say use.

Nords

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #19 on: April 30, 2013, 08:30:23 PM »
It's simple: Is it ok to live off of other people's work? Why or why not?
I want to isolate strictly the investment income - not the part of income on a rental property that covers management and maintenance; not the part of income on a stock portfolio that pays for risk or inflation or capital allocation - just strictly the part that comes from the fact that the people actually doing productive work don't own the property they need to, and so must give a portion of the production to the owner because he says so and has the law backing him up. I am not asking about living on savings built through prior productive work and padded for inflation. And I am not asking about the morality of simply receiving investment income, since that's the system we're in, but the morality of living on it rather than living on one's own productive work. A person could live the Mustachian lifestyle, building up a huge amount of savings, and direct the interest into more value production or into charity. That seemed to be the more way of the great famous capitalists like John D. Rockefeller or Warren Buffet.
A few comments:
1.  Your first post to the board is a critique of the lifestyle?  Is this similar to going into a neighborhood bar and encouraging everyone to stop drinking alcohol?

2.  I supported other people who lived off my work for over two decades.  I'm happy to use my laurels as seat cushions.  Otherwise I'm having a hard time detecting how others are living in slavery to support my lifestyle. 

A person could live the Mustachian lifestyle, building up a huge amount of savings, and direct the interest into more value production or into charity. That seemed to be the more way of the great famous capitalists like John D. Rockefeller or Warren Buffet.
Perhaps it's also the lifestyle of more than a few on this forum.  We were extraordinarily productive for part of our life and now have the savings/income to continue being productive for the rest of our life.

However, I'm willing to admit the possibility of your being correct.  If that's your belief and you're willing to back it up, then hopefully your tax dollars will save Social Security & Medicare.  As long as you believe in your stated philosophy then I suggest that you keep on working.

tuyop

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #20 on: April 30, 2013, 08:39:22 PM »
Zeb, did you recently read Das Kapital or The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism?

I don't know, but I think Jamesqf recently read Atlas Shrugged.

daverobev

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #21 on: April 30, 2013, 09:20:06 PM »
Wow, I'm kinda amazed how sensitive people are!

The OP raises a tricky question. I read a book a while back which analysed who the rich were, and who the rich were not - basically, rich people lived moderate lives and drove old cars, while those trying to appear rich drove the sportscars, etc.

Is it fair that I can sit in my little house here, at 11pm, typing away with music playing and light? A fridge with milk, cheese, some meat, vegetables and so on in, when I have (at this stage in the year) grown nothing? While people on other continents toil those 12 hour days?

I think about it, sometimes. I visited tea plantations in Bangladesh a few years back. The difference in life is... unreal. I mean, "duh" of course it's different, but...

The other thing in that book I mentioned earlier was that wealth tends to disappear quickly - the first generation, through hard work, becomes wealthy; the next generation maintains the wealth because they saw their parents work so hard (but don't work the crazy life their parents did); and the next generation tends to squander it, and they have a sense of entitlement. Makes sense.

One thing I know for a fact is that people who grow food are underpaid. Farmers are, for want of a better phrase, at the bottom of the food chain, yet without them we all starve. Web designers? Useful? Sure. Efficient? Sure. But necessary? No - why, then, should I earn $50 an hour doing programming stuff, but only $12 growing food?

There is no way for life to be fair. And perhaps unfortunately, our best intentions usually go awry: increasing, I don't know, benefits for the unemployed leads to more people going unemployed because it's easier than working (perfectly sensible, from an animal point of view!). Increasing the number of lanes on the motorway from Here to There does not make the commute easier; instead more people will drive. We seem hard wired (from my experience) to accept a 45 minute commute as ok, and will live accordingly.

Capitalism is horrible (bankers, CEOs, getting many many many multiples of salary is just wrong, but what can you do?), but the best we can do at the moment. I worry most about corporate lobbying, the power of marketing, and human gullibility. Capitalism itself is not to blame, but human greed, ignorance and laziness might be.

DocCyane

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #22 on: April 30, 2013, 09:34:14 PM »
Maybe Zeb doesn't fully understand how much sacrifice it takes to achieve financial independence and therefore equates it with welfare. Perhaps he could try his own experiment, living our way for three months and seeing what that might be like.

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #23 on: April 30, 2013, 10:51:35 PM »
Zeb, did you recently read Das Kapital or The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism?

I don't know, but I think Jamesqf recently read Atlas Shrugged.

Nope, never have managed to read more than a chapter or two of any of Rand's books.  Whatever you may think of her philosophy, one thing is pretty clear: she was as good a novelist as Stephen Hawking is a gymnast.

Reepekg

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #24 on: April 30, 2013, 11:34:52 PM »
Now if you want examples of people living off other people's work, we could start with the union worker: that is, a member of a gang which extorts more for their labor than it would be worth in a free market. 
A free market allows collusion between individuals, whether it be workers' groups pushing up wage levels or a particular industry's employers all driving down wages. Are employers who are successful in depressing wages also examples of people living off other people's work? I'd say employers and employees each have some share of the contribution, no matter where on the continuum it falls.

Being FI is different. You are compensated for risking your resources/capital, and you are being productive by making your resources available to use for further production. I'm perfectly comfortable morally with that arrangement.

I may screw this up terribly, but I recently read something about how some versions of Islam do not allow for many types of interest-bearing investments due to moral objections about the conditions under which the money was generated. I wonder if the OP had this or another religious teaching regarding money in mind.

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #25 on: May 01, 2013, 03:57:40 AM »
Yes, Islaam strictly prohibits earning interest, which leads to very odd bonds and banking systems in the Middle East.  There's also a famous saying, 'neither a borrower nor lender be'.  Having such a simple financial system would be a more straightforward fix than trying to convince everyone to be Mustachian (or Amish, for that matter).  But alas, we have a Capitalist system, monetary and fiscal stimulus, a whole industry of complex derivatives, futures, etc...  Adam Smith long ago gave us hope that, on balance, Capitalism would leave a society better off when he explained a new concept called 'the invisible hand'.

As a concrete example from not long ago, I used the wages I get paid as an engineer to hire the services of a repairman who brought new gas ignition componenets to fix my clothes dryer, all in the space of 2 hours.  In this simple exchange of goods and services, we as a society were able to be more productive and hence 'more rich'.  I could go on and on about the taxes I paid, the car and tools and gas, but that's not necessary I hope.

In a Mustachian world, I would be early-retired from my job and minimizing expenditures.  In this world, I would spend the day or week taking the dryer apart, locating the faulty component, looking stuff up online, and buying and replacing that part.  I have my own set of tools since I'll be doing this for many more years and I buy a used part.  Hopefully it is aparent that, by taking away specialization and the trade of services between individuals, we can see that society is 'less rich'.

So, is it moral for me to be self sufficient?  Yes.  Is it good for Capitalism?  No.  But then we get to the more difficult questions - Is it moral for me to stifle Capitalism?  Sounds a bit selfish, but... was it moral for others to hijack Capitalism and get bailed-out???  And thus, what am I to do going forward??

marty998

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #26 on: May 01, 2013, 05:01:27 AM »
There's so many discussions going on here I can't keep up. My 2 cents is that as a shareholder you employ directors to run a company. You are not living off someone else - and if you don't like the way your investment is being managed by directors you have the option of voting them out or selling your shares and using the capital to start a competing business (well as best you are able to anyway).

If realestate is your thing you are providing housing to someone who otherwise wouldn't have it.

Essentially I think you (the OP) understand this as evidenced by your opening post. You just need to get over the whole morals thing. Personally I don't feel this is a moral choice, unless I am quitting my job to go on welfare.

tuyop

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #27 on: May 01, 2013, 05:09:19 AM »
/\/\/\ Bro, every choice is a moral choice.

Yes, Islaam strictly prohibits earning interest, which leads to very odd bonds and banking systems in the Middle East.  There's also a famous saying, 'neither a borrower nor lender be'.  Having such a simple financial system would be a more straightforward fix than trying to convince everyone to be Mustachian (or Amish, for that matter).  But alas, we have a Capitalist system, monetary and fiscal stimulus, a whole industry of complex derivatives, futures, etc...  Adam Smith long ago gave us hope that, on balance, Capitalism would leave a society better off when he explained a new concept called 'the invisible hand'.

As a concrete example from not long ago, I used the wages I get paid as an engineer to hire the services of a repairman who brought new gas ignition componenets to fix my clothes dryer, all in the space of 2 hours.  In this simple exchange of goods and services, we as a society were able to be more productive and hence 'more rich'.  I could go on and on about the taxes I paid, the car and tools and gas, but that's not necessary I hope.

In a Mustachian world, I would be early-retired from my job and minimizing expenditures.  In this world, I would spend the day or week taking the dryer apart, locating the faulty component, looking stuff up online, and buying and replacing that part.  I have my own set of tools since I'll be doing this for many more years and I buy a used part.  Hopefully it is aparent that, by taking away specialization and the trade of services between individuals, we can see that society is 'less rich'.

So, is it moral for me to be self sufficient?  Yes.  Is it good for Capitalism?  No.  But then we get to the more difficult questions - Is it moral for me to stifle Capitalism?  Sounds a bit selfish, but... was it moral for others to hijack Capitalism and get bailed-out???  And thus, what am I to do going forward??

I don't know if you've got the whole "invisible hand" thing right there. The term as used in The Wealth of Nations doesn't describe how capitalism makes everyone better off, but how "an invisible hand" keeps capitalists from making the system so brutally efficient that all wealth consolidates and destroys the economy. (Smith, 1776, pp. 363-4) I'd interpret this to show how the whole economy automatically keeps the powerful in power and the poor not in power, which is actually to the detriment of the whole system.

Quote
But the annual revenue of every society is always precisely equal
to the exchangeable value of the whole annual produce of its industry,
or rather is precisely the same thing with that exchangeable
value. As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as
he can, both to employ his capital in the support of domestic
industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce maybe of
the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render
the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally,
indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows
how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic
to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own secu364
The Wealth of Nations
rity; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce
may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain;
and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand
to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it
always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing
his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society
more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have
never known much good done by those who affected to trade for
the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common
among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading
them from it.

That's also the only place where, in The Wealth of Nations, an "invisible hand" is mentioned.

SomeYoungGuy

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #28 on: May 01, 2013, 06:31:40 AM »
Quote
But the annual revenue of every society is always precisely equal
to the exchangeable value of the whole annual produce of its industry,
or rather is precisely the same thing with that exchangeable
value. As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as
he can, both to employ his capital in the support of domestic
industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce maybe of
the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render
the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally,
indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows
how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic
to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security;
and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce
may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain;
and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand
to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it
always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing
his own interest, he frequently promotes that of the society
more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have
never known much good done by those who affected to trade for
the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common
among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading
them from it.
Thanks tuyop, but the quote that you copied from Adam Smith is typically interpreted to mean that, without realizing it, each member of society makes the other richer by pursuing their own interest.  Reading what you quoted, I do not get anything about the poor kept from power or the rich consolidating wealth.  I hope that people read the quote and take away their own meaning. 

Anyway, we live in a Capitalist system which has become the largest economy on the planet, in terms of GDP.  I was just looking to raise awareness that there are tradeoffs when people choose to go backwards, to self-sufficiency, vs. forwards toward specialization.  Oh, and also highlight that we bailed out banks thus putting this grand experiment at the heart of capitalism at risk...  To make moral choices, you need to be aware of this framework.

zhelud

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #29 on: May 01, 2013, 08:13:25 AM »
Well, here's another question-

Is it moral for me to work at my physically undemanding desk job while others risk their lives and break their backs working in coal mines, slaughterhouses, etc?

If that is morally acceptable, then retiring and living off savings while others work is probably fine too.

GuitarStv

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #30 on: May 01, 2013, 08:19:02 AM »
Now as others have pointed out, if I live off investments (and I purchased those investments with money I earned, rather than inheriting or stealing them), I am not living off other people's work, I am putting my own work to good use, as those investments are used for production. 

Ah.  You earned those investments.  You weren't given any kind of chance or leg up ever?  You grew up as a poor substience farmer in Ethiopia, and are a completely self made man are you?

I find that the people who cry the most about how much hard work they did to get where they are tend to be quite blind to the advantages their situations allowed them.  Don't get me wrong, you're financially independent, and I'm sure that you've worked hard through much adversity to get that way.  One should never forget the incredible benefits one has simply by being born in a first world country with the many social aids that are provided (police, firefighters, education, transportation infrastructure, etc.).  These advantages are not available to everyone around the world.

If you're investing in mutual funds you're likely investing in companies that exploit those who do not have the same advantages you did, in order to make cheaper goods and increase their profit margins . . . which makes your investments work better for you.  The money that you're using is money that you earned, but that you were only able to earn (at least partly) by being lucky in opportunity and place of birth. 

I see where the original post is coming from, but don't have a great answer.  Using the system is the optimal way to achieve financial freedom . . . but the system is inherently unfair, and capitalism provides little means to make things more fair.  It's still the only system proven to be marginally functional over a long period of time though . . . .

tuyop

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #31 on: May 01, 2013, 09:00:20 AM »
It's still the only system proven to be marginally functional over a long period of time though . . . .

Please define "long period of time", I mean, we're talking about a system that has been dominant in part of the world for a max of like 800 years, and in its current form for less than 200, and it doesn't look like it's going to be "marginally functional" for very much longer!

Keep in mind that humanity has ALWAYS had some form of economy, and the only one that holds a candle to the thousands of generations of humans is some form of subsistance gathering or possibly very ancient accidental horticulture.

AlexK

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #32 on: May 01, 2013, 09:27:35 AM »
Capitalism rewards some talents more than others, and some people are born with more valuable talents, so in that sense it is not fair. However, even the most disadvantaged people benefit immensely from capitalism. How do we know?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jbkSRLYSojo#!

I'm not ashamed to be part of the system.

TheEnigmaMachine

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #33 on: May 01, 2013, 10:00:58 AM »
I think you just opened a can of worms called "Marxism."

Your question really depends on if you subscribe to the Labor Theory of Value or the Subjective Theory of Value.

According to the LTV, what gives things value is the labor that goes into them. (Note: the law is a lot more complicated than that, but I'm simplifying it for the sake of discussion) If the LTV holds true, the Mustachian life style is essential exploitative. You hoard enough capital that you invest. People without capital cannot invest, so they are forced to sell their labor to make a living. Since labor is what gives things value, the profit capitalists make is really from exploitation of the laborer's value. It's why a company makes more money from hiring than they pay you.

It's a little bit tricky because, while I believe capitalism is essential exploitative, there's not a lot anyone in the U.S. can do about it. Practically speaking, if you really believe capitalism is exploitative, you need to do something about it (ie, politically) or try to beat the system. (Which is what Mustasians do)
« Last Edit: May 01, 2013, 10:03:24 AM by TheEnigmaMachine »

tuyop

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #34 on: May 01, 2013, 10:11:15 AM »
I think you just opened a can of worms called "Marxism."

Your question really depends on if you subscribe to the Labor Theory of Value or the Subjective Theory of Value.

According to the LTV, what gives things value is the labor that goes into them. (Note: the law is a lot more complicated than that, but I'm simplifying it for the sake of discussion) If the LTV holds true, the Mustachian life style is essential exploitative. You hoard enough capital that you invest. People without capital cannot invest, so they are forced to sell their labor to make a living. Since labor is what gives things value, the profit capitalists make is really from exploitation of the laborer's value. It's why a company makes more money from hiring than they pay you.

It's a little bit tricky because, while I believe capitalism is essential exploitative, there's not a lot anyone in the U.S. can do about it. Practically speaking, if you really believe capitalism is exploitative, you need to do something about it (ie, politically) or try to beat the system. (Which is what Mustasians do)

Exploitation is also a loaded term. It's true, I am being exploited if I work ten hours at your factory and after seven hours I've produced enough widgets to pay my wage and the next three hours are all yours. But is there anything wrong with this? Maybe I love making widgets, and without your factory I would continue, without exploitation, as a subsistance farmer, which I hate.

Also, it is possible to exploit a resource without abusing it.

totoro

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #35 on: May 01, 2013, 10:20:45 AM »
Nothing wrong with investing and earning income.  I worked for the money to start with and, even for those that don't, go for it.

Am I lucky to be in Canada?  Yes.  Do I feel guilt that in another country someone else won't be able to work hard and get ahead?  Yes, but less so over time.

Why?  I guess that it is like the news for me: I have no control other than my circle of influence so why would I engage in this with guilt instead of actions I can control?

The proof is in what works for change.  You can donate money and time to making something better.  Do what you can and stop spending your time analyzing yourself into unproductive corners.

TheEnigmaMachine

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #36 on: May 01, 2013, 10:39:21 AM »
Exploitation is also a loaded term. It's true, I am being exploited if I work ten hours at your factory and after seven hours I've produced enough widgets to pay my wage and the next three hours are all yours. But is there anything wrong with this? Maybe I love making widgets, and without your factory I would continue, without exploitation, as a subsistance farmer, which I hate.

I think we have two different definitions for the term here. When I say "exploitative", what I really mean is you produce more value than you receive. Not so much in the sense of "throw someone under a moving bus so I can steal their money." It is always true that you are hired to produce more value than you are paid. Otherwise they wouldn't hire you!

Your example is false dilemma. Sure, you could be a factory worker, or a subsistence farmer. But you could also work at a co-op where the firm shares it's profits equally with its employees. Then you get to make widgets and get paid what your actually worth.

The moral problem with it is that it's essentially a form of theft. The capitalist owns the means of production simply because they obtained enough capital to do so. What separates the capitalist from the worker is that the capitalist has capital and the worker has none. A Mustachian obtains enough wealth to move from being a worker to being a capitalist. This is hard to do and most people never figure out how to do it. But that is exactly how a Mustachian escapes the system, if you will. They go from being exploited to being the exploitators. They go from selling their labor on the market to investing capital. They are no longer working, but workers who haven't figured out this process are still working. The firms make money from workers, which then pay dividends in stocks. Hence being in this position is essentially theft.

Since I'll agree saying "theft" is somewhat loaded, one could argue it's an "acceptable" form of theft, in much the same way taxes are an "acceptable" form of theft.

It's worth it to note that if everyone tried to retire in 10 years and buy stocks, the system would break down because no one would be working. Modern capitalism requires workers and and consumption to run. If everyone tried to retire and consume nothing, the modern economy as we know it would grind to a halt. This would be positive or negative depending on your philosophy.

I'll add that I'm also torn about what to do in this situation myself. One is forced to either become a capitalist ASAP or sell your own labor. It's not really a situation you can "win."

AJ

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #37 on: May 01, 2013, 10:43:27 AM »
Ah.  You earned those investments.  You weren't given any kind of chance or leg up ever?  You grew up as a poor substience farmer in Ethiopia, and are a completely self made man are you?

Ah, but didn't that subsistence farmer in Ethiopia have parents that raised him and food (however simple) to feed him? Wasn't that farmer lucky to have been born in the twentieth century rather than the stone-age or ice-age, when his farming would surely have been more difficult? Should the starving orphaned Ethiopian caveman be the yardstick by which we measure whether someone "earned" their money?

Yes, we are all inter-dependent and there is always someone who has it worse. I don't see how it helps to tear someone down and tell them they didn't "really" earn their money because they were born in a particular country. That way of thinking never engenders gratitude. It only engenders resentment that nothing one can ever do will be good enough, work will never be hard enough, simply because of the country into which one was born.

EMP

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #38 on: May 01, 2013, 10:45:55 AM »
Well, if it gives me plenty of time for pointless navel-gazing, I'm all for it.

tuyop

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #39 on: May 01, 2013, 10:57:08 AM »
Exploitation is also a loaded term. It's true, I am being exploited if I work ten hours at your factory and after seven hours I've produced enough widgets to pay my wage and the next three hours are all yours. But is there anything wrong with this? Maybe I love making widgets, and without your factory I would continue, without exploitation, as a subsistance farmer, which I hate.

I think we have two different definitions for the term here. When I say "exploitative", what I really mean is you produce more value than you receive. Not so much in the sense of "throw someone under a moving bus so I can steal their money." It is always true that you are hired to produce more value than you are paid. Otherwise they wouldn't hire you!

Your example is false dilemma. Sure, you could be a factory worker, or a subsistence farmer. But you could also work at a co-op where the firm shares it's profits equally with its employees. Then you get to make widgets and get paid what your actually worth.

The moral problem with it is that it's essentially a form of theft. The capitalist owns the means of production simply because they obtained enough capital to do so. What separates the capitalist from the worker is that the capitalist has capital and the worker has none. A Mustachian obtains enough wealth to move from being a worker to being a capitalist. This is hard to do and most people never figure out how to do it. But that is exactly how a Mustachian escapes the system, if you will. They go from being exploited to being the exploitators. They go from selling their labor on the market to investing capital. They are no longer working, but workers who haven't figured out this process are still working. The firms make money from workers, which then pay dividends in stocks. Hence being in this position is essentially theft.

Since I'll agree saying "theft" is somewhat loaded, one could argue it's an "acceptable" form of theft, in much the same way taxes are an "acceptable" form of theft.

It's worth it to note that if everyone tried to retire in 10 years and buy stocks, the system would break down because no one would be working. Modern capitalism requires workers and and consumption to run. If everyone tried to retire and consume nothing, the modern economy as we know it would grind to a halt. This would be positive or negative depending on your philosophy.

I'll add that I'm also torn about what to do in this situation myself. One is forced to either become a capitalist ASAP or sell your own labor. It's not really a situation you can "win."

Yes you are preaching to the choir here. I'm just saying that, for some people who love making widgets, it may appear to be worthwhile to engage in the activity that they love in exchange for a few hours of their lives every day. If I can seriously make that judgement (and I personally could, if "making widgets" is instructing, teaching, or coaching), then there probably isn't anything morally wrong with it. Yes I could own the school or gym, but maybe I just want to focus my energies on my work and let someone else own the tools. The immorality of the system comes from the lying and cheating that goes into keeping the public in fear and debt so that they're under control and coerced into producing excess value until they literally die.

I'm pretty sure the winning comes in the form of just opting out of the system altogether. My dream is to do just that.

With about forty acres, a yurt, and a small number of likeminded people, I think that it would be very possible to conduct your life in a way that is capitalist only in a very loose way. I think it would look kind of like this:

Draw your natural resources from immediate, practically infinite resources that you "own" or trade for. At the most basic level, you only need two things: seeds, water and sunlight. With those three things you can eventually produce soil, which will give you food and fuel and the potential ability to process those things and exchange them for other things (ie maple syrup for glass maple syrup jars). Unfortunately, it seems like somewhere it's best to just get those jars from a factory, but with time I think it will be possible to source them from cooperatives or sustainable businesses or whatever.

The crux of this solution is to cultivate a food forest using perennial, edible plants and permaculture design principles so that you have a practically unlimited source of food with very small inputs of labour, so that you can dedicate your time to the things that you love and the labour that you find valuable.

I believe that this is the way we'll end up whether we like it or not, there's just an easy way to do it and a hard way.

TheEnigmaMachine

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #40 on: May 01, 2013, 11:03:54 AM »
With about forty acres, a yurt, and a small number of likeminded people, I think that it would be very possible to conduct your life in a way that is capitalist only in a very loose way. I think it would look kind of like this:

Draw your natural resources from immediate, practically infinite resources that you "own" or trade for. At the most basic level, you only need two things: seeds, water and sunlight. With those three things you can eventually produce soil, which will give you food and fuel and the potential ability to process those things and exchange them for other things (ie maple syrup for glass maple syrup jars). Unfortunately, it seems like somewhere it's best to just get those jars from a factory, but with time I think it will be possible to source them from cooperatives or sustainable businesses or whatever.

Ah gotcha. So you are arguing for private property and markets, but not so much for private ownership of "industrialized" means of production?

I do agree that by "opting out" of the system, which is a main goal of this community, it can help bring about positive change in the economy.

This is tangential, but I personally think that consumerism is worse than vanilla capitalism because of its accelerated destruction of the environment.

tuyop

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #41 on: May 01, 2013, 11:24:55 AM »
Ah gotcha. So you are arguing for private property and markets, but not so much for private ownership of "industrialized" means of production?

Well, in a sense, yes. If I want to give you maple syrup for your maple syrup jars, you're going to have to technically loan me the jars, which you own, and I'll have to repay that loan with some maple syrup, which I own and you don't.

Another way to do it would be to have land and resources held in common in a community. So it's cool if you want to go and tap some maple trees, but you don't really own the maple syrup that comes out. It's also cool if I want to lovingly and laboriously tend an annual vegetable garden, but I won't own all the vegetables. We just both happen to have vegetables and maple syrup when they're available. In the same way, if a third person wants to spend their days collecting sand and blowing glass, I'm sure there will be enough veggies and syrup for all of us and now we have a way to store all that stuff. I wouldn't call this a system of private property because it's more like collective subsistance than production and trade.

And before someone comes in and talks about the dude who just wants to masturbate all day or something, and finds himself in our food forest eating more than his fair share of jarred veggies and maple syrup, I would like to point out that the system I'm talking about is the default for humanity, we have nearly always lived like this and never a reason to change until very recently. It's not some precarious, temporary scheme to force behaviour out of an otherwise capitalist creature.

matchewed

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #42 on: May 01, 2013, 11:47:14 AM »
I think I'm having some difficulties wih the characterization of only workers and only suppliers of capital. Isn't that mostly a false dichotomy in this forum? I think from a quick glance at the stats page most of us are young and still building a stash. So while being workers we are also lending capital. All the while when FI comes along I'd like to think that most of us will retain some sort of productivity or at the very least a contributor to he current economic structure.

SMMcP

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #43 on: May 01, 2013, 12:28:27 PM »
This is a very interesting discussion.  The truth, as I see it, is that all of us in the first world who eat food, wear clothes or consume anything really, are benefiting from the exploitation of third world people and resources.  I say this because of the way multi-national corporations do business in third world countries.  We enjoy cheap prices for the things we buy because these corporations don't shoulder the full cost of what they produce.  It is borne by poverty stricken people and the planet itself.  As mustachians, because we consume less, we are reducing our participation in this injustice.  Beyond this, what can we do?  Try to make informed choices about what we buy and invest in and perhaps work for change in some way.  As for Capitalism, I still think it is the best system we humans have come up with so far.  It works very well on a local level.  It just doen't work well on a global level the way big corporations do it.  They just have too much power over the prices poor third -world farmers can obtain for what they grow. 

No Name Guy

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #44 on: May 01, 2013, 12:31:11 PM »
TheEnigmaMachine:  If "workers" "lack capital" it typically, as evidenced by this very sub-forum, is often due to their own wastefulness.  See the post I made about the guy blowing his paltry "life savings" at the carnival for a classic example.  So, is that particular guy exploited?  Or is he, by his own actions, putting himself into "wage servitude"?  Sorry if you think it's the former, since, IMO, it's clearly the latter.  [grumbles at how stupid and wasteful a person has to be to be 30 years old and only have $2,600 as life savings, and to THEN blow it all on a stupid carnival game, trying to "win" a stupid toy that costs only 300 or so.  Idiot.]

You can lead a "worker" to the "capital" water so to speak, but if they're not smart or self disciplined enough to give up their trucks, bass boats, "latest fall fashions", fancy drinks at the night club, vacations to Vegas, McMansions, "Keeping up with the Joneses", etc. of their consumeristic way, they won't ever get ahead.  Don't blame the "system" - hold up the mirror so folks can see where the problem usually is.


tuyop

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #45 on: May 01, 2013, 12:42:36 PM »
Don't blame the "system" - hold up the mirror so folks can see where the problem usually is.

Occam's razor, man. What's more likely?

A. That the vast majority of our society here in North America, a people in general who are some of the most highly educated and enlightened humans who have ever lived, who often do incredibly difficult, demanding, and exacting jobs that require decades of training (and do them better than any collective group has done their work in the history of humanity) are all simply stupid and undisciplined and, through their own character faults and shortcomings condemn themselves to wage slavery.

Or:

B. That you have a system that has elegantly directed our focus away from the free and engaging activities that could make us happy in an effort to endlessly produce and consolidate that production in a way that civilizations have done since their very beginnings.

I mean, in the one case we have literally hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, of examples of different variables in intellect, career, culture, whatever that are all somehow producing the same result: wage servitude. In the other case, you have a relatively simple prospect with motive, countless historical examples, and perfectly understood processes.

Jamesqf

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #46 on: May 01, 2013, 01:10:59 PM »
Ah.  You earned those investments.  You weren't given any kind of chance or leg up ever?  You grew up as a poor substience farmer in Ethiopia, and are a completely self made man are you?

Not Ethiopia, but north of Bakersfield.  And not a subsistance farmer (implying that I or family owned land), but a farm laborer.  But otherwise fairly close.

Now of course if you want to play the "leg up" game, sure.  I couldn't have spent my days e.g. driving a tractor around a hot & dusty field (this in the days before tractors had air-conditioned cabs) if someone hadn't given me a leg up by building tractors.  I could have been out there with a digging stick...  But then, I'd have been given a leg up by trees which evolved branches that could readily be turned into digging sticks, a few million years of plants & invertebrates* that turned bare rock into fertile soil, all the way back to the cyanobacteria that evolved photosynthesis and gave the planet an oxygen atmosphere.

 *See Darwin on the debt we all owe to worms.

Quote
. . . but the system is inherently unfair, and capitalism provides little means to make things more fair.

Define "fair", objectively.  Then explain why this part of the universe should be fair, when as far as I can tell none of the others are.  For example, explain why it is "fair" that (insert Hollywood star of choice here) should have been born attractive, while I was not.

Then of course there is the logical fallacy of treating "the rich" and "the poor" as disjoint sets.  Of course "the poor" lack money and power: that is why they are "the poor".  But it is perfectly possible for any member of "the poor" to move, over the course of time, into "the rich".  (Mustachianism helps here.)  That many choose to live in a way that makes this transition unlikely...  Well, it is their choice to make, not mine.

Beaker

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #47 on: May 01, 2013, 01:30:12 PM »
Quote
Is it ok to live off of other people's work?

I think you've phrased the question is a loaded way. Let me break it into two questions instead:

Is it OK to rent things that you own to other people?
I think pretty much everyone would agree that this is morally acceptable. The owner provided some item of value, the renter got to use it for a while, everyone wins.

Is it OK to rent out so many things that you can live off of the combined profits?
I have a hard time seeing how this could be wrong. If renting things is fine, then renting many things is also fine, and who cares what you do with the profits?

I'd also point out that this is what many businesses do, and nobody complains. Hertz will rent you a car. My apartment building rents an apartment to me. HomeDepot will rent tools to me. My local bike share (yay B-Cycle!) will rent a bike to me so I can ride to work. Seems plenty moral to me when they do it, why wouldn't it be moral when I do it? Why would it become immoral if I were so good at it that I didn't need to do anything else?

TheEnigmaMachine

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #48 on: May 01, 2013, 01:35:40 PM »
TheEnigmaMachine:  If "workers" "lack capital" it typically, as evidenced by this very sub-forum, is often due to their own wastefulness.  See the post I made about the guy blowing his paltry "life savings" at the carnival for a classic example.  So, is that particular guy exploited?  Or is he, by his own actions, putting himself into "wage servitude"?  Sorry if you think it's the former, since, IMO, it's clearly the latter.  [grumbles at how stupid and wasteful a person has to be to be 30 years old and only have $2,600 as life savings, and to THEN blow it all on a stupid carnival game, trying to "win" a stupid toy that costs only 300 or so.  Idiot.]

You can lead a "worker" to the "capital" water so to speak, but if they're not smart or self disciplined enough to give up their trucks, bass boats, "latest fall fashions", fancy drinks at the night club, vacations to Vegas, McMansions, "Keeping up with the Joneses", etc. of their consumeristic way, they won't ever get ahead.  Don't blame the "system" - hold up the mirror so folks can see where the problem usually is.

Firstly, your comment could really only apply to developed nations. Most of the world doesn't live in developed nations. These individuals work hard and many of them hardly make enough money to survive, let alone throw it uselessly at consumer values. Much of the wealth in developed nations is acquired through exploitation of developing nations and the environment. Part of the reason we can buy clothing so cheap is someone was paid hardly anything to produce it elsewhere.

Secondly, we need to ask, why? Why would people be so foolish as to waste what valuable capital they can acquire on useless, consumer goods? I think we can all agree this is a sub-optimal pursuit if one wishes to maximize their life satisfaction.

For this point, we need to realize that industrial capitalism as we know it is a very modern mode of production. It's not something inherently natural and it is a system we can look into and see contradictions within. Capitalism is a system where the profit generated by commodities exchanged in the market place is the driving force in commodity production.

Your comment is mostly directed towards consumerism rather than vanilla capitalism. I would recommend reading on behavioral economics to understand why so many people fall into the consumer trap. Human psychology is not flawless and there are a lot of holes in human rationality that developed from our evolutionary past.

Now, since capitalism values profit above all else, is a relatively new system, and humans are not always rational, capitalists will take advantage of flaws in psychology in the name of profit by means of advertising, conspicuous consumption, anchoring of luxury good prices and others. Capitalism is interested in profit. It uses holes in human psychology to subvert people's long term goals by making a profit of their destructive, short term desires.

The Century of the Self is an excellent documentary explaining this.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2013, 01:38:50 PM by TheEnigmaMachine »

GuitarStv

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Re: Living off of other people's work
« Reply #49 on: May 01, 2013, 01:39:32 PM »
Without some kind of help, that Ethiopian subsistence farmer is never going to be able to move from the 'poor' to 'rich' categories, regardless of gumption, effort, or fortitude.  The opportunities just do not exist for him.  I'm not saying that everyone should be brought down to the level of the poorest of the poor . . . just that it's too easy to forget how lucky we are.  It's important to realize that for many people, there is no choice involved in transitioning from poor to rich.

It's vitally important that you work hard and make the right decisions to better yourself and your lot in life.  Anyone who does this is leading a decent life, and should be proud of it.  However, it's very unfair that many people don't even have this option.  When we profit from a company that takes advantage of people (Apple, Samsung, virtually any clothing manufacturer, running shoe companies, etc.) in order to fund our retirement there should be some recognition of that fact.