Author Topic: Walden pond economics  (Read 2922 times)

Weisass

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Walden pond economics
« on: August 17, 2021, 08:21:12 PM »
Anyone else enjoy this short piece in the New Yorker? It seems to argue for a very mustachian approach to life from a very different direction. I rather enjoyed it.

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/office-space/why-are-so-many-knowledge-workers-quitting?
« Last Edit: August 18, 2021, 04:48:29 PM by Weisass »

trashtalk

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2021, 08:50:46 PM »
Anyone else enjoy this short piece in the New Yorker? It seems to argue for a very mustachian approach to life from a very different direction. I rather enjoyed it.

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/office-space/why-are-so-many-knowledge-workers-quitting?
Good read TY for sharing

Fire2025

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2021, 09:46:31 PM »
Thanks for sharing.  Really interesting.

SpeedReader

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2021, 10:24:43 PM »
I was planning to retire in three years but the pandemic speeded that up for me.  Now my last day at work will be in October.  I felt a lot of the same things described:  burned out by wasteful activity.

BeanCounter

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2021, 05:31:40 AM »
I pulled the plug last Aug. I had been thinking about FIRE for a long time but often was lured into staying by big projects or new titles. I do think work from home changed a lot of that. Hard to aspire to the corner office when we are all in Zoom.

RainyDay

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2021, 08:28:10 AM »
Interesting read!  Kind of goes to show that consumerism/keep up with the Joneses isn't really new to the human condition.  And that even almost 200 years ago people were contemplating how to live their best life.

Roots&Wings

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2021, 12:43:46 PM »
Couldn't access the NY Post link but found it here too: https://helloniceworld.com/why-are-so-many-knowledge-workers-quitting/

Quote
"These people are generally well-educated workers who are leaving their jobs not because the pandemic created obstacles to their employment but, at least in part, because it nudged them to rethink the role of work in their lives altogether. Many are embracing career downsizing, voluntarily reducing their work hours to emphasize other aspects of life."

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run,” Thoreau writes.

Yep, Walden's the original "Your Money or Your Life". Pandemic prompted lots of people to downshift and re-evaluate what's important.

And something about going confidently in the direction of your dreams and living the life you imagine...

Malcat

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2021, 01:30:16 PM »
Couldn't access the NY Post link but found it here too: https://helloniceworld.com/why-are-so-many-knowledge-workers-quitting/

Quote
"These people are generally well-educated workers who are leaving their jobs not because the pandemic created obstacles to their employment but, at least in part, because it nudged them to rethink the role of work in their lives altogether. Many are embracing career downsizing, voluntarily reducing their work hours to emphasize other aspects of life."

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run,” Thoreau writes.

Yep, Walden's the original "Your Money or Your Life". Pandemic prompted lots of people to downshift and re-evaluate what's important.

And something about going confidently in the direction of your dreams and living the life you imagine...

I would say that the vast majority of classic literature I've read is largely a condemnation of materialism.
That's the entire basis of Madame Bovary for example.

CNM

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2021, 01:55:34 PM »
Cal Newport, the author of the article, writes a lot about value-driven life.  Not necessarily FIRE or minimizing paid work, but finding value in what you in all aspects of your life.  He has a podcast called Deep Questions and he has an active blog: https://www.calnewport.com/blog/ for those interested.

Weisass

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2021, 04:48:07 PM »
Not to be a[n] @wiseass, but the book is "Walden" and the pond is "Walden Pond". Anything else is fingernails on a chalkboard. HDT himself would probably look askance be mortified at the superfluous "s".

Fortunately, it's easy to edit anything you post on this forum.

Oh, and auto correct changed "wiseass" to "disease". Touche.

Thanks @Dicey . I suppose every forum truly does have a pedant… and I say that with all kindness.

trashtalk

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2021, 05:33:34 PM »
Cal Newport, the author of the article, writes a lot about value-driven life.  Not necessarily FIRE or minimizing paid work, but finding value in what you in all aspects of your life.  He has a podcast called Deep Questions and he has an active blog: https://www.calnewport.com/blog/ for those interested.
TY for the podcast reco

Weisass

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2021, 08:04:40 PM »
Not to be a[n] @wiseass, but the book is "Walden" and the pond is "Walden Pond". Anything else is fingernails on a chalkboard. HDT himself would probably look askance be mortified at the superfluous "s".

Fortunately, it's easy to edit anything you post on this forum.

Oh, and auto correct changed "wiseass" to "disease". Touche.

Thanks @Dicey . I suppose every forum truly does have a pedant… and I say that with all kindness.
You're using an insulting word "with all kindness"? You we know we have an entire thread devoted to stuff like this, right?

 So quibbling over my spelling wasn’t the definition of pedantry?

Anyhow, happy if folks found the New Yorker piece interesting. It never name checks the fire movement, but it felt so much to be in kinship with what MMM about.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2021, 09:25:51 PM by Weisass »

Weisass

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2021, 08:10:53 PM »
Cal Newport, the author of the article, writes a lot about value-driven life.  Not necessarily FIRE or minimizing paid work, but finding value in what you in all aspects of your life.  He has a podcast called Deep Questions and he has an active blog: https://www.calnewport.com/blog/ for those interested.
TY for the podcast reco

Yes, thanks! This looks interesting.

Roots&Wings

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #13 on: August 19, 2021, 06:06:54 AM »
Couldn't access the NY Post link but found it here too: https://helloniceworld.com/why-are-so-many-knowledge-workers-quitting/

Quote
"These people are generally well-educated workers who are leaving their jobs not because the pandemic created obstacles to their employment but, at least in part, because it nudged them to rethink the role of work in their lives altogether. Many are embracing career downsizing, voluntarily reducing their work hours to emphasize other aspects of life."

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run,” Thoreau writes.

Yep, Walden's the original "Your Money or Your Life". Pandemic prompted lots of people to downshift and re-evaluate what's important.

And something about going confidently in the direction of your dreams and living the life you imagine...

I would say that the vast majority of classic literature I've read is largely a condemnation of materialism.
That's the entire basis of Madame Bovary for example.

Walden got pretty specific with dollars and cents accounting with your life energy, e.g.

"An average house in this neighborhood costs perhaps eight hundred dollars, and to lay up this sum will take from ten to fifteen years of the laborer's life, even if he is not encumbered with a family; -- estimating the pecuniary value of every man's labor at one dollar a day, for if some receive more, others receive less; -- so that he must have spent more than half his life commonly before his wigwam will be earned."

And plenty of general anti-materialism sentiment too, “I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not a new wearer of the clothes.” 

"Renew yourself completely each day, do it again and again, and forever again. We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake."

The pandemic's prompted a lot of people to "awaken".

Malcat

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2021, 07:16:28 AM »
Couldn't access the NY Post link but found it here too: https://helloniceworld.com/why-are-so-many-knowledge-workers-quitting/

Quote
"These people are generally well-educated workers who are leaving their jobs not because the pandemic created obstacles to their employment but, at least in part, because it nudged them to rethink the role of work in their lives altogether. Many are embracing career downsizing, voluntarily reducing their work hours to emphasize other aspects of life."

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run,” Thoreau writes.

Yep, Walden's the original "Your Money or Your Life". Pandemic prompted lots of people to downshift and re-evaluate what's important.

And something about going confidently in the direction of your dreams and living the life you imagine...

I would say that the vast majority of classic literature I've read is largely a condemnation of materialism.
That's the entire basis of Madame Bovary for example.

Walden got pretty specific with dollars and cents accounting with your life energy, e.g.

"An average house in this neighborhood costs perhaps eight hundred dollars, and to lay up this sum will take from ten to fifteen years of the laborer's life, even if he is not encumbered with a family; -- estimating the pecuniary value of every man's labor at one dollar a day, for if some receive more, others receive less; -- so that he must have spent more than half his life commonly before his wigwam will be earned."

And plenty of general anti-materialism sentiment too, “I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not a new wearer of the clothes.” 

"Renew yourself completely each day, do it again and again, and forever again. We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake."

The pandemic's prompted a lot of people to "awaken".

I actually meant to quote the post before yours saying "And that even almost 200 years ago people were contemplating how to live their best life."

My point was that the majority of literature I've read from 200 years ago was like this. It was a common theme. It's not a modern concept.

Cool Friend

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2021, 07:42:46 AM »

I actually meant to quote the post before yours saying "And that even almost 200 years ago people were contemplating how to live their best life."

My point was that the majority of literature I've read from 200 years ago was like this. It was a common theme. It's not a modern concept.

Come to think of it, a couple thousand years ago there was this bald dude that sat under a tree for, like, a really long time and had a few things to say about materialism and happiness.

Malcat

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2021, 08:09:01 AM »

I actually meant to quote the post before yours saying "And that even almost 200 years ago people were contemplating how to live their best life."

My point was that the majority of literature I've read from 200 years ago was like this. It was a common theme. It's not a modern concept.

Come to think of it, a couple thousand years ago there was this bald dude that sat under a tree for, like, a really long time and had a few things to say about materialism and happiness.

Exactly, Jesus and Mohammed both had a few things to say on the subject as well.

It's like we fell into a conspicuous consumption K-hole in the 50s and completely forgot about this stuff being a major societal concept for thousands of years.

Roots&Wings

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #17 on: August 19, 2021, 08:10:09 AM »
I actually meant to quote the post before yours saying "And that even almost 200 years ago people were contemplating how to live their best life."

My point was that the majority of literature I've read from 200 years ago was like this. It was a common theme. It's not a modern concept.

Gotcha. Yeah it's a common theme. I loved reading Walden, and others like Cool Friend mentions. It's fascinating how people have interpreted living a good life, or their best life, throughout history.

Malcat

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Re: Waldens pond economics
« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2021, 08:25:36 AM »
I actually meant to quote the post before yours saying "And that even almost 200 years ago people were contemplating how to live their best life."

My point was that the majority of literature I've read from 200 years ago was like this. It was a common theme. It's not a modern concept.

Gotcha. Yeah it's a common theme. I loved reading Walden, and others like Cool Friend mentions. It's fascinating how people have interpreted living a good life, or their best life, throughout history.

That's why I mentioned Jesus and Mohammed on top of Cool Friend alluding to Buddha, because all three cover this in a lot of detail that tends to get ignored in current interpretations.

ChpBstrd

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2021, 09:18:19 AM »
Quote
His new book emphasized the imperatives of presence and developing community ties, but Stulberg didn’t have the time to act on these principles, as he felt that he had to work constantly to keep up with the high cost of living in Oakland.

There is now an element of unavoidability to the rat race, because powerful people have constrained the possible ways of living for their own benefit:

1) Zoning laws are designed to prop up the scarcity of SFH's so that incumbent owners can profit from the growth in RE prices. However, price growth becomes a compounding problem and requires more and more labor from the people who live in an area to afford ever-scarcer housing. Thus in entire states, there is no way off the treadmill of paying an artificially inflated price for housing, other than homelessness. How many years of labor does it take to buy a $500k house? Oh yea, small cabins are against the law because we want to keep up appearances.

2) Car-centric city layouts deprive people of the opportunity to spend less on transportation by walking, biking, or riding busses/trains, and lock us into spending several thousands of dollars per year going from point to point amid the sprawl.

3) Suburban houses feature lawns that require dozens of hours of labor per year, just to not become a problem. Their asphalt roofing lasts only 20-25 years, as opposed to the tiles used elsewhere in the world that last the lifetime of the structure.

4) Public education is funded at the hyper-local level, so unless one wants to send one's kid to an underfunded school with concentrated poverty, one must spend more money to buy a home in a "good" district.

5) The U.S. healthcare system is organized for the benefit of insurance companies and pharmaceutical / medical device companies. Insurance companies build monopolies or duopolies regarding access to care. Pharma companies build monopolies with patents that last decades. Both have lobbyists who funnel money to whichever politicians support their system. The result is anything related to healthcare in the U.S. costs a multiple of what it costs in other countries with systems organized for other priorities. This is why veterinary care is so much cheaper than healthcare.

Thoreau did not face these realities. He lived in a world without modern conveniences or markets, but also a less-efficient economy where he could still choose to opt out of the ways other people were living. There are a diminishing number of places in the U.S. where one can both earn a basic living and also avoid paying decades of one's life for high-maintenance housing, go without a car, enjoy good schools, and perhaps hire a concierge physician for a few hundred bucks a year. Despite this being what lots of people say they want, off we go each day living our lives in a way that supports the elements of the world we don't like. Every HCOL area home purchase, every takeout meal, every drive in the car, every lawn mowing, and every copay reinforces the exploitive systems we despise.

Cool Friend

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #20 on: August 19, 2021, 10:21:24 AM »
Yeah, it's always been hard for me to square our idea of "freedom" with the economic reality of health, housing, education, and movement being designed to keep us in debt for as long as possible. After a certain point, it doesn't matter how frugal a saver you are if the basic costs of living eat up all your income.

Weisass

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #21 on: August 19, 2021, 05:56:30 PM »


Thoreau did not face these realities. He lived in a world without modern conveniences or markets, but also a less-efficient economy where he could still choose to opt out of the ways other people were living. There are a diminishing number of places in the U.S. where one can both earn a basic living and also avoid paying decades of one's life for high-maintenance housing, go without a car, enjoy good schools, and perhaps hire a concierge physician for a few hundred bucks a year. Despite this being what lots of people say they want, off we go each day living our lives in a way that supports the elements of the world we don't like. Every HCOL area home purchase, every takeout meal, every drive in the car, every lawn mowing, and every copay reinforces the exploitive systems we despise.

Yea, but he also lived in a time when a rich benefactor (like Ralph Waldo Emerson) was able to top him up whenever he was on the verge of starving. He definitely is speaking from a privileged position (as is, come to think of it, the Buddha, Mohammed, St. Francis, and so many others). These are all people who had the luxury of "freeing themselves" from a rat race that was reserved for the upper class.

In posting this I didn't intend to imply that Thoreau's experience at WALDEN pond was an ideal. It certainly served as a crucible for many of Thoreau's ideals, but he did not remain there. Even then, it was not really possible for him to sustain the lifestyle; just to learn from the lessons it taught him, and that still have the power to teach us today.

20957

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2021, 07:51:43 PM »
I really enjoyed Walden, but it lost some shine for me when I read that he was not too far from his family and his mother and sister did his laundry and cooked many of his meals. My life also would be simpler...

Malcat

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2021, 08:30:23 PM »
I really enjoyed Walden, but it lost some shine for me when I read that he was not too far from his family and his mother and sister did his laundry and cooked many of his meals. My life also would be simpler...

I couldn't even get through Walden because of this. Besides, I've spent enough of my life living on very little in the woods. My dad was a Thoreau type who walked away from an enormously lucrative career to go grow vegetables and stare at water or some shit.

That is, until his son was born 2 months premature in a barn, and he decided that easy access to modern medicine was a luxury he valued.

clarkfan1979

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #24 on: August 28, 2021, 02:29:20 PM »
I don't remember the exact numbers, but my favorite economics example from Walden was the train ride. A person could work 3 days to earn enough money to take a one-way train ride to the next town. Or they could just walk for one-day.

clarkfan1979

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #25 on: September 01, 2021, 02:23:08 PM »
I don't remember the exact numbers, but my favorite economics example from Walden was the train ride. A person could work 3 days to earn enough money to take a one-way train ride to the next town. Or they could just walk for one-day.

Based on similar logic, I decided to work for a catering service for New Years Eve in 1999. The catering company offered me $400 for about 5 hours of work. It was a one-time gig. They were struggling to find workers because people wanted to party and not work.

I used the $400 to go snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain for 3 days. I already owned a season pass. However, the $400 covered gas, meals and lodging. For me personally, 5 hours of work was well worth it if I got a 3-day snowboarding trip out of it.

Extramedium

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #26 on: November 19, 2021, 01:49:26 PM »
I really enjoyed Walden, but it lost some shine for me when I read that he was not too far from his family and his mother and sister did his laundry and cooked many of his meals. My life also would be simpler...

Yes, it's easy to live a life of renouncing riches when you can enjoy other people's riches.  It's like the Pulp song, "Common People," pointing out that it's easy to enjoy a simple life of poverty when you have the knowledge that a phone call could take you out of it.

I loved Walden when I was 21, and still enjoy the nature writing (the philosophical writing is still beautifully written, though flawed), but have come to appreciate that he was not my ideal anymore.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/19/pond-scum

lonegun

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #27 on: November 23, 2021, 07:03:12 AM »

Malcat

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #28 on: November 23, 2021, 08:38:20 AM »
In Defense of Thoreau
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/10/in-defense-of-thoreau/411457/

What's the gist of the article, I'm not going to read it as I simply don't care that much about Thoreau, but I'm curious about a whole article defending one of the most popular American authors of all time, lol.

ChpBstrd

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #29 on: November 23, 2021, 12:44:15 PM »
In Defense of Thoreau
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/10/in-defense-of-thoreau/411457/

What's the gist of the article, I'm not going to read it as I simply don't care that much about Thoreau, but I'm curious about a whole article defending one of the most popular American authors of all time, lol.

TLDR:
Thoreau is criticized for his contradictions* and haughty preaching by Schultz, but Britton-Purdy sees these contradictions as part of the essential theme, foundational conflicts in the human condition that are debated across time.

*(individualism vs. community, ethics vs. detachment, mind vs. body, austerity vs. sensuality, peacefulness vs. violence, care for local injustice vs. insensitivity to mass injustice, humility vs. certainty)

314159

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Re: Walden pond economics
« Reply #30 on: November 23, 2021, 04:04:21 PM »
Another recent article (Headliner is Emerson, not Thoreau) which folks here might enjoy: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/12/emerson-transcendentalists-concord-robert-gross/620534/ . It's a book review of Robert A. Gross's The Transcendentalists and Their World. It provides some interesting context on the relationship between Emerson, his town, and the other people in it.