Author Topic: your mustache might be evil  (Read 240772 times)

grantmeaname

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #50 on: July 30, 2012, 09:33:02 AM »
Sorry to be a late comer to this discussion, but this is an awful lot to digest and it's taken me some time (and also I spent 25 hours last weekend carrying heavy shit).

Message 1:  devotion to saving for early retirement so that you can live your dreams might cause you to abandon your dreams, depending on what they are.
I don't think you can categorically state that every retirement dream is compatible with a full-time career. Doctors without Borders is, and so is donating money to the WWF or your favorite Cleft Palate nonprofit.

But many do not follow this pattern. My roommate, like many here, dreams of living as an expat. I've chosen a relatively urban profession and want to canoe, hunt and homestead. I want to be a full-time parent, but don't want to have kids at 20; I want to spend time with my parents when they've retired but after I've been out of their home and I've made my own life. There are elements of many of my FI goals that I can work on now, and there are other ways I can live my values now, but it's not as if I could halfway retire twice as soon, or pick up many of the elements now. In some ways, it's only possible to get the dreams by putting them on hold for a while -- such as how my roommate doesn't travel internationally while he's still in college. If you think that's indefensible, or my reasoning is somewhere flawed, I'd love to hear why, but it's not fair for you to say that dreams shouldn't ever be put on hold until you're good and ready to chase them unless you've got better support than a handful of anecdotes.

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Message 2:  My retirement dreams involve trying to make the world a better place, and I've realized I don't need to be financially independent to do that.  I can give back to my community right now, while still working.
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For most people, I think the answer is just ignorance.  They don't want to think about it.  Children dying of thirst in Sudan are carefully compartmentalized away in a different part of the brain than the one that sets your lawn sprinklers to water every morning, so that we don't have to face up to the moral implications of our own decisions.  We try not to think about it.

And that (grant) is what I was talking about earlier when I mentioned the dark undercurrents of our forum discussions.  We've talked about charities, and about how most of our lives are unnecessary luxuries, and how we can save money for our future selves so that we can stop working and relax, and yet we've collectively failed to connect the dots.

Casting charity aside, we owe the third world as much in aid as we've taken from it--it's the just payback for the externalities of our dirt-cheap oil and cotton. I think if these externalities could be minimized, and the true cost of production were more nearly accounted for, you'd have a much weaker argument that things were exploitative. That said, they're not, and I think that we owe what we can afford to send in order to counteract these externalities. To me, this is an entirely separate discussion from charity.

But I believe that human populations, like those of any other animal, expand to meet their food supply, so it's short-sighted and ultimately wrong for us to continue subsidizing millions of lives at near-starvation levels that wouldn't otherwise exist. I believe that more stuff does not make people more happy, and base much of my value system on pleasure and pain, so sending more stuff overseas doesn't seem to do good. I believe that exporting our values via mission trips and their ilk does more harm than good. That's three of your third world 'drowning girls' that I argue are anything but. These are hard questions to answer, and it's not as simple as making sure your money goes to a group with a 501(c)(3) stamp on its annual report.

I think what you're really getting agitated over is that not everyone shares your values of charitable giving. Some of the forum's members are paralyzed by poverty, others by apathy. I'm sure you'd argue that MMM's problem is myopia, because he has the temerity to try and improve his community instead of Bangalore.

Sorry if that didn't address your point more than obliquely.

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early retirement is evil.
Soundbite worthy.

1. On my tech forum, when somebody asks if a 17" desktop replacement laptop is a good fit for their college-kid daughter, I don't tell them that the highest purpose for their money is donating it to Grant's Favorite Charity. I tell them no, they want something in the range of 13-14" that weighs less than five pounds. When July Newcomer asks me whether he should keep 40% company stock in his 401(k), I'll tell him that he's a dumbass who's betting years of his life against losing odds. Both of those discussions are almost totally orthogonal to the (fascinating and very important) question of what the best way individuals should give to others is. The laptop is made just as exploitatively as the index fund's returns.

2. If the capitalist economy is exploitative, isn't it a whole hell of a lot better to participate in it to the tune of $30,000 a year than $80,000 a year? To ensure that each car you drive will last just a couple years longer before a replacement needs made, and that one more iPhone never gets made in a Foxconn sweatshop? If Joe's never gonna give a dime to others anyways, isn't it better for him to at least do a little less harm? If Joe's gonna give $1200 a year to others, isn't it still just as much of a difference for him to do less harm, and cause the world to mine just a little less arsenic?

Bakari

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #51 on: July 30, 2012, 09:48:51 AM »
You can't start a successful business in a country overrun with barbarians, so you pay a little for national defense.  You can't find competent employees for your business if your neighbors are uneducated twits, so you pay a little for public education.  You can't transport your goods to market without roads or rails, so you pay a little for those too. 


Where have I heard this nonsense before.....oh and weren't taxes collecected when these things were created and on the ensuing commerce that resulted from it. 
What do you mean "when these things were created"?  Those are not one time expenses, they are ongoing.
And the "commerce" is taxed via the income tax.  There is no national sales tax.

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Actually I don't think I said taxes are an unfair burden but:

(1) the tax system, as you want it, is already geared to have those who have/make more pay more and those who don't pay less - sure there are some instances where A billionaire pays a low effective tax rate but the amount paid in absolute dollars is still sizeable and lets not forget that about half of the population pays no federal income tax and some even get money back - so if that doesn't balance it out I don't know what does. 

It is very progressive - all the way to $300k annual income.
Only problem is, someone at the lowest end of the top bracket has an amount of income closer to a homeless guy than to the truly filthy rich billionaires.   We currently have about the least progressive tax rates (in terms of how high the top bracket is, and what percentage of society pays that top rate) than we have ever had - with the predictable result of increasing inequality.

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(2) the government is horribly inefficient with its resources
Oh yeah it is!  But... If left to donations, how many people are going to willingly give their money to sexy projects like mosquito abatement or sewage treatment?  Also, why wouldn't the private charities doing the work of government become just as inefficient if they were tasked with nation level projects?  I suspect the main reason for government inefficiency is the sheer size of the country, in which case breaking each state into its own country would do more to reduce waste than privatizing government and replacing taxes with mandatory charity.

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Ok, so maybe you think that if they cut my tax rate by 10% I would just pocket it/invest it and the system would just be out 10%, fine then give me the option to pay the 10% tax or do something charitable with it.  Oh wait a minute we already have this and it drives wealthy people to donate, which BTW results in a lower effective tax rate.
Exactly.  The system already allows this.  So what are you complaining about exactly?  No one here suggested removing the tax credit for charitable donations.  Doesn't that address your issue completely?  You don't want to pay taxes?  Give enough to your personal favorite charity to bring you AGI down to the zero effective tax bracket.

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As for your Wal-mart example, it is their business and they should be able to do what they want and if it is unfair/undesirable then people can choose to not work/shop there and it would all end.

A single individual can't stop the local independent businesses from being displaced by a new WalMart coming to town with their own personal buying choices.  If they used to work in one of those shops that goes out of business, maybe now the only reasonable option left open to them is taking the WalMart job.  Business should not be allowed to just do whatever it wants, anymore than private citizens are able to do whatever they want.  If anything, less so.  We, as a society, get to decide what a business can and can't do.

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(also supports my point that no TV/Radio or mass media ads of anykind should be allowed for political campaigns).

Glad we agree about at least one thing!
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 09:57:57 AM by Bakari »

Sylly

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #52 on: July 30, 2012, 10:01:37 AM »
I'm still struggling with the notion of a website that proposes seeking a meaningful life without excessive material wealth, yet claims that amassing material wealth is the way to find it.

That's a fair question to raise, but is not how I see 'MMM's 'teachings'. The accumulation of wealth (the stash) is not the means to find a meaningful life. It's the means to finance it. In today's world, the alternative to salary income is investment income. In order to get enough investment income for years and years, you have to build a large enough capital. Building a stash is a large part of MMM talk because early retirement is a big focus of this website. If your meaningful life doesn't call for early retirement, and you're perfectly happy doing your paying work til the day you die, I don't view that as un-Mustachian.

Quote from: sol
shooting for early retirement is evil.  By walking away from income that could be used to save a child's life, knowing you have the power and the opportunity to save her, you have actively participated in her suffering and demise.

That's certainly a fair assessment. But I'm with Bakari on this one.

Quote from: Bakari
Because no one, no matter how much of their lives they devote to helping others, is ever going to save the world.
...
Suggesting that one shouldn't retire because they could hypothetically earn money to give to charity is the exact same extreme that Tooqk sarcastically suggested earlier.  It sounds like you are saying that if one does any less than devote 100% of their time and resources to helping others, they are amoral.  That's just silly.   

This I think is in the same line as I.P. Daley's argument earlier:
Quote from: I.P. Daley
You're building your entire philosophy of giving upon not taking, which although isn't necessarily a bad thing and is part of the spirit of generosity, is only a fraction of the whole. You can't decide what others do with the resources you don't take. What's stopping a selfish person from taking the share you left behind and hoarding it all for himself?

I personally don't feel I should be responsible for what others choose to do, unless it is a direct, inevitable result of what I do. In the example where my spot in the work force is taken by someone who's selfish, while it's a result of what I do (leaving the work force), it's not really a direct and inevitable result. My spot could be taken by someone who would use the salary in much better way than I could, or it could be taken by someone who's perpetually trying to keep up with the Joneses. First, I shouldn't be responsible for who ends up in spot. Two, I shouldn't be responsible for the choices made by those individuals. For my own sake, I will not take on the weight of the whole world on my shoulders. Can that be considered a selfish act? Sure can, but I'm willing and able to live with it. I'm not saying we shouldn't help those in need of help. I'm just saying there's a limit to the weight I should carry. Whether I actually do anything with those weights is another question, and IMO, a personal one.



« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 10:11:27 AM by Sylly »

spider1204

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #53 on: July 30, 2012, 10:32:14 AM »
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We're pretty tribal creatures, so yeah we'll be all kinds of helpful to the people around us, but we're not going to care as much about the people far away from us that we don't know.
How do you feel about this apparent disconnect?

I think this perceived separation is always artificial.  I don't think it should matter who or where the drowning child is.  If you have the power and opportunity to save a life, and you choose not to, how do you sleep at night?

For most people, I think the answer is just ignorance.  They don't want to think about it.  Children dying of thirst in Sudan are carefully compartmentalized away in a different part of the brain than the one that sets your lawn sprinklers to water every morning, so that we don't have to face up to the moral implications of our own decisions.  We try not to think about it.

I think I need some additional explaining, I actually have a hard time discussing morality because I believe in Determinism.  So usually I just end up focusing on trying to explain why people do X rather than whether or not people ought to do X.

I've thought about it and know perfectly well that people die all over the world every day for all kinds of reasons and that I could potentially save some of them.  I'm perfectly okay with this and it doesn't bother me at all even when I think about it, it's not as if I have to put it away and try not to think about it.  However, I'm also fairly certain that if I ever saw someone drowning I would have to help and have tons of guilt if I didn't.

There are tons of people on this earth that for them these two facts hold true.  I don't think it's worth it to try and justify this in terms of what may or not be better for society because it wouldn't change the result, for many people these facts will still hold true.  This is where I offer the tribalism theory as an explanation for how these two facts can hold true for the same person.

grantmeaname

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #54 on: July 30, 2012, 10:39:06 AM »
Humans are incredibly diverse creatures that have an incredible social and biological range and have lived in many different types of societies over the long history of the species. If you want to say that people care more about what's near to them, fine, but don't act like there's any anthropological truth behind what you're saying if all you've got supporting it is "gee, people in tribes are close to other people in tribes" and "people used to live in tribes". At least recognize that the only thing substantiating it is the fact that it's what you choose to believe about the world.

Daley

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #55 on: July 30, 2012, 11:03:49 AM »
Quote from: Bakari
Because no one, no matter how much of their lives they devote to helping others, is ever going to save the world.
...
Suggesting that one shouldn't retire because they could hypothetically earn money to give to charity is the exact same extreme that Tooqk sarcastically suggested earlier.  It sounds like you are saying that if one does any less than devote 100% of their time and resources to helping others, they are amoral.  That's just silly.   

This I think is in the same line as I.P. Daley's argument earlier:
Quote from: I.P. Daley
You're building your entire philosophy of giving upon not taking, which although isn't necessarily a bad thing and is part of the spirit of generosity, is only a fraction of the whole. You can't decide what others do with the resources you don't take. What's stopping a selfish person from taking the share you left behind and hoarding it all for himself?

I personally don't feel I should be responsible for what others choose to do, unless it is a direct, inevitable result of what I do. In the example where my spot in the work force is taken by someone who's selfish, while it's a result of what I do (leaving the work force), it's not really a direct and inevitable result. My spot could be taken by someone who would use the salary in much better way than I could, or it could be taken by someone who's perpetually trying to keep up with the Joneses. First, I shouldn't be responsible for who ends up in spot. Two, I shouldn't be responsible for the choices made by those individuals. For my own sake, I will not take on the weight of the whole world on my shoulders. Can that be considered a selfish act? Sure can, but I'm willing and able to live with it. I'm not saying we shouldn't help those in need of help. I'm just saying there's a limit to the weight I should carry. Whether I actually do anything with those weights is another question, and IMO, a personal one.

Sure, when you take my quote out of context, you could make an argument that I'm saying exactly the same thing. However, that was not what I was trying to specifically say. I was trying to illustrate the point that the function of charity is more than the parts or the sums of those parts. Simply claiming that taking less is all the charity that one needs to perform is missing the point of charity entirely. Let me quote myself from the other thread:

Anyone who thinks that just a portion of time, or money/resources, or just taking less is sufficient as a defense for claiming they're generous is buying into a fallacy. Generosity is so much more than just those parts or even their sum. It's a frame of mind, an ethos that defines how you conduct yourself in life. We all have shortcomings in this, some more than others... but it's pretty obvious that selfishness is far more on the table philosophically speaking in these forums than otherwise. It's something that has to be practiced and discussed if any of us are to ever improve upon that, and unlike Bakari, I don't believe that doing the right thing for the wrong reason genuinely benefits a greater good.

Perhaps we can reframe this conversation from "where" - that is, where should we put our money, to "how much" - that is, what percentage is a good amount to be giving to charitable, productive causes? 

I grew up in a middle-income househould, we often gave 10% in Judeo-Christian tradition. 

Of course, I suppose those at higher net worth values can afford to give more....but that is another debate altogether. 

Do you use a percentage?  And if so, how much?

I think a lot of Judaeo-Christians completely miss the concept and purpose of the mitzvot of tithing and charity. The 10% is there to be enough to challenge the giver to recognize that giving can be challenging, but not necessarily disruptive to the care of one's own responsibilities or difficult to perform. It's a teaching mechanism in a way to help instill the value of charity and the value of community. Further, the purpose and encompassing nature of giving of these first-fruits and mitzvot has been lost upon us in the post-industrial world. When a farmer gives 10% of his crop to the needy, he's giving far more than just that.

He is leaving 10% for the needy to take.
He is donating 10% of his work time expressed in the crops tended to charity.
He is sacrificing 10% of his financial gains to the benefit of others.

That 10% is more than just resources, it's an all-encompassing portion of their life. And in this day and age, especially within the context of what we've learned through frugal living, 10% of our lives can have an immensely positive and powerful impact on the welfare of others around us. If we have the capacity, however, there's no reason why we should feel constrained to just that amount if we have the resources to do more.

Altruism and charity is not something I'm inclined to do to for the sake of selfish reasons. Do I sometimes benefit and wallow in some of the selfish aspects of giving at times whether they're productive or not and sometimes don't give as much as I could? Yes, but I can't help that... I'm a sinner and only human. However, I struggle to do my best not to fall down those traps of selfish reasons. For their existence though, they are not ultimately why I am charitable. On my heart is indelibly written what's truly right and wrong. When I listen to it, I know that despite my urge to claim my life as mine alone, I know it isn't. As such, I need to be giving of a portion of my life and the talents it houses to those around me with no strings attached. It's about uplifting my fellow man with some of what I've been blessed with because I have the capacity to, and that capacity helps to make the world a better place.

When I speak of charity and giving, I speak of a balanced, noble, selfless pursuit. I don't disagree about what many of our fellow mustachians are describing as generous acts. They are generous acts, but by limiting the scope so myopically to just those acts, we all miss the bigger picture of their true function and purpose.

tooqk4u22

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #56 on: July 30, 2012, 11:13:28 AM »
What do you mean "when these things were created"?  Those are not one time expenses, they are ongoing.
And the "commerce" is taxed via the income tax.  There is no national sales tax.

The infrastructure investment was funded with tax receipts and debt, which lead to commerce, which lead to income, which resulted in income tax receipts.  Sure there is no national sales tax but there are local sales taxes almost in every state, as well as property taxes, gas taxes, etc., all of which support infrastructure at some level.  Sure we all have to contribute, and point is that we are. 


It is very progressive - all the way to $300k annual income.
Only problem is, someone at the lowest end of the top bracket has an amount of income closer to a homeless guy than to the truly filthy rich billionaires.   We currently have about the least progressive tax rates (in terms of how high the top bracket is, and what percentage of society pays that top rate) than we have ever had - with the predictable result of increasing inequality.

I am not sure I agree with it being the least progressive especially when other countries have higher individual income taxes many have lower corporate tax.  Setting that aside, the top 1% paid 37% of taxes, top 5% paid 59%,  and top 10% of earners pay 70% of the total tax pie clearly they are paying a lot. 

Incidentally, MMM has demonstrated how it is possible to live quite well, almost luxurious, on an income below the poverty line. 

Oh yeah it is!  But... If left to donations, how many people are going to willingly give their money to sexy projects like mosquito abatement or sewage treatment?  Also, why wouldn't the private charities doing the work of government become just as inefficient if they were tasked with nation level projects?  I suspect the main reason for government inefficiency is the sheer size of the country, in which case breaking each state into its own country would do more to reduce waste than privatizing government and replacing taxes with mandatory charity.

I think it is possible for charities to become inefficient as they get larger but if I see that happening I can realocate my donation to somewhere else, I don't have that option with the government.   Mosquito abatement and sewage are more what taxes should be paying for, I don't consider those charitable acts.  And breaking states into individual countries would only create more inequality and in case you have noticed state spending is probably more inefficient than federal spending, and is far more corrupt (hard to believe that is possible).


Exactly.  The system already allows this.  So what are you complaining about exactly?  No one here suggested removing the tax credit for charitable donations.  Doesn't that address your issue completely?  You don't want to pay taxes?  Give enough to your personal favorite charity to bring you AGI down to the zero effective tax bracket.

Yeah but then if I was a billionaire you would claiming I am not paying my fair share and using loopholes to circumvent paying taxes. 

A single individual can't stop the local independent businesses from being displaced by a new WalMart coming to town with their own personal buying choices.  If they used to work in one of those shops that goes out of business, maybe now the only reasonable option left open to them is taking the WalMart job.  Business should not be allowed to just do whatever it wants, anymore than private citizens are able to do whatever they want.  If anything, less so.  We, as a society, get to decide what a business can and can't do.

First of all why can't an individual make a difference - he/she can stop going there and convincer thier friends to stop going there and so on and so on.  Besides we are not here to serve the individual and many times the individual's/communities government representation changes zoning, makes tax accomodations, subsidizes infrastructure to get walmart and other retailers in. Tell your politicians to stop caving.

I hate the walmart effect, but it is business.  Individuals/Communities can choose to shop at the smaller retailers but they don't because it is not as convenient, the stuff costs more because walmart has greater buying power, etc. Small mom and pop stores don't offer benefits either so that is not the cost difference. Tell your friends to go and pay $4 more for a t-shirt at the local store or just don't buy one period. I am sorry but no business, no matter how big and powerful, can't survive unless they meet the needs and expecations of its customers.

Business like its citizens should be able to do what they want provided it is not causing harm to others. (This is where I expect a response saying how they are harming people because they have to work with x and make only x and walmart supports mass pollution because of the goods made in china and then because it is cheap crap it ends up in landfills.  All true but only because of the customers buying it. 
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 11:17:40 AM by tooqk4u22 »

spider1204

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #57 on: July 30, 2012, 11:26:27 AM »
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Humans are incredibly diverse creatures that have an incredible social and biological range and have lived in many different types of societies over the long history of the species. If you want to say that people care more about what's near to them, fine, but don't act like there's any anthropological truth behind what you're saying if all you've got supporting it is "gee, people in tribes are close to other people in tribes" and "people used to live in tribes". At least recognize that the only thing substantiating it is the fact that it's what you choose to believe about the world.

Ya, I'm ok with that, I've definitely read about the theory from sort of anthropological researcher, but certainly didn't do any due diligence into determining where they got this theory from or what if any research went into it.  I'm sure that if it was true it would only be a small part of the whole picture that perhaps only explains some individuals or only the partial behaviors of some individuals.

kisserofsinners

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #58 on: July 30, 2012, 12:03:15 PM »
Wow Sol, Very well written. It's nice to see your heart and passions with your ideas and opinions.

I think something not mentioned yet is that you seem to be critiquing a very little piece to a very nice network of help for people seeking FI. The fact is that we need to take this step of focusing on money to "get it". At least, *I* need it. :)

I've done a lot of self help in different perts of my life starting with my weight. I was 210lbs in 1999. During my journey educating myself about food, it was impossible for me to have a conversation without talking about food or my weight for a good 2 years! It must have been insufferable for that time, especially if you disagreed. That's the step a lot of us here are at. We're blinded by the light sometimes and can't see past our inspiration. Never mind, that we're all in different places financially.

It also maybe helpful to note, this online community is exceptional with being nice. Generally speaking, people aren't here to bully one another. I imagine that the poeple who are looking to use their powers for evil can get some info here and "level up" to something else when this isn't enough.


Lesson from anthropology: If there is a resource available, something WILL evolve to consume it. Please think of this when considering the following...

There's useful info here. The whole knowledge is power thing: People will come here just to learn things to "win by the most possible". The critical thing for FI is :"enough". The kids who get it are looking to have enough.

I won't get into my charitable action. Let's assume if you get it, you'll pay it forward. If you don't get it; that's not my problem (or IMHO yours either Sol).

Another note from self help...In the PUA scene, there's a lot of jerks using their powers for evil. There's also a lot of really awkward dudes learning how to talk to girls. Much like money management, flirting and relationship building are not taught in school, but we still really improve our quality of life with the skills. People flock to these sources of high demand and low access data dispersal points. Part of being human is that some people will use this to "win the game", or get ahead.

I simply say don't be a jerk and do your best. That's what i'm doing and i do my best to accept that someone's best doesn't have to meet my rigorous standards. We are all on different parts of the same path in my mind.

Thank you so much for instigating a great conversation.

tooqk4u22

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #59 on: July 30, 2012, 12:46:31 PM »
So I just went for a little walk and passed some people that are either homeless or gypsies (transient). 

- the first was a group of three people that seemed to be in their mid 20s, and a dog. I have seen them before over the past several months.  Each had an instrument, but weren't playing, and smelled awful from 10 feet away.    They were all slim but none were anywhere near malnurished, and the pack of cigarettes kind of was off putting too.  They were panhandling, asking for money to help.  You mean to tell me that out of the three people not one could find some legitimate way to earn money.

- the second a bit further down the road claimed he was 22 and recently lost his father, and is now homeless and hungary. Also is a diabetic and claimed he was struggling to come up with money for prescription.  All in all a believable story so I bit and offered to buy the kid a sandwich.  Given that his sign said he was hungary I was surprised when he said no. 

This is another issue I have with your position, I don't feel I or anyone else should have to be taxed to support people who don't want support themselves.  I don't want to be accountable for adults who don't want to be accountable.  Is that wrong, does that make me a bad person, or even an EVIL one? I think not. 

Difficult things happen and there so many ways and circumstances that cause people to become homeless and this is not a judgement on that.  There should be temporary services/safety nets available to help these people when times get bad, and there are such services and resources but many seem to become permanent in nature and are available without question in perpetuity. Why is that ok?  Why do people have to have unemployment for five years? Do you think its coincidence that SSI Disability claims are skyrocketing - how could that many more people be getting hurt?

Throwing money at a problem does not solve the problem, using resources to develop and implement solutions does.

 
 

Sylly

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #60 on: July 30, 2012, 02:02:03 PM »
I was trying to illustrate the point that the function of charity is more than the parts or the sums of those parts. Simply claiming that taking less is all the charity that one needs to perform is missing the point of charity entirely. Let me quote myself from the other thread:

Anyone who thinks that just a portion of time, or money/resources, or just taking less is sufficient as a defense for claiming they're generous is buying into a fallacy. Generosity is so much more than just those parts or even their sum. It's a frame of mind, an ethos that defines how you conduct yourself in life.

When I speak of charity and giving, I speak of a balanced, noble, selfless pursuit. I don't disagree about what many of our fellow mustachians are describing as generous acts. They are generous acts, but by limiting the scope so myopically to just those acts, we all miss the bigger picture of their true function and purpose.

It wasn't my intent to take your comments out of context. I wanted to address a line of thinking that I disagreed with, that we are somehow should still be accountable to the choices others make. True, what I was responding to wasn't your whole argument, but I disagreed with something that you used as part of your argument.

I'm just saying there's a limit to the weight I should carry. Whether I actually do anything with those weights is another question, and IMO, a personal one.

My response to that specific part of your argument is in my earlier post, summarized in the first sentence quoted above. The second sentence is an overview of what I think on the entirety of your argument.

Now I'll elaborate. That there's multiple parts to charity in your definition is your opinion. Of your comments on charity, I agree with the encompassing idea:
Quote
It's a frame of mind, an ethos that defines how you conduct yourself in life.
And I believe that this varies across individuals. Consequently, charitable acts are often based on personal beliefs.

To give an example, I don't fully agree with this aspect of your idea of charity (emphasis mine):

In addition to taking less for yourself and giving time, you also need to proactively give some of what you take back to those who don't get a chance at the table to begin with. Between what you said here and in the charity thread, it appears your entire philosophy of charity is built upon the idea that everyone gets an equal crack at what you don't take for yourself.

The ideal situation is where everyone does get an equal chance at the table. I realize we're not at this ideal yet. But I'd rather work to improve the system and bring it closer to the ideal, than to blindly give back to those who miss the table. Why? Because there's too many factors at play that finally leads to someone missing the table. I believe in equalizing the chance. What people do with their chance is up to them. Are there people who miss the table despite their best efforts because they have a disproportionately small chance at it to begin with? No doubt. But I'm not alone. There other people (like you) who will help them. I may choose to help, but do I think I need to? No.

To conclude, my point is that your definition of charity (and all its parts) is not the hard-set rules of charity. People's charitable acts are based on personal beliefs. To say that doing A and B is not enough because you're missing C, and charity is A + B + C, is not for any other individual to decide.




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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #61 on: July 30, 2012, 02:15:51 PM »
Very interesting discussion.  Since nobody mentioned it, I thought I'd mention this article which is somewhat related, in case you missed it: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/12/14/are-you-obsessed-with-early-retirement/

This only covers a small part of this discussion, but it's worth noting that you don't have to give up on the now in order to have more later.  In fact, by living on less you can almost immediately start doing what's important to you (unless you need to eliminate huge amounts of debt).  And, while the blog is about early retirement and money, that's by far the least important part of it all...

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #62 on: July 30, 2012, 02:21:45 PM »
Casting charity aside, we owe the third world as much in aid as we've taken from it--it's the just payback for the externalities of our dirt-cheap oil and cotton.

Thread drift again, but I think it could be argued that any debt could well be the other way around.  What's the value of eradicating smallpox, or polio?

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #63 on: July 30, 2012, 03:03:51 PM »
Thank you for the thought-provoking post, Sol. I've been troubled by this paradox myself, and it reminds me of the Ursula Le Guin short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas."

I struggle with participating in a system that I find to be unjust (few reap the benefits while many are exploited and have limited access to the most basic of human needs like clean drinking water!!!). My post-FI plans are to be as self-sustaining as possible, so in the short term, I focus my energies on developing the skills that I will need, as well as on volunteering. But of course I will still be a part of this system (unless it ends), so sitting in my own smug sustainable bubble on arable land near a fresh water source isn't going to cut it for me. I'm still working out what else I can do.


darkelenchus

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #64 on: July 30, 2012, 05:53:00 PM »
Counteracting the thread drift, hopefully.

From what I can gather, the argument that we're dealing with is this:

  • If the world isn't the way it ought to be, you're morally obligated to do what you can to make it better.
  • The world isn't the way it ought to be.
  • You're morally obligated to do what you can to make it better. (via1 & 2)
  • Early retirement a) is benign to changing the world (i.e. one can achieve FI and then spend the rest of their lives watching TV, smoking pot, listening to jazz records), and b) is an agent in making the world is the way it is (due to the nature of inequality in distribution of resources, & job-ownership/job-workmanship).
  • Therefore, we shouldn't be fixated on early retirement. It doesn't do anything to advance our moral cause, as such. (via 3 & 4a)
  • Therefore, early retirement is morally condemnable. It perpetuates the conditions we're obligated to change. (via 3 &4b)

I don't take any issue with premises (1-3). If you want to argue that the world we live in is just/moral, have at it.

I also don't think that (4a) is problematic, either. Early retirement could be benign to moral matters in the way that brushing your teeth is benign to moral matters. When it is effectively treated as an all-consuming end in itself, however, it is problematic. Hence, (5) is a valid and sound inference. Such a person is failing not only in her moral obligation to others, she's also become vicious (in the classical sense, i.e.  as opposed to virtuous, and not with the connotation that she's violent) Even if her "ecological footprint" has diminished as a result of her miserliness, she's not much different than the average consumer we all deride and somewhat of an embarrassment to her own rationality.

To my mind, the sticking point comes with (4b). Does, e.g., foregoing investment in index funds and instead seeking passive income streams like madgeylou, being an upstanding landlord, putting your accumulated funds in government bonds and tax liens, take you out of the "agent for inequality" camp? Certainly you've got to take care of you and yours. No question, but once you and yours is taken care of, how much do you sacrifice? Everything else? If we've got an obligation to do what we can to make the world better, and we can make the world better by working a bit longer or by taking excess investment funds and donating them to charity rather than using them to pad our safety margin, isn't that what we should be doing? If we've got mounds of free time and skills that are in demand for the cure of some social malady, shouldn't we allocate whatever free time we can to do so? At what point does our obligation to make the world a better place stop? Cheap prices for many goods sold in the Western world presuppose cheap, exploitative labor in other parts of the world. Are we willing to accept higher prices for reducing the inequality, even if that means foregoing FI in some capacity?

Ferreting out the truth of (4b) and the inference drawn from it (i.e. 6) is the real task here. And it's a scary one, precisely because it might reveal some unattractive things about something we are all otherwise attracted to. We're attracted to it because of the freedom that it provides. As I said in a thread a few months ago, FI is a regulative ideal, and our pursuing it has to be balanced out with other ideals. If we ignore the purported fact that our pursuing FI is largely due to an immoral inequality, we do so at the peril of balancing out those other ideals, especially ideals of morality and fairness, since we'd have arbitrarily accepted our interests as more important than the interests of others.

As others have suggested, the concept of early retirement doesn't necessarily require a morally deplorable inequality. But this doesn't change the reality that it in our own time it could just as easily be part of the problem as part of the solution.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2012, 06:04:20 PM by darkelenchus »

FactorsOf2

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #65 on: July 30, 2012, 06:21:24 PM »
Ferreting out the truth of (4b) and the inference drawn from it (i.e. 6) is the real task here. And it's a scary one, precisely because it might reveal some unattractive things about something we are all otherwise attracted to.

Thanks for spelling out the logic of the debate, always helpful. 

I struggle to see how 4b can be true. 

In non-FI mode I continue working until age 65 and spending lots of my income of fancy food, plastic trash, entertainment etc. 

In FI-mode instead I invest 15% of that spending budget into Vanguards Total International Stock Index which buys shares of companies in emerging markets - generating cash flow and promoting growth in the underdeveloped economies of the world.

I also have a hard time accepting the line about our cheap goods coming at the expense of exploited workers in other countries. Since we're not dealing with slave labor, the only reason said workers accept these jobs is precisely because they must be an improvement on whatever the previous status quo was (prostitution, for instance). We could, however, ask ourselves what if instead of spending $60 dollars on Nike sneakers and indirectly improving this workers life, we just sent him the $60.  We have now two separate concerns:

1) would this type of wealth transfer be an effective means of sustained global development, the kind needed to pull emerging markets into the developed world?

2) Is it realistic or probable that lots of other people would agree to such a wealth transfer?

I suspect "no" on both counts. Plus I'd be out some nice sneakers.


sol

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #66 on: July 30, 2012, 06:24:47 PM »
Hate to burst your balloon, but there is no possible way to sustain the current human population indefinitely.

I think you mean to say that there's no possible way to sustain the current human population indefinitely at a first world standard of living, right?

serious topics are written about and it's valuable to do so, but physically talking on those subjects is just as equally important. If you have trouble doing so, perhaps it should be a moment of self-reflection upon why.

I don't think it should be difficult for the two of you to agree that different people communicate in different ways, and no one way is best for everyone.  Thus far this thread has been mostly enlightening and polite, and I'm kind of hoping it stays that way.

I don't think working to achieve FI is in conflict with helping others.  Achieving FI is about achieving an abundance of resources--you have more than you need.  Almost by definition, that means you therefore have the *ability* to help others. 

In the perfect world I envision, yes this is true.  I definitely haven't been getting that feeling from this forum, though.  Instead, I mostly hear about how people look forward to a life if leisure once they hit early retirement, rather than a life of productive unpaid work helping other people.

I'm not going to tell anyone how or where or even how much to give, as long as the how much part is more than nothing at all. 

As a test, how many people here are willing to come forward and admit that they don't donate any of their income (not time, income) on a recurring basis, for example as a paycheck deduction or monthly bill.  I'm sure some of us don't, and I'd wager that most of us don't.  That's what I'd like to see change. 

Just a dollar or two per paycheck, as an automated deposit to a cause of your choice, so that it you break the barrier of hoarding it all for yourself and learn to make giving part of your identity.  Trust me, it feels good, even in small amounts.

Quote
The bible advises you to provide for your own household first.

I don't think that means you should devote yourself wholly to building your nest egg before you learn to have compassion for the less fortunate.  I'm pretty sure Jesus said some stuff about that, too.

Quote
You can argue about the evils of capitalism all you want, but in my opinion it is superior to most other attempted economic systems

I think the socialist democracies of northern Europe are doing pretty well, but I concede it's all opinion at this early stage of the game.  Check back with me in another century and we'll see how everyone has fared.

Here's a thought for the die-hard capitalists in the group:  what about democratic corporations?  Imagine a business model where every worker gets to vote on what the company does, and every worker takes some proportioned share of the profits.  Where a CEO is elected to represent the people who do the work, rather than appointed to oppress them.  If democracy is good enough for America, why isn't it good enough for American corporations?

sol

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #67 on: July 30, 2012, 06:42:37 PM »
If you obtain your Mustache in a way that deliberately and overtly exploits others in a way that is substantially destructive, what's the point? Throw a couple dollars at a charity later to make yourself feel better?

For some of us, the whole notion of the stock market itself exploits others is a socially destructive way.  If you buy an index fund, most of your money is going places like Exxon, Walmart, and Philip-Morris.  Are those the companies that soothe your conscience, or are they the ones that offer you the best financial return?

no one, no matter how much of their lives they devote to helping others, is ever going to save the world. 
It doesn't matter how noble a goal it may be, it isn't going to happen. 

I'm going to break up this thread's trend towards civility because I know Bakari can take it:  dude, get your head out of your ass.  You don't think individual people can change the world?  Seriously?  Can you give me an example of ANYTHING ELSE in history that has changed the world?  I thought you of all people might be free of the brainwashing that says "it's too hard, don't try."

The current system is only perpetuated because people think like you do, that it's just too big and too entrenched and can never change.  I call BS. 

Quote
It sounds like you are saying that if one does any less than devote 100% of their time and resources to helping others, they are amoral.  That's just silly. 

I'm saying that there's a wide spectrum of morality between giving everything and giving nothing, and that one end of that spectrum is immoral.  Not amoral, meaning lacking any moral connotations, but immoral, meaning morally reprehensible.

And most people, just by default and social norms, sit firmly up against the immoral extreme of complete disregard for the less fortunate and would be happier and better people if they could learn to share just the tiniest little fraction of their abundance.  Don't rationalize it away by saying you give your time, or you'll give some day.  Give something now.  Half a percent would be an optimistic goal for such people, though well within the market variability they otherwise accept for growing their portfolio.  Even 0.1% is a huge step better than nothing.

Quote
The difference between the latest smart phone and retiring early is that the phone brings extremely little real, meaningful, or lasting joy into the life of the consumer, while (depending on your job on your personality) early retirement actually can.

This is an excellent point.  Early retirement certainly can bring lasting joy.  And postponing that early retirement by a week can help a mother feed a starving infant for a year.  I'm pretty sure they joy she experiences from not watching her child die of malnutrition is greater than the joy you would derive from exiting the workforce five days earlier.

In this context, the iphone is so far off the table as to be almost laughable.

Man, I thought this thread would help moderate some of these thoughts that have been kicking around in my head, but instead it's just making more and more of a crazy extremist on this issue.  Someone talk some sense into me, quick, before I join a monastery.

Daley

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #68 on: July 30, 2012, 07:13:05 PM »
serious topics are written about and it's valuable to do so, but physically talking on those subjects is just as equally important. If you have trouble doing so, perhaps it should be a moment of self-reflection upon why.

I don't think it should be difficult for the two of you to agree that different people communicate in different ways, and no one way is best for everyone.  Thus far this thread has been mostly enlightening and polite, and I'm kind of hoping it stays that way.

Definitely agreed. What you actually quoted was never meant as an attack, but was a deliberate comment meant to inspire some introspection and self-examination. After all, the entire purpose of this thread is to force people out of their comfort zones and grow personally, right? Unfortunately, it wasn't taken as such, which is why I hadn't responded. A silent agree to disagree move.

I had a few other thoughts to add myself, but your additional post already hit on my talking points.

Man, I thought this thread would help moderate some of these thoughts that have been kicking around in my head, but instead it's just making more and more of a crazy extremist on this issue.  Someone talk some sense into me, quick, before I join a monastery.

It's cool, Sol, and I'm not gonna talk you down so much as remind you that with everything in life, moderation. These threads the past few days have really provided myself some extra-laser-focused insight that's induced what I feel to be additional positive personal growth and a further refinement and understanding of my own value system, so I know how you feel. *shrug* Perhaps you're finding religion?

darkelenchus

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #69 on: July 30, 2012, 07:56:10 PM »
I struggle to see how 4b can be true. 

In non-FI mode I continue working until age 65 and spending lots of my income of fancy food, plastic trash, entertainment etc. 

In FI-mode instead I invest 15% of that spending budget into Vanguards Total International Stock Index which buys shares of companies in emerging markets - generating cash flow and promoting growth in the underdeveloped economies of the world.

The moral dilemma isn't one of "FI vs. non-FI mode," as if those are the only choices. I think it's safe to say that "FI mode" is unequivocally better than "non-FI mode." Even a total self-absorbed fuck who pursues FI but otherwise has nothing but contempt for humanity, the environment, etc. is at least not contributing more to the moral/environmental/etc. problems we face. The dilemma is between willing FI, pursuing it, and in the process potentially denying others that same privilege.

I also have a hard time accepting the line about our cheap goods coming at the expense of exploited workers in other countries. Since we're not dealing with slave labor, the only reason said workers accept these jobs is precisely because they must be an improvement on whatever the previous status quo was (prostitution, for instance).

Accepting cheap goods at the expense of exploited workers doesn't mean that their lives would be worse off because they work in a factory. What's at issue is that this arrangement very well may deny them the opportunity to achieve FI. If you will FI as a value for yourself, you will FI as a value for everyone. Hence the conundrum: Attaining and sustaining FI at the expense of others who may (probably will?) remain in a perpetual non-FI state.

We could, however, ask ourselves what if instead of spending $60 dollars on Nike sneakers and indirectly improving this workers life, we just sent him the $60.

We have now two separate concerns:

1) would this type of wealth transfer be an effective means of sustained global development, the kind needed to pull emerging markets into the developed world?

2) Is it realistic or probable that lots of other people would agree to such a wealth transfer?

I suspect "no" on both counts. Plus I'd be out some nice sneakers.

Right, so charity can have unintended consequences and participating in markets might actually make a better world. The question, however, is whether either allows for that worker to attain FI.

Jamesqf

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #70 on: July 30, 2012, 08:13:50 PM »
  • If the world isn't the way it ought to be, you're morally obligated to do what you can to make it better.

Alternative proposition: if you think the world is not the way it should be, then devoting a reasonable amount of your resources to trying to improve it is a purely pragmatic, selfish decision, since it means that (if you're successful) you will get to live in a better world.  No altruists need apply.[/list]

Jamesqf

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #71 on: July 30, 2012, 08:28:31 PM »
Hate to burst your balloon, but there is no possible way to sustain the current human population indefinitely.

I think you mean to say that there's no possible way to sustain the current human population indefinitely at a first world standard of living, right?

No.  I meant what I said: I think there is no way to sustain the current population indefinitely at ANY standard of living.  The issue is ongoing food supply.

Now I admit that I can't point to any "Do The Numbers" analysis that proves this, but neither do I know of any that disproves it, or has a sound methodology for finding a sustainable number.  But there is a lot of suggestive evidence.  Consider for instance the urbanization of the third world, and the fact that feeding much of this urban population depends on unsustainable agricultural practices.  Ergo, if we lose first-world, unrenewable resource-dependent farming methods, most of the urban population will starve.

We can also look at history, and what low-tech farming methods did to the environment of the Middle East and North Africa.  Civilizations grew in Mesopotamia, then collapsed when farming & grazing turned formerly fertile land into arid wasteland.  The same happened in North Africa, first as Rome used it as the grainery for Italy; later as grazing by nomadic herdsmen and their flocks turned grasslands into desert.  We can even see that the same thing happened in the America West: areas that were once grassland are now sagebrush desert. 

Put all this together, plus many other things - e.g. the rate of ocean fishery depletion - and it seems pretty obvious that current populations aren't sustainable.

matchewed

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #72 on: July 30, 2012, 08:46:03 PM »
Quote
Early retirement a) is benign to changing the world (i.e. one can achieve FI and then spend the rest of their lives watching TV, smoking pot, listening to jazz records), and b) is an agent in making the world is the way it is (due to the nature of inequality in distribution of resources, & job-ownership/job-workmanship).

Is there any lifestyle choice in the broad spectrum of first world living which would not be part of 4b? Aren't almost all our choices in life designed to perpetuate just that? Honest question as I may be very very wrong.

I'm not going to say don't donate resources to charity. I believe everyone has a moral obligation to do so and help those around them. And I find it a fairly broad assertion to say that most people don't donate to charity (sol I apologize if I'm not paraphrasing you correctly on that one).

I would hazard that any person's mustache being evil or not would solely rest on the actions of that individual. If that individual gives resources to charity, helps better their community, betters the larger global community, or any other number of things that would help others then that individual would not be evil in my view. Ideally someone would do this throughout their lifetime but I can understand how there may be incidences of not contributing in some way for extenuating circumstances.

darkelenchus

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Re: your mustache might be evil
« Reply #73 on: July 30, 2012, 08:53:01 PM »
    • If the world isn't the way it ought to be, you're morally obligated to do what you can to make it better.

    Alternative proposition: if you think the world is not the way it should be, then devoting a reasonable amount of your resources to trying to improve it is a purely pragmatic, selfish decision, since it means that (if you're successful) you will get to live in a better world.  No altruists need apply.[/list]

    This alternative proposition is actually two arguments:

    • Whatever you do, you do so for selfish reasons.
    • You help others.
    • Therefore, you help others for selfish reasons.

    This is a bad argument. (1) can never be falsified, so why should we ever take it seriously as an empirical claim. Moreover, we're certainly able to imagine one acting altruistically, and so there's no reason to maintain (1) as a necessary, a priori feature of human nature. Third, people actually state they do things for non-selfish reasons (duty/obligation, charity, compassion, etc.). The egoist can claim that they're lying, but who knows better what their motives are?

    The other argument is this:

    • Whenever you do something that's beneficial to you, you do it for the sake of the benefit that comes to you.
    • Making the world a better place is beneficial to you (i.e. you get to live in this better world).
    • Therefore, you make the world a better place for the sake of that benefit that comes to you.

    This suffers from the same problems as the first argument, but also has another problem: it ignores the fact that the benefit may be incidental, and therefore engages in some backward reasoning. The fact that one enjoys the benefit of some altruistic act doesn't require that she does it for that benefit, as the benefit could be unknown to them, or an after thought (e.g. sol's drowning girl - one needn't think "I might be a hero if I save her" or some other such thing; in all likelihood, the person doing the saving will react with no consideration of personal benefit or harm).

    So no using psychological egoism to evade the issue.

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    Re: your mustache might be evil
    « Reply #74 on: July 30, 2012, 09:14:26 PM »
    Quote
    Early retirement a) is benign to changing the world (i.e. one can achieve FI and then spend the rest of their lives watching TV, smoking pot, listening to jazz records), and b) is an agent in making the world is the way it is (due to the nature of inequality in distribution of resources, & job-ownership/job-workmanship).

    Is there any lifestyle choice in the broad spectrum of first world living which would not be part of 4b? Aren't almost all our choices in life designed to perpetuate just that? Honest question as I may be very very wrong.

    Excepting some sort of religious order, probably not. It's a very troubling thought, isn't it?

    The question is, what do we do about it? Shug our shoulders and retreat in bad faith, or actually own our values and try to do something about it?

    Daley

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    Re: your mustache might be evil
    « Reply #75 on: July 30, 2012, 09:14:50 PM »
      • If the world isn't the way it ought to be, you're morally obligated to do what you can to make it better.

      Alternative proposition: if you think the world is not the way it should be, then devoting a reasonable amount of your resources to trying to improve it is a purely pragmatic, selfish decision, since it means that (if you're successful) you will get to live in a better world.  No altruists need apply.[/list]

      There isn't technically a thing on the face of the earth that people can do that one can't potentially spin and view as being done for selfish reasons. Heck, you could even claim self immolation as being a selfish act. This is why I keep saying it's so important to see beyond the acts performed towards the true purpose of these acts and for people to do things for the right reason, because true charity is about selflessness. There's a reason why the phrase, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions," exists. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason can still lead to ruin.

      This suffers from the same problems as the first argument, but also has another problem: it ignores the fact that the benefit may be incidental, and therefore engages in some backward reasoning. The fact that one enjoys the benefit of some altruistic act doesn't require that she does it for that benefit, as the benefit could be unknown to them, or an after thought (e.g. sol's drowning girl - one needn't think "I might be a hero if I save her" or some other such thing; in all likelihood, the person doing the saving will react with no consideration of personal benefit or harm).

      Bingo. This highlights the very issue at heart within the community and this very discussion. Everyone who's commented here ultimately falls into one of two camps: charity performed for selfish reasons and charity performed for selfless reasons, and that's where the division line lies. The selfless camp argues that charity is necessary given the very nature of the world and should be performed at least to some extent solely for the betterment of others. The selfish camp is incapable of viewing altruism as anything but a selfish act, and when confronted with contrary ideals will treat it as a personal attack on their ethics. The concern over (a lack of) charity for selfish reasons with mustachians is a valid concern, and conflicts IMHO with the very purpose of the form of financial independence being extolled by our generous host.

      matchewed

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #76 on: July 30, 2012, 09:38:07 PM »
      Quote
      Quote
      Quote
      Early retirement a) is benign to changing the world (i.e. one can achieve FI and then spend the rest of their lives watching TV, smoking pot, listening to jazz records), and b) is an agent in making the world is the way it is (due to the nature of inequality in distribution of resources, & job-ownership/job-workmanship).


          Is there any lifestyle choice in the broad spectrum of first world living which would not be part of 4b? Aren't almost all our choices in life designed to perpetuate just that? Honest question as I may be very very wrong.


      Excepting some sort of religious order, probably not. It's a very troubling thought, isn't it?

      The question is, what do we do about it? Shug our shoulders and retreat in bad faith, or actually own our values and try to do something about it?

      Yes but that is where I believe that, possibly naively, that people tend to give to charities. Now it is true that some don't and I'm making just as much of an assertion in saying that I think people do.

      Am I allowed to shrug my shoulders and plow forward in helping in any small way that I can, hopefully help even more when I do achieve FI? Better yet don't answer that one and I'll just do it.

      However life is unfair, societal structures aren't made for everyone to have the same opportunity, but that doesn't mean that I have to not pursue FI because of that. Given that all other options will perpetuate that same imbalance I'm going to pick the option that I feel resonates with my moral code, and that's FI with a drive to help others.

      So I don't think my 'stache is evil. Could I do more to help others? Yes. But I'm using FI to try to be in a position to do that better.

      sol

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #77 on: July 30, 2012, 11:08:41 PM »
      Doesn't this presume that the only way to help people and alleviate suffering is by donating money?

      No, it presumes that the decision to not donate money is immoral if you have the means and opportunity.  It doesn't say anything about what else might also help, it just says that choosing not to do this minimum amount isn't moral.

      sure there are some instances where A billionaire pays a low effective tax rate but the amount paid in absolute dollars is still sizeable

      Progressive taxes exist because of the diminishing marginal utility of additional wealth.  If Warren Buffet's tax bill goes up by $10k, he doesn't even notice, because he's rich as hell.  If my tax bill goes up $10k, I have to make some sacrifices in my spending plan.  If my unemployed brother's tax bill goes up $10k, he declares bankruptcy.  Progressive tax rates are pretty easy to justify in light of this effect; it just doesn't hurt the billionaire very much to pay more since he will never need the money anyway.

      This is basically the same debate Congress is having right now.  Both sides agree we have a national deficit problem, but one side wants to collect more taxes from people who can easily spare it, and the other side wants to protect those rich folks and instead reduce benefits to those of us dependent on charity.  What would Jesus say about that?  Something like "Hallowed be the moneylenders, and screw the poor"?

      Quote
      (2) the government is horribly inefficient with its resources

      This is a common refrain from some corners of society and as a federal employee it always bothers me a bit.  Do you think our Army would be more cost effective if it were privately run?  Then please ask the next returning Afghanistan vet you meet what he thinks about private mercs.

      There is certainly government waste out there, I'm not disputing that.  But the US government has one great advantage over the private sector when it comes to these enormous national programs like NASA or the DOT.  It's not corrupt.   Thus far, humanity has failed to provide any examples of non-democratic institutions that can control such large fractions of GDP without rampant corruption.  Part of me feels that a higher overhead rate is par for the course to avoid having the contracts awarded to the manager's brother in law.


      the part of early retirement that i struggle with morally is participation in the stock market, and all the horrible things that are being done in the name of increasing quarterly profits. the stock market fucking sucks in terms of morality. investing in the stock market via a broad index fund is troubling to me, because i have no desire to participate in most of the things that most of the big companies are doing.

      I suggest that someone start a thread discussing investment options for people who want average market rate returns without investing in any of the obviously corrupt players that dominate most index funds.  Surely the combined brain power here can come up with at least a few good suggestions.

      sol

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #78 on: July 30, 2012, 11:20:11 PM »
      it's not fair for you to say that dreams shouldn't ever be put on hold until you're good and ready to chase them unless you've got better support than a handful of anecdotes.

      That's a more relevant point for someone with your dreams than someone with mine.  But you're right, not all dreams are necessarily contradicted by exploiting third world labor and hoarding a personal fortune.

      Quote
      But I believe that human populations, like those of any other animal, expand to meet their food supply, so it's short-sighted and ultimately wrong for us to continue subsidizing millions of lives at near-starvation levels that wouldn't otherwise exist.

      I was wondering if someone would toss out the eugenics argument.  In essence, it says that the best way to alleviate suffering in the world is to kill off a whole bunch of people so that those who survive can be better off.  It's classic ends vs means stuff, but I think most of here wouldn't seriously consider wiping out 6 billion innocents a viable option for making the world a better place. 

      But if you want to run with it, Grant, I'm all ears.  Those people already exist, and convincing me to watch them starve to death is going to be a hard sell.

      Quote
      I think what you're really getting agitated over is that not everyone shares your values of charitable giving. Some of the forum's members are paralyzed by poverty, others by apathy.

      The only thing I'm agitated about is that nobody has yet been able to make a sound argument as to why watching the girl drown is the better choice, and so I'm having to think more than I would like about whether or not the luxuries in my life are morally defensible.  Whether or not anyone else joins me in this thought process is entirely up to them.

      Quote
      If the capitalist economy is exploitative, isn't it a whole hell of a lot better to participate in it to the tune of $30,000 a year than $80,000 a year?

      This is Bakari's choice, and he and I have previously discussed this dichotomy.  We share many of the same values, but he fights for them by accepting the system as it is and doing his own part to minimize the damages, while I have instead opted to game the system into spiraling wealth in the hopes of enacting real change.

      sol

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #79 on: July 30, 2012, 11:38:31 PM »
      This is another issue I have with your position, I don't feel I or anyone else should have to be taxed to support people who don't want support themselves.

      My goal here is to encourage people who have surplus income to allocate a portion of it to a cause they believe in.  I'm not asking anyone to support deadbeats.  I don't really care if you give to an animal shelter or a museum or an orphanage.  I just think that charity is one of the best uses of surplus income, in terms of improving your happiness and well being, and I'd like to see more people take that first tiny step from zero to $1 per paycheck in charitable donations. 

      Quote
      Throwing money at a problem does not solve the problem, using resources to develop and implement solutions does. 

      It takes money to develop and implement solutions.  There are tons of charities where your donation goes towards teaching fishing instead of handing out fish, surely you can find one that you can get behind.  Are you still keeping every last cent you earn for your early retirement?

      What's the value of eradicating smallpox?

      Roughly akin to the costs of handing out smallpox-laden blankets to indigenous peoples?  Are you really going to suggest that Africa owes us a debt of gratitude for eradicating smallpox?

      A friend of mine once suggested that slavery was the best thing to ever happen to black people, because Africa has always been a shithole of poverty and despair and white slavers exported some of those black folk to America, where (after a few generations of whippings and rape) their descendants eventually gained freedom and became participants in the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth.  See, we did them a favor!  Try that one out at your next barbeque, and let me know how it plays.

      Jamesqf

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #80 on: July 31, 2012, 12:10:55 AM »
      This alternative proposition is actually two arguments:

      • Whatever you do, you do so for selfish reasons.
      • You help others.
      • Therefore, you help others for selfish reasons.

      This is a bad argument. (1) can never be falsified, so why should we ever take it seriously as an empirical claim. Moreover, we're certainly able to imagine one acting altruistically, and so there's no reason to maintain (1) as a necessary, a priori feature of human nature. Third, people actually state they do things for non-selfish reasons (duty/obligation, charity, compassion, etc.). The egoist can claim that they're lying, but who knows better what their motives are?

      I think you misunderstand.  I'm not claiming that it's the true explanation for all putatively altruistic behavior, but that it is A) a rational reason why people who are not by nature altruistic might want to try to make the world a better place; and B) the actual explanation for a lot of my own behavior.  So I'm not evading anything, except perhaps the presumption that I subscribe in any great degree to the version(s) of morality being expressed here.

      Jamesqf

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #81 on: July 31, 2012, 12:48:50 AM »
      What's the value of eradicating smallpox?

      Roughly akin to the costs of handing out smallpox-laden blankets to indigenous peoples?  Are you really going to suggest that Africa owes us a debt of gratitude for eradicating smallpox?

      Why, yes, I am suggesting exactly that - and not just Africa, but the entire world.  You might care to remember what the world was like before vaccination:
      Quote
      Upon a general calculation, threescore persons in every hundred have the small-pox. Of these threescore, twenty die of it in the most favourable season of life, and as many more wear the disagreeable remains of it in their faces so long as they live. Thus, a fifth part of mankind either die or are disfigured by this distemper.
      Voltaire - "On Inoculation" http://www.bartleby.com/34/2/11.html  Then multiply this by all the diseases that have been essentially eliminated by vaccination, antibiotics, and a simple knowledge of sanitation & public health.  I'm old enough to remember a couple of older kids in my school who spent their childhood wearing leg braces because of polio - and those were the survivors.  You tell me what a kid's life is worth.

       I would also suggest that you learn something about historical epidemiology.  Best evidence is that smallpox originated in Africa, and came to Europe via Asia, as did many of the plagues that afflicted Europe since the Romans began trading with distant lands.  Look up the term "virgin field epidemic" for starters. Bottom line is that microbes don't give a damn about racial, ethnic, or political differences. 

      Quote
      See, we did them a favor!

      Who's "we" here?  Perhaps the Islamic slave traders who ran the African trade, as well as one ranging from Ireland to the Slavic countries?  The African rulers who saw the trade as a profitable way of disposing of conquered neighbors?  It really would serve you well to learn something of history beyond the myopic "Europeans are to blame for everything" leftist cant.

      Bakari

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #82 on: July 31, 2012, 02:20:34 AM »
      no one, no matter how much of their lives they devote to helping others, is ever going to save the world.
      It doesn't matter how noble a goal it may be, it isn't going to happen.

      I'm going to break up this thread's trend towards civility because I know Bakari can take it:  dude, get your head out of your ass.  You don't think individual people can change the world?  Seriously?  Can you give me an example of ANYTHING ELSE in history that has changed the world?  I thought you of all people might be free of the brainwashing that says "it's too hard, don't try."

      The current system is only perpetuated because people think like you do, that it's just too big and too entrenched and can never change.  I call BS.

      You seem to misunderstand me.  I didn't say "no one can make a difference."
      I said "no one can save the world"
      Like you said in the next sentence, there is a range between giving nothing and giving everything.  I was responding to your implication that giving anything less than everything was immoral.  I'm not saying no one should try to make things better.  I'm saying don't stay up at night feeling guilty because - even though you have sacrificed to make things better, you maybe could have done a little more.

      Quote
      Quote
      It sounds like you are saying that if one does any less than devote 100% of their time and resources to helping others, they are amoral.  That's just silly.

      I'm saying that there's a wide spectrum of morality between giving everything and giving nothing, and that one end of that spectrum is immoral.  Not amoral, meaning lacking any moral connotations, but immoral, meaning morally reprehensible.

      And most people, just by default and social norms, sit firmly up against the immoral extreme of complete disregard for the less fortunate and would be happier and better people if they could learn to share just the tiniest little fraction of their abundance.  Don't rationalize it away by saying you give your time, or you'll give some day.  Give something now.  Half a percent would be an optimistic goal for such people, though well within the market variability they otherwise accept for growing their portfolio.  Even 0.1% is a huge step better than nothing.

      You can call it an excuse if you like, but at age 32, with 30k in income and 24k in savings, I am looking forward to retiring by normal retirement age, never mind early.

      I honestly believe that 1) the utility of my dollars actually serves me as well as whatever percentage might trickle down to the end user were I to donate them; and 2) I will be in a much better position to give if I allow myself an accumulation phase first - so much so that the total I end up giving will likely surpass what I would have had I started now.

      I really don't need to get into a "habit" of giving.  I used to, to quite a few different organizations, regularly.  I gave money to the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, Save the Children, I can't remember who else there may have been in the past, those ones stand out because they still keep sending me letters asking me to renew my "membership".

      Of course this will fuel the whole idea behind this thread, but, yeah, realizing the value of planning for the future, passive income, and compound interest, made me decide to stop spending on basically anything besides food, shelter, and utilities.  When I feel I can afford it, instead of giving cash to organizations who promise to do something useful with it, I want to buy ad space, and make my own public service messages.


      When you say that any amount is better than nothing - even 0.1% - and that giving time doesn't count, it makes me think it isn't really about the value one is providing to others or to the world, its just for the principal, for the sacrifice.

      You really think that me giving $30 annually to some random charity is better than me working unpaid hours directly for someone in need?
      Money is just a placeholder for the value created by labor!  If I give an hour of my time directly to an elderly widow, or the bicycle coalition, there is no administrative costs eating away a portion, no risk of embezzlement, no question if whether the actions the charity is taking are really the best possible way to use its resources.  I've worked for charities and nonprofits.  I've seen how they are run.  I'm not saying that most of them don't provide valuable services, but - just like took would rather not pay taxes to an inefficient government - I feel I can provide better value directly, myself, than filtered through an organization.


      I don't think charity should be penance. You may as well buy an H2, and then buy carbon-offset credits to feel good again.  I think most American's have a bigger negative impact from their lifestyles than they could ever make up for by donating 10% or 20% or 40% of their income to a charity.

      I think if one really wants to make a difference, the place to start is with looking at our own destruction that we do everyday.  If you feel guilty about our American privileged and inequality, about our role in environmental degradation and resource consumption, the FIRST things to do are
      1) don't have children
      2) eat local and (at least) 95% plant based
      3) don't ever drive a car
      4) don't buy (new) stuff unless you absolutely need it, and then never anything imported
      5) never fly anywhere on an airplane.
      I don't think its really that charitable to be the problem (i.e. all the people in the first world who aren't following those steps - in other words, basically all of us) and then try to buy your way out of guilt by donating some percentage of your income.

      Like I said before, I think true generosity should be measured by how much you keep, not how much you give away.
      The pauper who gives a penny is more generous than the billionaire who gives away 99% of his fortune - the (ex)billionaire still has 10 million dollars.  It wasn't a sacrifice.

      Yet, obviously, the 990 million has the bigger impact on making things better.

      I think you are too focused on the emotional side - generosity, as opposed to the utility side - effect.

      Bakari

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #83 on: July 31, 2012, 02:25:08 AM »
      This is why I keep saying it's so important to see beyond the acts performed towards the true purpose of these acts and for people to do things for the right reason, because true charity is about selflessness. There's a reason why the phrase, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions," exists. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason can still lead to ruin.

      That quote is saying the opposite of what you are saying!  Its talking about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.  The intention was good, but the end result was ruin.  This is exactly the risk I think you get with focusing on the motivation of the giver instead of the end result.

      Quote
      Everyone who's commented here ultimately falls into one of two camps: charity performed for selfish reasons and charity performed for selfless reasons, and that's where the division line lies. The selfless camp argues that charity is necessary given the very nature of the world and should be performed at least to some extent solely for the betterment of others. The selfish camp is incapable of viewing altruism as anything but a selfish act, and when confronted with contrary ideals will treat it as a personal attack on their ethics.

      I'm not at all suggesting charity is or should be for selfish reasons. 
      I'm saying it doesn't matter.
      I can absolutely promise you that the girl drowning in the river does not care, even a little bit, if the person who jumps in to save her only did it because he wanted to get in the newspaper as a hero.  If we made the rule that saving her only "counts" if the person who does it is noble and pure of intention, she might end up drowning. 
      Would it be a better world if everyone did the right thing for the right reason, if no one was selfish?  Well duh.  I never argued that.  I just don't see how it is relevant.

      I have a friend who loves animals, and decided to stop eating meat.  She says she can date a guy who eats meat, but only if he feels guilty about it. 
      But she has a problem with the fact that I don't think eating meat is inherently immoral - even though I am actually vegetarian! 
      Which school of thought do you think the animal that isn't served for dinner would prefer?

      It seems like kind of a luxury to me to focus so much on the emotional motivation of the giver rather than the effect on the receiver.  I think it makes it more about feeling good than about true compassion, which should be focused on the person in need.

      Bakari

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #84 on: July 31, 2012, 03:02:18 AM »
      Quote
      If the capitalist economy is exploitative, isn't it a whole hell of a lot better to participate in it to the tune of $30,000 a year than $80,000 a year?

      This is Bakari's choice, and he and I have previously discussed this dichotomy.  We share many of the same values, but he fights for them by accepting the system as it is and doing his own part to minimize the damages, while I have instead opted to game the system into spiraling wealth in the hopes of enacting real change.

      Perhaps this is a large part of why our feelings about this topic are so different, even though our basic underlying morality and feelings about the system are so similar.

      See, I don't feel like I'm "accepting" the system. 
      I feel like I am LIVING my values, everyday.  I'm trying to incorporate saving into that, but I am not making compromises to do it. 

      I could make a lot more money than I do by focusing on wealthier clients and raising rates, removing all my discounts (customers with no cars and/or nonprofits are a large percentage of my clients), not rounding down my bills (today I didn't charge for my last two hours of labor, just because I felt like I had made enough for one day). 
      I could stop working for the bikeshop and bike coalition, because I make $240 less for an 8-hour shift there than at my primary job.
      I could start sub-contracting jobs, work on expanding the business - some people tell me I should, I would be providing jobs and opportunity.
      I would certainly make a lot more money that way, probably for less work in the long run. 
      But I have no interest in that.  I am anti-capitalist. 
      My mother wants me to inherit her property someday.  I plan to either sell it and donate the profit, or use it to provide at-cost rent to someone deserving, because I don't believe in inheritance.

      I have investments, but none are in general index funds, none are in oil or weapons or WalMart.  Its a hodgepodge of "socially responsible" index funds and bonds, alternative energy mutual funds, hand selected stocks, and hand-selected consumer loans (lending club).  All-in-all, I've lost money (mostly the alt energy mutual fund) - and I'm ok with that.  I'd rather lose money than invest in anything I feel compromises my values. 

      I try to avoid buying anything from any chain store, if at all possible.  I'll shop at a franchise before a corporation, a local place with a half dozen branches before a franchise, and a place with one location where the checker is also the owner anytime that's an option.  I'll travel out of my way to get to an independent business, and I'll pay more with out a second thought.  I'll buy certain things organic or not at all.

      All of these things get in the way of amassing enormous wealth witch which I could hypothetically "make a difference", but I'm not willing to sacrifice my values in order to make more money so that I can then donate that money.  That would make no sense to me.


      Also, I'm not just quietly living in my little trailer not using stuff. 
      I'm here on this board, and at instructables, and ecomodder, and youtube, and out in the real world talking to clients and friends and people on the street, anyone who will listen, about bicycles and hypermiling and anti-consumerism and how reducing your impact will save you money (because some people will do the right thing for the right reasons, and others need a selfish reason) and trying my best to inspire as many people as I can to change their own behavior.

      The one place I did donate actual cash to recently (as well as time and labor) was OWS, because it was something i really believe in, and it reached a critical mass that made it impossible to ignore.  I really don't think the little tiny battles some people do on their own have any real or significant impact.  It takes a huge number of people getting on board.  The first step is public education.  I'd like to have the resources to spread the education I provide to those around me to a wider base, but it's going to take resources to do it.  I.e. "accumulation phase".  And since I am forgoing massive income on the basis of living my values, that phase is going to be a while. 
      In the meantime, I'll still be living low-impact and trying to inspire locally.

      While I don't feel personally responsible to "fix" everything that is wrong in the world, I am also not content to "accept" the system. 
      I feel like all those things above is me not accepting the system. 
      I don't think anything I do is ever going to cause American citizens to all suddenly revert back from being "consumers" to being "citizens" or our elected officials to prioritize equity of distribution over raw GDP, but everyone of us here, participating in these discussions - and influencing not only the hundreds who comment, but the thousands who read without commenting - we are actually all helping to change the system, in a very real way.
      That's something I feel good about.

      James

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #85 on: July 31, 2012, 07:26:11 AM »
      This is basically the same debate Congress is having right now.  Both sides agree we have a national deficit problem, but one side wants to collect more taxes from people who can easily spare it, and the other side wants to protect those rich folks and instead reduce benefits to those of us dependent on charity.  What would Jesus say about that?  Something like "Hallowed be the moneylenders, and screw the poor"?


       I was traveling the last 4 days so I just got back on the forum and read this thread.

      Why the hell did you have to bring politics into this?  And justify it with religion to boot!  Definitely a way to create division and discord here and prevent meaningful discussion on the issue at hand.  The last thing this issue needs is a demagogue.

      I was thinking of bringing up a topic along these lines for a while, I think it's a good issue to discuss here and I have a lot of thoughts.  Unfortunately the way this topic was brought up is from a fundamentalist perspective.  I rejected fundamentalist ideology a while back, I'm not going to join a discussion where it's so pervasive.  Maybe I'll start a thread for those of us wanting a more helpful and practical discussion rather than fanatical philosophical bullshit.

      I have enjoyed the more even handed participants (like Bakari), not because I agree with them completely but because they are practical, inspirational, helpful, productive.  To those on this thread trying to have that sort of discussion I appreciate your attempts and would like to have more of that sort of discussion.

      I'll edit to add that I probably should have waited to comment, I'm a bit irritable this morning...  :)  I'm decrying inflammatory rhetoric with inflammatory rhetoric and should probably just bite my tongue and move on.
      « Last Edit: July 31, 2012, 08:46:49 AM by James »

      twinge

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #86 on: July 31, 2012, 08:16:00 AM »
      Quote
      From where I'm standing, the dots say that if you hit your retirement goal dollar amount and then quit working rather than put in one more day for another $100, you've effectively forsaken control of that $100 that you could have allocated to a cause you support.  The hidden icebergs of our ongoing conversations here are all related to making value judgments about the best use of those dollars.  Once we accept that upgrading to the new iphone is a stupid waste of my working career hours, why do we instead opt for retirement instead of malaria medication, or pertussis vaccinations, or HIV research, or counseling for women from abusive relationships, or even anything on Kiva or Kickstarter.

      I think this is a key point in the conversation in that early retirement is a decision about allocation of resources just like all the other decisions before early retirement and should be considered mindfully as a choice along the way rather than as an end goal.  To have early retirement not be leaning towards evil, I have to convince myself  that the gains in time and assets afforded by early retirement (minus any losses incurred by decisions along the path towards er) allow me to more effectively identify and support the full scope of my values than other paths reasonably in my reach.  I don't know the answer but it's a question that I do keep in mind.

      Quote
      I realize this is going to ruffle some feathers here, so I'll just come right out and give you all an easily quotable target to aim at:  shooting for early retirement is evil.  By walking away from income that could be used to save a child's life, knowing you have the power and the opportunity to save her, you have actively participated in her suffering and demise.

      Another issue for me is that through my current profession I believe I do good in the world, and it affords me to have a far broader sphere of influence than if I wasn't working at it--but it does so at considerable cost to me and my family ( I wake up at 4 AM to work so that I can spend time with my kids before and after school--I work after they go to bed, I travel more than my family would like, I often feel like I am not fully present in my work or with my children or with my husband...).  This disharmony leaves me somewhat burnt out and therefore less effective at everything I value and enjoy. And it doesn't seem sustainable. Sure, I can and do try to just be better at juggling it all, but my ideation of financial independence/early retirement is an "escape valve" on the pressure.

      I think my key response to your "quotable target" is that I mainly agree, but that  there's not just one child's life to save and that I need time and mental space to figure out how marshal my resources (time, talents, assets etc.) in more effective ways.  The world has become extraordinarily complex and decisions that I don't really think that much about on a day-to-day basis (e.g., what all is in that index fund?) may have more impact on the world than the ones I do think about every day (e.g., am I doing my work with integrity? how can I find another way not to use my car?).

      I am in a profession that has sabbaticals and I think I conceive of early retirement more in a sense of a sabbatical--I want to have the freedom to take a sabbatical from my current life, reflect on what I've done, what I think matters, what makes me happy, how to balance etc. and relaunch my next efforts whether they are income-producing or not.  I think I get into the "how to make it happen" conversations on financial independence as a problem-solving, fun exercise and a distraction--and I get into the idea that at the end there's this escape pod of early retirement for managing my own personal burn-out--but it's not really why I am doing it. 


      On another note, having spent a good deal of time working in developing countries I do bristle at the gleeful and self-congratulatory tone the boards sometimes get when we realize how we can build wealth by the easy trimming of waste from our lives when I've seen so many folks in other countries be way, way more badass in figuring out ways of getting one more liter of water for their families. 

       


      « Last Edit: July 31, 2012, 08:24:17 AM by twinge »

      tooqk4u22

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #87 on: July 31, 2012, 09:00:30 AM »
      Progressive taxes exist because of the diminishing marginal utility of additional wealth.  If Warren Buffet's tax bill goes up by $10k, he doesn't even notice, because he's rich as hell.  If my tax bill goes up $10k, I have to make some sacrifices in my spending plan.  If my unemployed brother's tax bill goes up $10k, he declares bankruptcy.  Progressive tax rates are pretty easy to justify in light of this effect; it just doesn't hurt the billionaire very much to pay more since he will never need the money anyway.

      Buffett may not feel it but that doesn't make it right, and you are ignoring the corporate and other taxes that his companie and underlying companies pay that really should be factored into is effective tax rate.  Your unemployed brothers taxes won't go up because he doesn't have any income, I just don't want me or even billionaires to pay for him to be unemployed indefinetly

      This is basically the same debate Congress is having right now.  Both sides agree we have a national deficit problem, but one side wants to collect more taxes from people who can easily spare it, and the other side wants to protect those rich folks and instead reduce benefits to those of us dependent on charity.  What would Jesus say about that?  Something like "Hallowed be the moneylenders, and screw the poor"?

      Yes this is being debated in a dysfunctional congress right now but the reality is that the US has a spending problem not a tax problem.  And just because people have something doesn't mean it is right to take it - again these rich people in many times actually give a lot back and raising thier taxes will not actually create that much more revenue anyway.  Ultimately it will be the middle class that gets screwed like always.   

      This is a common refrain from some corners of society and as a federal employee it always bothers me a bit.  Do you think our Army would be more cost effective if it were privately run?  Then please ask the next returning Afghanistan vet you meet what he thinks about private mercs.

      Yes I actually do beleive it would be run far more efficiently and cost effectively, but your point about mercs is off base.  I didn't say that private soldiers would be better - you are dismissing the most important part of our military, which is that people who enlist choose to do so and generally have a high degree of moral apptitude and sense of pride and commitment to the country making for a very powerful and effective force.

      There is certainly government waste out there, I'm not disputing that.  But the US government has one great advantage over the private sector when it comes to these enormous national programs like NASA or the DOT.  It's not corrupt.   Thus far, humanity has failed to provide any examples of non-democratic institutions that can control such large fractions of GDP without rampant corruption.  Part of me feels that a higher overhead rate is par for the course to avoid having the contracts awarded to the manager's brother in law.

      If you think there is no corruption in government spending then you better have your head evaluated, but that doesn't mean government workers are corrupt, just means the some individuals and the system is.


      tooqk4u22

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #88 on: July 31, 2012, 09:03:42 AM »
      This is another issue I have with your position, I don't feel I or anyone else should have to be taxed to support people who don't want support themselves.

      My goal here is to encourage people who have surplus income to allocate a portion of it to a cause they believe in.  I'm not asking anyone to support deadbeats.  I don't really care if you give to an animal shelter or a museum or an orphanage.  I just think that charity is one of the best uses of surplus income, in terms of improving your happiness and well being, and I'd like to see more people take that first tiny step from zero to $1 per paycheck in charitable donations. 

      Quote
      Throwing money at a problem does not solve the problem, using resources to develop and implement solutions does. 

      It takes money to develop and implement solutions.  There are tons of charities where your donation goes towards teaching fishing instead of handing out fish, surely you can find one that you can get behind.  Are you still keeping every last cent you earn for your early retirement?

      We agree - there are tons of ways to help out with money and time and a lot that are effective, so what we disagree on is how much, how often, and ultimately when people should contribute and the belief that people should feel obligated to do so otherwise they are evil. 

      darkelenchus

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #89 on: July 31, 2012, 09:21:37 AM »
      I think you misunderstand.  I'm not claiming that it's the true explanation for all putatively altruistic behavior, but that it is A) a rational reason why people who are not by nature altruistic might want to try to make the world a better place; and B) the actual explanation for a lot of my own behavior.  So I'm not evading anything, except perhaps the presumption that I subscribe in any great degree to the version(s) of morality being expressed here.

      It's not really an alternative proposition then. If you ought to do what is in your own interest, and making the world a better place is in your interest, then you agree with (1), which makes no claim about whether helping others is essential or incidental to making the world a better place.


      The intention was good, but the end result was ruin.  This is exactly the risk I think you get with focusing on the motivation of the giver instead of the end result.

      And focusing on the end result along could mean adopting a course of action in which the good ends up being incidental. The processes, rules, and motivations are just as important.

      For instance, consider a rich banker who gives to a homeless shelter without giving charitably: he wants to perpetuate the existence of the homeless through his "donation," but out of a belief that they deserve to suffer. When he gets the means, he purchases and imprisons the homeless in a torture chamber to increase their suffering. The motive for "donating" and the motive for torturing them were the same and the consequences were the result of the motivation, even though the consequence of "donation" was good and the consequence of torturing was bad.

      In other words, we don't merely want a situation that provides the greatest overall good, we want a system that does so.

      However life is unfair, societal structures aren't made for everyone to have the same opportunity, but that doesn't mean that I have to not pursue FI because of that. Given that all other options will perpetuate that same imbalance I'm going to pick the option that I feel resonates with my moral code, and that's FI with a drive to help others.

      Right. Recognizing that pursuing and maintaining FI might be a part of the problem of inequality of opportunity for FI doesn't mean that one should refrain from pursuing and maintaining FI. One would have to make the case that some alternative is better. If there is no alternative, then FI it is. But awareness that it too might be part of the problem can help one be mindful in one's FI choices. Would you invest in a prostitution ring if it promised a %50 APY return? It could sure speed up your attaining FI, but at what expense to the goal of making the world a better place? Excepting possibly the whole legality part, is investing in the total stock market different in kind than this example?

      sol

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #90 on: July 31, 2012, 09:37:59 AM »
      There other people (like you) who will help them. I may choose to help, but do I think I need to? No.

      Am I correctly understanding that your reason for not giving to charity is that other people give to charity so you don't have to?  Do you think all of the available charity is "used up" so that your contribution no longer makes a difference?

      On another level, this argument speaks directly to the point I was trying to make, and which several other posters have alluded without being too explicit.  Namely, that charitable giving isn't a purely utilitarian activity, and has benefits for both the recipient and the giver.  I believe that the act of giving to others is rewarding in and of itself, and makes us both happier people and better people.  It's one of those inherently human activities that we've somehow forgotten how to do.

      Are we willing to accept higher prices for reducing the inequality, even if that means foregoing FI in some capacity?

      This one is an easily testable hypothesis, and ultimately comes down to which of those two things you value more.  Do you value a more just world, or do you value low-low rollback prices for plastic crap at Walmart?

      Several posters here have previously discussed this decision with threads like "I want to support local businesses, but not when they cost 50% more" in which case we've exactly quantified which of those two things that person values more.  How many of us are complicit in exploitive business practices in the interests of better market returns?

      sol

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #91 on: July 31, 2012, 09:38:21 AM »
      I also have a hard time accepting the line about our cheap goods coming at the expense of exploited workers in other countries... what if instead of spending $60 dollars on Nike sneakers and indirectly improving this workers life, we just sent him the $60.

      These goods are exploitive precisely because the worker does NOT get $60 for those sneakers.  Instead, she gets 85 cents/hour to work in a sweatshop with no fire escapes.  Those sneakers contain $3 in materials, 20 cents in labor, $2 in shipping charges and packaging, $15 dollar in advertising, and $40 in profit for the American executives who set the whole thing up.

      Nike is actually a great example, as a company that doesn't actually make anything.  The Nike corporation owns no factories, it employs no manufacturing jobs, manages no supply lines.  All it does is marketing, and everything related to production it subcontracts out to the lowest bidder in a free trade zone.  So technically, you might claim it is the subcontractors who are perpetuating third world poverty, but I don't feel like that lets Nike off the hook.

      Quote
      would this type of wealth transfer be an effective means of sustained global development, the kind needed to pull emerging markets into the developed world?

      I think this system is designed precisely to avoid pulling emerging markets into the third word.  It's designed to extract value from places where materials and labor are cheap, and consolidate the wealth thus created in the US and other developed nations.  Shoes, clothes, coffee, oil, minerals, cars, electronics, the entire global economy works on the same model.

      sol

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #92 on: July 31, 2012, 09:43:15 AM »
      Put all this together, plus many other things - e.g. the rate of ocean fishery depletion - and it seems pretty obvious that current populations aren't sustainable.

      This is a significant tangent so I won't go into too much detail without a new thread.

      The summary of my argument on this point is that current populations are sustainable given sufficient energy resources.  With enough energy, you can solve all of the rest of the world's problems in a pretty straightforward way.  Desalinate ocean water.  Extract carbon from the atmosphere.  Chemically synthesize liquid fuels and industrial fertilizers and pesticides. 

      It's not a pretty world, or a natural one, but I think we have the power to artificially support our population for as long as we can continue to find new energy sources.

      sol

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #93 on: July 31, 2012, 09:52:23 AM »
      Why, yes, I am suggesting exactly that - and not just Africa, but the entire world... 

      Who's "we" here?  Perhaps the Islamic slave traders who ran the African trade, as well as one ranging from Ireland to the Slavic countries?  The African rulers who saw the trade as a profitable way of disposing of conquered neighbors?  It really would serve you well to learn something of history beyond the myopic "Europeans are to blame for everything" leftist cant.

      This post is awesome.  In one tidy package you'e exonerated Europeans for their participation in the slave trade and the continent-spanning epidemics they spread around the world.  Gee, I feel so much better about myself.  Thanks!

      sol

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #94 on: July 31, 2012, 09:59:35 AM »
      I'll edit to add that I probably should have waited to comment, I'm a bit irritable this morning...  :)  I'm decrying inflammatory rhetoric with inflammatory rhetoric and should probably just bite my tongue and move on.

      No sweat James, I expected the heat when I started this thread, and then continued to amp up the rhetoric as it evolved.

      I tossed out the politics merely to highlight that these questions are not unique to our discussion, but are part of a larger national debate that is currently ongoing about the nature of prosperity and our social contract.  If anything, I think this forum's version of that debate has been FAR more civil and productive than the version currently playing out in the popular media.

      I tossed out the religion because several previous posters had referenced their spiritual motivations for some of these same decisions.  I'm personally anti-superstition and try to base my morality on the world that actually exists, but that doesn't mean I don't see value in some aspects of religion and recognize that it is an important factor for a lot of other people.

      James

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #95 on: July 31, 2012, 10:18:54 AM »
      I'll edit to add that I probably should have waited to comment, I'm a bit irritable this morning...  :)  I'm decrying inflammatory rhetoric with inflammatory rhetoric and should probably just bite my tongue and move on.

      No sweat James, I expected the heat when I started this thread, and then continued to amp up the rhetoric as it evolved.

      I tossed out the politics merely to highlight that these questions are not unique to our discussion, but are part of a larger national debate that is currently ongoing about the nature of prosperity and our social contract.  If anything, I think this forum's version of that debate has been FAR more civil and productive than the version currently playing out in the popular media.

      I tossed out the religion because several previous posters had referenced their spiritual motivations for some of these same decisions.  I'm personally anti-superstition and try to base my morality on the world that actually exists, but that doesn't mean I don't see value in some aspects of religion and recognize that it is an important factor for a lot of other people.

      I get all that, I just don't like it.

      "amp up the rhetoric"  "tossed out the politics " "tossed out the religion"

      Is this conversation serving a higher purpose than your enjoyment of the debate itself?  I feel this thread is more about your entertainment than growth for everyone involved and mutual understanding.  Is the lack of civility and productivity on the political stage something you wish to emulate here?  That's how it appears.

      Sylly

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #96 on: July 31, 2012, 10:19:19 AM »
      There other people (like you) who will help them. I may choose to help, but do I think I need to? No.

      Am I correctly understanding that your reason for not giving to charity is that other people give to charity so you don't have to?  Do you think all of the available charity is "used up" so that your contribution no longer makes a difference?

      Way to take that sentence out of context. If you follow the posts containing the whole argument, my point is that people have different beliefs of what is and how to do charity. The end result is that people direct their charitable activities into different places in different ways. That sentence, in context, is part of the argument that I, as a single individual, don't have to cover every single charitable act every other people believe, primarily because I may not believe in what you believe, and also because I am not alone. People as a group will cover the different venues of charity.






      Jamesqf

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #97 on: July 31, 2012, 10:59:06 AM »
      Would you invest in a prostitution ring if it promised a %50 APY return? It could sure speed up your attaining FI, but at what expense to the goal of making the world a better place?

      Yes, I would, assuming of course that I was confident that I could evade any legal sanctions.  I mention this because it illustrates the differences in ideas of morality: I don't see anything wrong with prostitution, and think the world would be a better place if it were legal, and more people had more practical opportunity for sex.  If in addition I can earn a spectacular rate of return on my investment, that's just gravy :-)

      Jamesqf

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #98 on: July 31, 2012, 11:19:38 AM »
      Why, yes, I am suggesting exactly that - and not just Africa, but the entire world... 

      Who's "we" here?  Perhaps the Islamic slave traders who ran the African trade, as well as one ranging from Ireland to the Slavic countries?  The African rulers who saw the trade as a profitable way of disposing of conquered neighbors?  It really would serve you well to learn something of history beyond the myopic "Europeans are to blame for everything" leftist cant.

      This post is awesome.  In one tidy package you'e exonerated Europeans for their participation in the slave trade and the continent-spanning epidemics they spread around the world.  Gee, I feel so much better about myself.  Thanks!

      As I said, some knowledge of actual history, rather than the stock leftist propaganday fantasy, would be helpful to any discussion. 

      First, why do Europeans, and ONLY Europeans, need to be exonerated of participating in a practice that was been commonplace in every culture much above the hunter-gatherer, and which only ended because the European-developed Industrial Revolution made it both unnecessary and unprofitable?

      Second, as to Europeans supposedly spreading epidemics, do you really think that microbes care?  Or that Europeans in those days had the slightest idea how diseases were spread?  Or that the spreading wasn't far more a matter of bringing new diseases back to Europe?  Or indeed, that Europeans were the only ones doing the spreading?  Most such diseases are spread by travellers, and become epidemics when they reach populations that lack natural immunity.  That's just the way infectious diseases work.  There's no more morality to them than to the fact that gravity means that if you fall off a cliff, you'll wind up smashed at the bottom.

      Daley

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      Re: your mustache might be evil
      « Reply #99 on: July 31, 2012, 11:57:46 AM »
      This is why I keep saying it's so important to see beyond the acts performed towards the true purpose of these acts and for people to do things for the right reason, because true charity is about selflessness. There's a reason why the phrase, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions," exists. Doing the right thing for the wrong reason can still lead to ruin.

      That quote is saying the opposite of what you are saying!  Its talking about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons.  The intention was good, but the end result was ruin.  This is exactly the risk I think you get with focusing on the motivation of the giver instead of the end result.

      See, I view it as something that goes both ways. It's not just the wrong things for the right reasons as you assert, it's also the right things for the wrong reasons. Both equally contribute to the wrong outcome.

      Quote
      Everyone who's commented here ultimately falls into one of two camps: charity performed for selfish reasons and charity performed for selfless reasons, and that's where the division line lies. The selfless camp argues that charity is necessary given the very nature of the world and should be performed at least to some extent solely for the betterment of others. The selfish camp is incapable of viewing altruism as anything but a selfish act, and when confronted with contrary ideals will treat it as a personal attack on their ethics.

      I'm not at all suggesting charity is or should be for selfish reasons. 
      I'm saying it doesn't matter.
      I can absolutely promise you that the girl drowning in the river does not care, even a little bit, if the person who jumps in to save her only did it because he wanted to get in the newspaper as a hero.  If we made the rule that saving her only "counts" if the person who does it is noble and pure of intention, she might end up drowning. 
      Would it be a better world if everyone did the right thing for the right reason, if no one was selfish?  Well duh.  I never argued that.  I just don't see how it is relevant.

      I have a friend who loves animals, and decided to stop eating meat.  She says she can date a guy who eats meat, but only if he feels guilty about it. 
      But she has a problem with the fact that I don't think eating meat is inherently immoral - even though I am actually vegetarian! 
      Which school of thought do you think the animal that isn't served for dinner would prefer?

      It seems like kind of a luxury to me to focus so much on the emotional motivation of the giver rather than the effect on the receiver.  I think it makes it more about feeling good than about true compassion, which should be focused on the person in need.

      I never said you were necessarily advocating giving to charity for selfish reasons, but you do still defend others willing actions to do so with the expectation that it's better than nothing. I feel the subject is relevant because no matter how much right you may do, if you do it for the wrong reasons, it's still wrong, fixes nothing, and is nothing more than legalism.

      Example: Some people won't eat pork because G-d deemed it a sin and stop their thought process right there. I personally won't eat pork because a) pigs are intelligent, independent creatures (not herd animals), b) we share too much genetic material to have it be a healthy protein source, c) they're omnivores with a diet that consists partly of waste materials, and d) because of (b) and (c), there's an increased risk in passing deadly pathogens between species by eating them, as such, e) I understand why it would be wrong to eat pork for a multitude of reasons beyond the purely religious dictate and usual generic anti-meat CAFO and slaughter method rhetoric (which I do agree with being wrong and is partly why I support organic, free range kosher slaughter as an ideal in meat processing). Without the understanding of why we should do certain things, the act itself becomes hollow and fails to instill any true value and insight into the practice. When it becomes hollow and meaningless, the act can become perverted by evil people and you become none the wiser because it still appears to fit the shallow understanding you have of it.

      I find it interesting that you're assigning a purely emotional argument towards my definition of charitable giving. Yes, some emotion needs to be a part of the act given as empathy is an emotional response and driving force behind many selfless acts, but that's hardly my stance at all. My argument is cemented in a very logical process: Our lives are not purely our own, we impact others just as much as others impact us; as such, part of how we live our lives should be for the benefit of others. Because it is a segment of our entire life we're discussing, it needs to be expressed in all facets and practices performed in that lifetime, not just some. This requires a focus on compassion towards others, lest we lose sight of the reason.

      It is a luxury to focus purely on the emotional benefit to oneself of giving, because that's being selfish. The very act I'm railing against in the practice of charitable giving. Your example highlights this. Your friend's outlook on the subject is for selfish reasons, and as such, for the wrong reasons. She loves animals but feels that simply feeling guilty about eating them will fix the problem combined with her personal lack of participation in modern agribusiness so she can sleep better at night. She's not doing it for the animal's benefit even if a couple animals benefit by her actions, she's doing it for her own and is actually compromising the very philosophy she's trying to lead her life by. Her choice in tolerable character traits in her suitors proves this.

      You know logically that giving money can, does and will make a difference when done so properly. Before jumping on the FI bandwagon, your moral and ethical framework even had you doing so on top of everything else you did. Your approach to charity appears to be one of selflessness (the right reason), and you get that necessity. However, you've since introduced an "ends justify the means" argument into retreating from practicing that philosophy in all aspects of your life. "If I just stop giving money to others, I can achieve FIRE sooner, and can then be more generous with my money again later." It's a slippery slope. Although you're still plenty generous in other aspects and even appear to be compensating some for that financial giving loss in other areas, you've built a logical argument to defend eliminating a form of selflessness in your life. What we practice daily with enough time starts to alter our ideals. My worry is that by eliminating the full balance of charity in all aspects of your life, you'll eventually cease to value the importance of financial giving.

      If we're to advocate selfless acts and charitable giving as a necessity in our pursuit of FI and daily living, then it's important to define what that really is and how it impacts us and others. Unfortunately, it cuts deep to the heart of the matter with people because it highlights the selfishness in their own lives, and people don't like being judged (even if it's merely by their own conscience). I'm not exempt from this in my own life. This discussion has added an insight into where I can improve things myself and perhaps where I even need to back off a bit from being too generous in some other aspects of my life. Instead of perhaps recognizing this, many people would rather instead argue and defend their selfish choices without admitting that they're being selfish and that perhaps what generosity they are providing in life might be for terrible reasons that could result in a terrible outcome because they don't completely understand the purpose.
      « Last Edit: July 31, 2012, 12:03:58 PM by I.P. Daley »

       

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