The ethical side of FIRE

Apparently some people wonder if this financial freedom/early retirement stuff is morally right or wrong.  Cheesy finance posted the question here and I was only going to type a short comment. And then I started typing and the short comment turned into a long one, which turned into this post …

The tax side

The ethical debate seems to be revolving around the question if we are committing a mortal sin because we will pay less taxes. Personally I have zero issues with it. I find our government incredible wasteful with the money people had to work so hard for. Frugality isn’t a trait often found in government bureaucracy. If they are just going to waste it, I do not feel very inclined to keep on providing my money to them. I also would like a much smaller government as in my mind they are now active in area’s better left to the private sector. Cutting the government budget in half would be a good start. And then cut it in half again …. This because I firmly believe a smaller and more efficient government would benefit our society a lot more than the over bloated wasteful one we have now.

So for me the tax side of FIRE is not a problem, on the contrary 😉 I sometimes refer to my frugal living as financial guerrilla warfare against the ever hungry government caterpillar.

The bigger picture

What I do wonder is if by checking out early from the workforce if we are slowing down the progress of society in general. With progress being defined as a better standard of living for the most people possible. Sure, most of us have jobs that do not really contribute to this and the job itself will be done by somebody else, so no actual loss there. But I have found I get more stuff done when I am working. I get pretty lazy without external pressure. That might just be me off course. And a whole lot of people who have reached FIRE seem to keep pretty busy or devote more time to self-development. But since, once FIRE reached we do not pay a lot off taxes, are we contributing in another, perhaps a more meaningful, way to society?

I have been wondering, where are the FIRE people who did truly exceptional stuff in their retirement? Stuff they would have never done if they still needed to work and is not only personal development but does benefit society as a whole? An innovation, a charity accomplishment, or even making big amazing structures for burning man …

Perhaps I look at it the wrong way. Perhaps the impact of the FIRE community will not be a few big exceptional accomplishments (because realizing the big exceptional accomplishment would probably turn into work at a certain point). Perhaps the impact will be more in a sort of grass root movement. Lots of people whom make small improvements in their own personal life and community because they have the time to do it. Buying less useless crap and focusing on meaningful experiences and relations with other people cannot be bad for our society.

Perhaps it will only be when a certain threshold of FIRE people in the society is reached that network effects and scalable stuff will start to happen and the impact on the whole society become visible….