The new Idler hits the doormat. As well as my regular column this time, I have a feature about the FIRE movement (early retirement and whatnot with special reference to my old friends Jacob and Pete).

Art director Alice has decorated my piece with images of an exquisite young Greek reclined upon a velveteen olive-green cushion. She has focused on the right thing: pieces about early retirement too often focus on money. But money is only worth thinking about if the real prize is repose.

A moment in the column I had forgotten writing and am now fond of:

When the idler has “nothing to do,” we default to something pleasant like flipping through a book containing some nice pictures of ducks: hardly productive in the industrialist scheme, but we know otherwise.

The Greek boy is really something. If Alice intends this as a portrait of the person who wrote the piece, I am not going to hurry to correct her.


  1. Your solution for bringing down the capitalists is to invest in their stocks and shares? Is that not a contradiction?

    1. I have never said anything like that. Are you referring to the FIRE movement article? I cited Jacob Lund Fisker’s use of the stock market to retire early. I didn’t recommend it (I specifically said I don’t use it myself) nor was this suggested as way to bring down any capitalists. It was part of a broader point about using our brains instead of selling our time and labour.

      1. Yes, I’m referring to the FIRE article in the current Idler mag (issue 67), which this your blog post is about.

        In the final paragraph on p. 65, you advise: “…consider learning about stocks and shares, bonds, and peer-to-peer investing.” There is no mention of Fisker anywhere in that paragraph; it is your own opinion.

        On p. 63 you declare: “I am fond of bonds though.”

        I find this contradictory; perhaps your manifesto has not been fully thought out? As much as I want to agree with you, I am disappointed.

        1. Well, bonds are often government bonds which, while not divorced from capitalism, at least encourage public-sector development. That’s different from the stock market. I appreciate that I didn’t say any of this in the article though. As to p65, this is an inset box rather than a manifesto and those usually draw from the main material of the article so it refers to the techniques of FIRE movement practitioners.

          More generally though, the piece is not about bringing down capitalism. It’s just a piece of journalism I was asked to write about financial independence and early retirement. I maintain that the piece is internally consistent and not contradictory. Are you referring to things I’ve said elsewhere with an anti-capitalist sentiment? In which case, I do take your point and I’m sorry to disappoint. And thank you for paying attention.

          My only defence is that it’s hard to escape the Holodeck with only holographic tools at one’s disposal: when you live in a capitalist society as we do, the most devout anticapitalist makes use of capitalist tools all the time (well, except perhaps for brilliant people like Mark Boyle but I’m not prepared to work as hard as he does and it’s debatable whether this sort of life is sustainable on a mass scale). It’s just a question of what the deployment of such capitalist tools are in service of.

  2. Your anti-capitalist sentiment appears on p. 63 of the article:

    “…capitalist tyrants…” – those who “destroy a poor family…”

    1. Haha. Well, I think my point in context remains well and truly intact. Just out of interest, are you coming to this from the point of view of someone in favour of capitalism and is irritated by my use of “capitalist tyrant” or as an anti-capitalist who thinks I shouldn’t be writing in any way favourably about investments?

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