A Badass Utopia

A suspiciously Utopian scene from the recent trip to Montreal. Did this article leak out early?

A suspiciously Utopian scene from the recent trip to Montreal. Did this article leak out early?

Mrs. Money Mustache and I just had the pleasure of taking a nice grownups-only train trip to Montreal to celebrate her 39th birthday. We took an evening to meet up with a UK-born writer named Robert Wringham who happens to live there, because I’m a fan of his fancy square magazine called the New Escapologist.

As luck would have it, he invited me to run a little story in the latest edition of this fine publication, so I decided to share it here as well. He told me the issue is loosely based around the idea of Utopias, which sounded very interesting to me. Here’s what I came up with:

A Badass Utopia
by Mr. Money Mustache
For the New Escapologist

I was particularly excited to get a chance to contribute to this edition, because I fancy myself to be both an escapologist, and a planner of utopias.

In my own part of the Internet, I write about early retirement – the monetary tricks that you can use to build up enough wealth to escape from mandatory work. My wife and I used them through our 20s and made our own escape at age 30, and now eight years later we are working on sharing our own take on these timeless ideas with the rest of the world.

But I’ve found that a big part of writing about early retirement, is trying to express why anybody might want to do it, and why it is a good rather than selfish idea to promote worldwide. There has to be a reason other than money for writing a blog like mine, unless you’re lying about being retired in the first place. So a big part of the job is trying to gently nudge the world towards becoming a Star-Trek-like Utopia: an advanced civilization with less violence and more fun, and many other tantalizing aspects.

In a Mr. Money Mustache themed world utopia, we’d combine all the good parts of human nature, with all the amazing powers of human culture to neutralize our admittedly plentiful shitty parts.

For example, we know that humans can be brave, heroic, dedicated, and caring, as mothers and fathers are when raising their children, and warriors are when sacrificing everything for their clan.  We can be brilliant too, like the teenagers of Nordic countries which regularly outsmart the world’s largest technology companies, and packed with Honeybadgerlike determination like the guy in Colorado who has spent the past 40 years hand-building a 16-story castle from gathered rocks. We’d want to keep all of those good qualities in our new society.

But there is no doubt that we can produce some awful asshats and douche rockets as well. From the petty office water cooler backstabbers all the way down to dictators and ethnic cleansers and the armies they brainwashed, we have the ability to slip into dangerous groupthink, no matter how insane it becomes.

So in this utopia, we’ll have a culture that produces more honeybadgers and heroes, and fewer of the troublemakers. With psychology and science as well as good old-fashioned love, we will provide the right support for the kids and get them on the right path. Let’s just assume this part works out, so we can move on in our tour of the utopia.

Work is probably one your first questions: Will we have to work?

Yes, I think we will need to keep the idea of jobs and money, because it’s a good way to measure your efforts and motivate you to go out and do something. If everyone was born with automatic no-work-required privilege, I think our brains would short-circuit and we would lead bizarre and unbalanced lives. But the difference would be what we do with the proceeds of the work.

In the Badass Utopia, people would work for money, but then invest most of the proceeds to start generating additional income for themselves. They’d work really hard, which would generate a lot of money. But counterintuitively, this would lead to them buying not a lot of cars, but a lot of investments.

After about 10 years of work, each citizen of the BU would have saved so much that his investments would now be fully funding his limited lifestyle needs. He would now officially be economically free – free to work, or not work, as he sees fit, without having to worry about running out of money.

Many citizens would take the opportunity to do something that doesn’t involve getting paid. There would be legions of loafers – people tossing frisbees and playing guitars in the parks. The sweet aroma of marijuana would float around without secrecy in public places.

But there would also be volumes of volunteers. School classrooms and libraries and soup kitchens would find themselves with an unlimited supply of talent, just there looking to help out and meet new friends. The quality of these institutions would rise astronomically, to the point where welfare offices would become Executive Awesomeness Centers, where a rare troubled person walks in and is immediately offered a catered sandwich and a cup of tea, then ushered into a wood-paneled luxury office, where an unstoppably inspiring life coach is waiting to get things back on track immediately.

And some odd characters would choose to continue working, producing more things just for the joy of creation. Artists and musicians, but also writers and engineers, carpenters and welders and plumbers. Even today, there are people out there who enjoy creating things whether they need to get paid for it or not, and we certainly wouldn’t want to stop them from producing. And there would even be money to pay them.

You see, there would still be plenty of customers, just a different mix of them. First of all, everybody would still need food and houses, bikes and cars, water and electricity. People still need to do the work to create those things, and they’d still expect to get paid. And there would still be babies and new families, which means children and schools and a stream of new people entering the work force even as others graduate from it. There might be less demand for $5.00 coffees or slot machines, but it would be balanced by more demand for libraries and parks and bike paths, all of which take work and money to produce.

And let’s not forget about energy. In the Badass Utopia, we’d naturally want to ditch the fossil fuels we’ve been wasting our time with in recent decades, and replace them with something appropriately modern. This will take a lot of engineering and more work, as we put up square miles of solar panels and great fields of wind turbines, and invent spectacular batteries and other ways to store our energy. The market for this stuff will be huge, as every citizen of BU will of course insist on buying only modern energy. But it will take an awful lot of investment capital, which works out well because of the incredible enthusiasm for investment these fancy citizens would have.

Politics would be a pretty interesting place. With every citizen of every country educated and engaged, any corrupt or misleading politician would be laughed off of the stage and punched in the face after the first speech, so the field would evolve into a civilized and thoughtful profession. Politicians would be elected solely on intelligence and effectiveness. Campaign advertising would not exist, since all the televisions would have been abandoned long ago. The candidates would simply publish their proposed policies on their websites, which would be among the country’s most popular online destinations. Debates would take place in written form, with rhetoric and oversimplification a thing of the past.  Policy decisions would be based on science rather than cultural or religious traditions. But the politicians would also have really excellent beards, mustaches or hairstyles, and be wicked banjo or kazoo players, and not let you forget it at the town hall meetings.

And man, would we ride bikes a lot. The towns would start to reinvent themselves to be big blocks of beautiful people-and-bike-oriented space, with cars not allowed in due to the unnecessary danger of mixing giant metal machines and soft human tissue. The vehicles would be stored at the edges, where you could sign one out if you needed to transport something heavy or get yourself out to some remote area of the country. The trillions of dollars saved from unnecessary personal autos and highways now would easily pay for electric high-speed trains and 24-hour rapid transit to get anywhere within a big city you need to go. With plenty of money left over to fund free vegetable gardens on every corner where you can just run in and pick a broccoli or cucumber to crunch raw as you walk down the street.

We’d all have sex, use non-destructive drugs, and stay up late on school nights a lot more often than we do now. The community parks and squares, and front porches, rather than restaurants and bars, would be the place where people gather every evening. We’d kick around soccer balls, cook things on the grills, and circle around to make the best songs in impromptu outdoor sessions, which we’d always record. Outsiders would always be welcomed and people would migrate slowly around the neighborhood throughout the evenings so as to take it all in.

And we’d swear more than we do these days. We’d do it more often, more explosively, and with astonishing creativity. News anchors would rise in popularity not by the quality of their hairstyles or the whiteness of their teeth, but through their skill in sliding in a nice F-bomb into the most appropriate places (and their journalistic integrity and ability to piece together broad social trends into a concise and entertaining dialogue, of course).

But this amazing life all starts with hard work and saving most of what you earn, while valuing knowledge and warm personal connections instead of cold impersonal stuff. From there comes enlightenment and freedom. Then we’ll get to Badass Utopia soon enough, as long as we get started on it right now.


This particular story will appear in the upcoming August 1st edition of New Escapologist. It’s an intelligent mix of homegrown content and illustrations, and contributions from guest writers (our mutual friend Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme wrote a piece for issue 5 back in 2011). You can read more from this mixed crew of international unusual people at their website newescapologist.co.uk which also has a blog section.

An older article on the same idea – more focused on the economics and why I think they would still work: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/04/09/what-if-everyone-became-frugal/

  • Use it up, wear it out... July 16, 2013, 8:58 am

    I’m ready for more politicians with kazoos.

    • Free Money Minute July 17, 2013, 4:40 am

      A politician with a kazoo would be much closer to utopia than any politician we have today!

      • Kenoryn July 20, 2013, 11:30 am

        It may not be a kazoo, but here’s the Official Opposition (Canada federal gov’t) doing a tribute to Canadian icon Stompin’ Tom in the House of Commons.

    • marcus aurelius May 7, 2015, 11:49 pm

      I would like to subscribe to this vision, but someone as as astute as MMM has probably come to terms with the prospect that the genetic term in any equation (happiness, temperament, honeybadgerishness) is non-zero and possibly quite significant (even the governing limit for many complex phenotypes).

      Which is to say, true Utopias, and real life approximations to that (e.g. Denmark, Iceland) present us with some unsettling prospects. Although most of us were inculcated to chalk these things up to happenstance and positively metaphysical social theories, it’s hard to imagine how our institutions (and by extension Utopias) are not an emergent property of the people who constitute them.

      I agree we’ll have our badass Utopias, but only after we seriously get started with human germ line editing (i.e. eugenics). Not surprisingly, the Chinese appear to have a head start in that department, so I suspect the pending Utopia will have a distinct Oriental tincture.

  • BNL July 16, 2013, 8:58 am

    I think this was my favorite article of yours yet, MMM. We should all pitch in to buy a few hundred acres of cheap land in Colorado and get started!

    • Andrew July 16, 2013, 9:19 am

      You mean, invest in the 100 acres? That’s something I had in mind for a while… let’s do it!

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 16, 2013, 9:26 am

      I would love to do something like this – especially with my interest in building houses and making energy-independent science projects.

      There is actually a “community cohousing” thing going on a few blocks down the street from me: http://www.bcbr.com/article/20130524/EDITION07/130529933

      But I don’t know much about it now. Depending on the people involved, such a gathering could end up as a true badass utopia, or an annoying Lord of the Flies situation where ponytailed whiny guys who eschew deodorant talk about you behind your back and eventually vote you off the island because you prefer multi-geared bikes over single speeds.

      Since MMM is by nature a fairly “set-our-own-rules” community, it might be best to start with a clean slate.

      At least a few other readers already live in Longmont. Can we do it here?

      • Jon July 16, 2013, 11:37 am

        Maybe model the city after the venus project. http://www.thevenusproject.com/en/technology/city-systems

        Big public library/park/amphitheater right in the middle…

        • Leo July 16, 2013, 1:52 pm

          Great utopia project also! Design is amazing, but somehow I can’t imagine swearing people living in such a neat/straight environment, ahah! But, oh well, utopia it is!

          • Melissa July 16, 2013, 6:41 pm

            If we’re starting a BU Colony in Colorado, I’ll do the gardening. Beats the crap out of what I’m doing 45 hours a week these days….

      • Use it up, wear it out... July 17, 2013, 6:45 am

        1. What makes cohousing different than living in an apartment building with shared common facilities?
        2. I don’t want to farm.

      • lilacorchid July 18, 2013, 2:09 pm

        Craik, SK (Canada) did something like this. CBC did a story on The Passionate Eye about it.

        It looked like some of the new people thought it would be easier than it turned out to be to build a house and some of the locals didn’t care to have outsiders coming in. Pretty standard issues, IMO.

  • Grant July 16, 2013, 8:59 am

    I think this is a utopia I could happily participate in. Apart from everything else, I’d really like to see the news anchors creatively deploy the F-bomb!

    Also note, there is no need to pick apart inconsistancies or suggest there are unrealistic scenarios depicted. This is a motherfucking utopia! Of course this stuff can all happen!

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 16, 2013, 9:05 am

      Grant, I think you just designed the first T-shirt worthy of home-silkscreening and selling on this blog: a giant bushy Mustache printed across the chest, with the words “This is a Motherfucking Utopia!” scrawled beneath.

      Another shirt in the same series could have Useitup’s “I’m ready for more politicians with kazoos”

      • Grant July 16, 2013, 9:06 am

        see – the Utopia is already nurturing creativity! WIN!

      • Heath July 16, 2013, 12:17 pm

        I would buy that motherfucking t-shirt in a heartbeat :-)

      • Sean July 16, 2013, 3:43 pm

        Please make that shirt, and save one in size large for me…I just started riding a bike almost everywhere and changed from a constant flow of fast food to eating well at home…thanks to your inspiring website! I’m down 20 pounds so far, just 200 more to go and I’ll hit my goal of 180 pounds!

        • Mr. Money Mustache July 16, 2013, 4:20 pm

          Congratulations Sean! By the time these get around to being made, I might even have to make your shirt in Medium :-)

          • Eric July 17, 2013, 9:55 am

            Wanna invest $ for the design of the shirts? If so, I can handle that, recommend some quality printers, deal with getting them the files and even have them mailed directly to you. Then, an evening on the computer, a glass of wine & you’re in business. Selling shirts, making more income.

  • Jimbo July 16, 2013, 9:12 am

    Wicked! Great utopia MMM.

    I like how we can all already live most of this utopia by changing a few habits and encouraging a couple of new converts along the way.

    Also, excellent choice for a mustachian celebration, coming to Montreal. So much to do for free around here. Hope you enjoyed it. I too enjoy frisbees in parks and great company in this city. In fact, I think I know where that picture was taken.


  • City Girl Country Bloke July 16, 2013, 9:18 am

    This utopia sounds like a wonderful place. Country Bloke and I have often fantasized about starting a place that is very similar to this and we are trying to make our own utopia now. Trying to find others with similar values and views are few and far between. But I’m confident one day, the vast majority of civilization will wake up, punch themselves in the face for buying that ridiculously expensive car, plant a garden and start contributing to society instead of consuming it.

    • GamingYourFinances July 18, 2013, 9:05 am

      Hi City Girl Country Bloke! I agree with you it would be great if the vast majority of people started living this way but I believe it’s unrealistic. Just like I was miserable living in a consumerist society I think there would be people just as miserable in the Badass Utopia. There must be a happy median?

  • durangostash94 July 16, 2013, 9:21 am

    Wonder if we will see anything close to this BU in our lifetimes!?

    A couple of typos: “But it will take awful lot of investment capital” needs “an”, and in the penultimate paragraph, “or course” should be “of course”.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 16, 2013, 9:29 am

      Thanks for catching those typos – probably important, since this is also going into a printed magazine.

      Did you already catch those, Mr. Wringham?

  • Debt Blag July 16, 2013, 9:23 am

    This is very well-written. I do also love how you tie it all together to the hard work and sacrifice to give the flexibility to do this in the end

  • Done by Forty July 16, 2013, 9:27 am

    I kind of love that a magazine like that exists. It’s rad.

    Thanks for the article, and we’re in. Pass the kool-aid, please.

  • Mr. 1500 July 16, 2013, 9:42 am

    Please add an open-source brewery to BU. Oh, and a drive-in movie theater. Drive-in for bikes of course.

    It would be a totally fun exercise designing this utopia.

    • Gerard July 16, 2013, 1:47 pm

      We could convert each space in current drive-ins into a small bike parking spot at the back and a large mattress or hammock or beanbag chairs in the remaining space. Hmmm, maybe not many people would end up watching the movies…

      • GayleRN July 16, 2013, 3:06 pm

        Nobody ever did. Tradition is that families with small children take up the front rows near the playground and immediately surrounding the refreshment stand and restrooms. Families in the making tend toward the back rows. I have access to two of them and they are badass summer fun for everyone.

        • Mr. 1500 July 16, 2013, 9:28 pm

          Gerard and Gayle: I LOVE both of your comments about drive-ins. Lots of fond memories.

          Here’s a fun fact about the drive-in where I grew up. Late at night, they would show adult films. You could sort of seem them on the street as you drove past (car accidents!): http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/5223

    • GamingYourFinances July 18, 2013, 9:14 am

      I second the brewery idea. Count me in as a volunteer! Or better yet, you could compensate me with product!

  • cj July 16, 2013, 9:45 am

    I especially love that the news anchors will “rise in popularity not by the quality of their hairstyles or the whiteness of their teeth, but through their skill in sliding in a nice F-bomb into the most appropriate places…” Away with priggishness forever!!!

    A few good habits, man. Simplify, prioritize, automate and tweak the good stuff!

    Thanks for a super fun read, MMM!!!

  • Robert Wringham July 16, 2013, 9:47 am

    This just in: Jacob’s actually in the upcoming edition too. Two megabloggers for the price of one.

  • Mr. 1500 July 16, 2013, 9:57 am

    Oh, also how about none of those personal injury billboards or commercials encouraging you to sue the pants off of everyone.

    Well, I take it back. Hopefully in an enlightened society, we are past this mentality. Besides, rules are bad and should be minimized.

    • Scratch June 24, 2014, 7:00 pm

      Ambulance chasers would be tarred, feathered, and run out on a rail.
      Then again, if the Utopia is working as intended, the Ambulance chasers wouldn’t have much of a client base.
      I would think the Badassery of the realm comes hand in hand with owning up to one’s mistakes and shortcomings… not looking for someone to blame/sue.

  • Joe July 16, 2013, 10:01 am

    Heh heh, sounds like a big happy Hippy Utopia. The thing about Utopia is they don’t really work. There will be inevitable clashes of egos and people who don’t like how things are done.
    It sounds cool in theory though.
    Do I have to give you all my money to join? :)

    • Naners July 16, 2013, 10:47 am

      I dunno, the residence I lived in in grad school was a bit like this. Sixty grad students, each with a private room but we all ate three meals a day together. There was an administration to do maintenance, organize the dining hall etc. but otherwise it was largely self-governing; people who like politics got elected to run things. The only rule was the “rule of courtesy”, which worked pretty darned well (except for the communal fridge). I think it avoided people not liking how it was run by having strong traditions; if you didn’t like the traditions you moved out after a year. The best thing was how many little interest groups sprang up: people had talent shows, sang in choirs, baked pies, gave lectures, organized art shows, put on a fancy dress ball and on and on and on. There was even a weekly “beer in the quad” group. I’ve often dreamed of a nursing home like this, but why not an early retirement home?

      • lurker July 20, 2013, 10:03 am

        60 may be the magic tribal number or perhaps it also worked well because there was a built in deadline as most do not stay in grad school forever….sounds interesting…also wonder how diverse the group was as this is a pretty self-selecting high functioning ambitious group I would imagine….

      • T.Lord November 20, 2013, 8:37 am

        Where was that? I know of a few schools w/ big co-op traditions (like Oberlin and Antioch), but I’m sure there are others. That sounds like an interesting experience!

  • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) July 16, 2013, 10:03 am

    My utopia is slightly different. I think every person on the planet should be guaranteed a minimalist level of shelter, food, clothing, healthcare, and education regardless of money-making ability. Anything beyond that would require work and/or investing.

    • Robert Wringham July 16, 2013, 10:11 am

      Are you interested in Citizen’s Income? We’re actually covering the idea quite well in the same New Escapologist edition as MMM’s article.

      In the meantime, this guy’s essay is amazing: http://makewealthhistory.org/2012/07/18/the-citizens-income/

      • rjack (Mr. Asset Allocation) July 16, 2013, 2:24 pm

        Robert – Thanks for the link to the great article. It does a much better job for making the case for a minimalist income than I can.

    • Juli July 16, 2013, 10:30 am

      The problem is, who gets to decide what that minimal level is? And then a few years down the road when too many people are more than happy to accept that minimal lifestyle in exchange for sitting on the backsides all day, who gets to provide that lifestyle for them? I would rather see some sort of guaranteed minimal lifestyle for everyone, as long as they are willing to work in some capacity — unless of course they are truly handicapped to the point where they absolutely cannot do any sort of meaningful activities.

      • steve July 17, 2013, 12:05 pm

        Juli you raise a good point. Most people need to be engaged and responsible on some level and if they’re not willing to then no one supports them further. But what about their kids? The kids didn’t choose to have slug-like parents, or ignorant parents, or whatever. In a BA I think the community offers all kids a wild amount of opportunity, responsibility, and fun! See the forum thread about people not wanting to pay for public school because they don’t have kids; they would create the opposite of BA.

  • Nate Dogg July 16, 2013, 10:11 am

    Boom! Mr. Stache layin down some hard fantasies here. I like it. I’m not a Longmont resident, but I’d move up there from Denver for the BU! Optimistic people that think “we can do this” are so much better than complainypantses.

  • Matt Becker July 16, 2013, 10:16 am

    I couldn’t help but think back to my days at summer camp while reading this. That was as close to a Utopian society as I’ve been. This was an incredibly enjoyable read. Thank you.

  • TrekMan July 16, 2013, 10:16 am

    My addition would be that everyone would grow their own veggies and chickens would be legal almost everywhere. Fertilizing and watering your grass would be a social faux pas. Planting trees like pecan, walnut, apple, pear or whatever was climate appropriate would be the norm.

    • Doug July 16, 2013, 1:57 pm

      Makes sense to me. It seem dumb to gobble up prime agricultural land to build houses, then use the land around the house to produce something useless like grass rather than vegetables or fruit trees.

  • Stephen at SE July 16, 2013, 10:30 am

    This article actually reminded me of Island Culture in several different 2ed world countries. Right outside Suva there are whole communities of people and probably half the island that adhere to most of the tenants of BU (Well, if you replace marijuana with Kava). There are plenty of parts of Bohol that have very similar philosophies as well (No cars but maybe a few more motor bikes). Very few people ‘work’ in the American sense (50+ hours a week, 9-5) but most have little need for income because they can farm fish and live low impact, simple lives. And there are even small parts of communities here in the US that have local initiatives to develop similar amenities (Normaltown, Athens, GA). I think the BU is an entertaining overarching display of all the tenets of Mustacheaism.

    • Emily July 17, 2013, 12:25 pm

      Simplistic, low-impact lifestyle community + the outrageous beauty and bounty of island living? Why am I not living in the Philippines?

      Must add Bohol early retirement to the to-do list.

  • Katie July 16, 2013, 10:36 am

    I love Star Trek so any reference to such gets me excited. Can my family move to badass utopia? I just loved this post, I will spend the rest of my day with a smile.


  • Derek July 16, 2013, 10:40 am

    We probably wouldn’t really need a government if society as a whole could pull the whole thing off…

  • Julia July 16, 2013, 11:35 am

    You remind me of the excellent novel Ecotopia:


  • Anna July 16, 2013, 11:42 am

    The one thing I haven’t figured out about the MMM everyone quits their day-job after 10 years utopia is how we’d take care of the sick. Setting bones and curing cancer aren’t activities that can easily be performed by an army of volunteers. Sure, there might be fewer illnesses related to poor diets and a lack of exercise, but there will still be new babies, rare illnesses, and all the extra diseases that come from having a badass population living longer. So we’ll still need doctors. Most doctors are barely fully trained 10 years out of college, and I’d prefer my doctor to have more experience, which would mean a much longer working career. The numbers also don’t add up. We’re already a bit short on doctors, and when polled, 80% of doctors said they would quit today if not for the fact that they need the money, so we can’t assume they’ll all keep working out of pure altruism. Sure, doctors who aren’t beholden to “The Man” might be motivated to make medicine more palatable for their schedules, but like other people in the MMM utopia, they’ll probably still want to quit to ride bikes and hang out with their families. If the doctors don’t work full 9-5 40-year careers, how would the MMM utopia take care of the sick?

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 16, 2013, 11:56 am

      I’d go for speedier training and making it more fun to be a doctor, to attract more people to the field.

      Personally, I’d be happy with a doctor with just a few years of training but a really good and curious mind, preferring that to one who had been stuck in the job for 30 years and very set in his/her ways. So much of what doctors do is just routine, we could really partition the practice and let specialists be specialists while more general people prescribe the antibiotics for the ear infection.

      • jp July 16, 2013, 1:13 pm

        80% of doctors said they would quit today if not for the fact that they need the money (90.7% of percentages are made up on the spot – including this one)

        Disregarding the made-up statistic: Most of that 80% would quit because of all the bureaucratic crap they have to put up with. Insurance companies, the uninsured, the risk of being sued, medicaid/medicare. They actually love the job of being a doctor, just not all of the other crap that goes with it.

        This utopia would get rid of all the bs, so the doctor could be a doctor. You would still have the 40+year careers, because they are doing what they love, not what the insurance demands.

        • Anna July 16, 2013, 5:34 pm

          Citing my sources: http://healthpopuli.com/2012/10/05/3-in-5-physicians-would-quite-today-if-they-could/

          Apparently only 60% would quit today (according to a survey of 13,575 US physicians by The Physician’s Foundation). The 80% number is from a smaller study

          I’m not saying some doctors don’t enjoy their jobs, but so did MMM, and he quit anyway, so who’s to say doctors won’t? After all, a job is a job, and no job is as much fun as play.

          • Mr. Money Mustache July 16, 2013, 7:18 pm

            Once we adopt the BU lifestyle, 40% of our current number of doctors will be more than enough!

            And, some ‘jobs’ are more fun than play to me.. Blogger and carpenter among them. The key is that in a more financially independent world, more jobs would be self-guided without bosses or unpleasant rules from above.

      • M July 17, 2013, 10:05 am

        So why not utilize nurse practitioners more? They provide affordable, basic health care.

        • Emmers July 21, 2013, 10:55 am

          Nurse practitioners are great for basic maintenance (which, yes, everyone needs, no matter how badass); I think the original commenter was more concerned about specialists. Oncologists, surgeons, etc…unless the BU is content to just let everyone requiring a specialist die off, which I suspect is not the case.

      • K Coghlan July 18, 2013, 2:52 pm

        Check out nurse practisioners and physician’s assistants, they still have to have three years of grad school, but that’s much less than a MD, and they are already providing much of the medical care available, especially in rural areas.

    • Dancedancekj July 17, 2013, 8:20 am

      I’d be guessing most doctors would be quite happy to work if you eliminate insurance and administration dictating how they practice as well as the ignorant/noncompliant and litigious patients.

      Assuming all the other traits associated with Mustachians, I would figure most would be highly educated in all areas including nutrition, physiology, microbiology, and anatomy and have a great understanding of what it takes to maintain an optimal level of health. Riding bikes and walking would ensure people would stay active, while I would assume most would consume a nutrient dense, locally grown diet. This would eliminate many of the chronic diseases that plague society at the moment and therefore free up the doctors to take care of acute incidents (accidents, rare infections, trauma) and patients that need more focus and care such as surgical procedures. Throw in the Mustachian allied health professionals, and I think we would be OK.

  • Heath July 16, 2013, 12:35 pm

    An excellent read, and an even better goal!

    And it really does seem doable. It’s just a matter of adopting the principles yourself and leading by example. In other words, be a happy, successful, and outspoken Mustachian, and the people around you will follow suit :-) Oh, sure it will take a while, and there will be roadbumps galore! But that’s all to be expected when we’re taking a world in chaos, and making everything FUCKING AWESOME!

    And I must say, this reminded me a bit of The Culture, from some Ian M. Banks novels. Great utopian society. The only difference was, it was ‘run’ by incredibly smart AIs (that’s ‘computer brains’ for you non-sci-fi-nerds) with perfectly ridiculous senses of humor :-)

    Now I’m going to go through the rest of my day with a huge smile on my face…

    • Insourcelife July 16, 2013, 7:29 pm

      Heath, I mean it in the best possible way, but for some reason every time I read your enthusiastic post full of capital letters and exclamation points along with your gravatar picture, I want to say “settle down, Beavis!” in that Butthead voice. It must be the picture :)

      • Heath July 16, 2013, 10:04 pm

        Yeah, my friends call me “enthusiastic” when they’re trying to be nice. Mostly, I’m just freaking excited about how amazing everything is. Plenty of people have also used the exact words “settle down” :-P

        It’s not my fault life is so plentiful, joyous and delicious! Well, hopefully it’s a little bit my fault… :-)

  • Ray July 16, 2013, 12:39 pm

    Only problem with the new and improved news anchors is no one will have TVs to watch them on. ;)

    Though, honestly, I see too much entertainment value in movies and series-based stories for TVs to go away completely. However, these could be kept strong through streaming services similar to Netflix. As for broadcast television… give it the heave-ho!

  • Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies July 16, 2013, 12:39 pm

    Reminds me of the mock-ups that my friend and I made as 16-year-olds. After coming back from a stay in Europe and spending hours marvelling over the easy public transit there, we decided to design our own utopian city built around public transportation and backyard gardens. Like MMM, we had car shares on the city outskirts, but most of the roads were not designed for large traffic and were largely closed off.

    And we “recruited” different fellow students to join in and provide specific professions (doctor, banker, chemist, etc).
    We’ve since lost touch, but last I heard, my friend had actually studied civil engineering in college, so perhaps she’s already started building this utopia already. =)

  • Leslie July 16, 2013, 12:42 pm

    Sounds pretty good. Especially about a few less “water cooler backstabbers” and rampant over use of fossil fuels becoming a thing of the past. I have to admit this utopian ideal reminds me of “Portlandia”.

  • Clint July 16, 2013, 12:48 pm

    Sounds like The Ian M. Banks Utopia – The Culture.

  • Sarah July 16, 2013, 12:48 pm

    I not only loved the post, I also loved many of the comments. I have never wished more for a “like” button!!! I would love to live in a community that had even 50% of this much good will and smarts. That grad school situation that Naners described made me very jealous!!!

  • StoicOne July 16, 2013, 1:18 pm

    Check out the meaning of the term “rhetoric.” People use it sometimes to mean “bad, flowery” speech, but then you could say “bombast.” Stoics think that rhetoric (as public speech) is (alongside dialectic, i.e. conversation) the ultimate form of rationality–speaking and judging in accordance with the universe in a way that is habitual and therefore just, virtuous, and so on; taking up one’s duty to argue on behalf of the community and others. The Utopia seems a bit narcissistic without a better understanding of speech and obligations to others that derive from what we share. In other words, in a MMM utopia, you wouldn’t ban people from making demands and speaking to the public; I think you just want to eliminate people’s ability to be duped by puffery (and your education plan takes care of that).

  • Kaytee July 16, 2013, 1:37 pm

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned Freetown Christiania yet. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freetown_Christiania). This might be a good jumping off point and learning experience for the BU. Walk in their shoes. Learn.

  • Doug July 16, 2013, 1:54 pm

    Wow, that badass utopia looks like a place I would want to live in. I will make a few additions to what would make this utopia even better. The first is a society with less emphasis on accumulating stuff (most of which ends up never being used and taking up space in an oversized house) and more emphasis on experiences instead. While the idea of saving up as much as possible makes sense, how about a shorter work week for people who need less money than when younger but still want to work some? I would gladly work a 20 hour week, or for only part of the year.

  • Sean July 16, 2013, 1:59 pm

    Galts Gulch ?

    • Cline July 18, 2013, 9:12 am

      I thought the exact same thing. What does MMM think about Atlas Shrugged?

      • sean July 18, 2013, 10:18 am

        I don’t know. I think The Fountainhead is a better book. More novel less lecturing.

  • John Everett July 16, 2013, 2:28 pm

    “Policy decisions would be based on science rather than cultural or religious traditions.”

    If we can do this, the rest will happen on its own. On the up side, I think we’re gradually moving that way.

    • Paul D. July 17, 2013, 1:41 pm

      in this utopia where matters of policy are determined by science. I have 2 or 3 questions.

      Is philosophy science?

      If so, aren’t “cultural or religious traditions” somehow connected to science and not necessarily excluded from policy decisions based on science?

      If philosophy is not a science, how would the questions that are raised by philosophy be answered? How would the purpose and meaning and goal of this utopia be established? (i.e. The things that matters of policy should be advancing and/or protecting.)

  • Insourcelife July 16, 2013, 2:44 pm

    Reminds me of another utopia – “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. Unfortunately there are always a few asshats and douche rockets that ruin all the fun.

  • Mother Frugal July 16, 2013, 2:45 pm

    The world would truly be a better place with more banjos and kazoos.

  • Benjamin Black Perley July 16, 2013, 3:30 pm

    Why not just move to Scandinavia?

  • Dividend Mantra July 16, 2013, 7:05 pm


    Great post. Definitely one of your all-time best! :)

    This succinctly answered the age-old question “But, what if everyone did this?” that the Complainypants like to throw around.

    If you build it, they will come! I know I certainly will.

    Best wishes.

  • gabe July 16, 2013, 7:21 pm

    Ack! You were in Montreal! Well, I hope you had a great time. I’m guessing it was a personal alone time type trip, and that’s why there wasn’t an official MMM meetup here. Love the blog, found it somewhere on the intertubes and then went and read the whole damn thing. I’m pretty sure that counts as flexing the frugality muscles.

  • Mrs. Bluesky July 16, 2013, 7:58 pm

    Hey now, let’s not let dreams of Utopia gloss over the equally significant information shared in this post. Happy Birthday Mrs. MM! I turned 39 myself last week. I’m finding it’s kind of a strange age to be, because the number sounds a bit like a joke when you tell people how old you are.

  • Cats Eye July 16, 2013, 10:02 pm

    I definitely am not complaining about anything here, but from a purely philosophical perspective, here’s a question:

    have all the math-science-rational leaning folks with a college level engineering degree here even heard of entropy?
    Classic Greek lit discusses how their society headed downhill. The wise culture of India predicted deluge and destruction of the universe as a part of cosmological cycle. There is a reason why renewable energy hasn’t kicked off as a mainstream resource — thermodynamically, if you can convert 10% of the energy available into *useful* work, count yourself lucky. If you want to propel yourself more efficiently than by walking, you’re going to have to come up with a device that will allow you to propel yourself and propel the device, meaning you can’t get 1 to1 conversion of effort to achievement. You can’t get something, anything useful without waste. Citations? Google ‘Social Entropy’ or ‘Second law’ and follow the train of thought from there.

    It’s all well and dandy and simplistic as a blog post, but seeing as no one has mentioned this yet in this stream of discussion, tossing my two cents here.

    Full disclaimer: I stand to gain nothing by this comment, not a troll, I’m a highly respected member of a scientific community who also happens to be extremely well paid, and ensures every action of mine contributes only to the minimum possible level of destruction of the society and the planet (zero destruction is impossible, read and research from above). And finally, I’m not a transhumanist nut, and generally feel that humanity contributes to invaluable treasures even at the expense of planetary destruction. You’ve got to chop the tree to make the violin that creates beautiful music.

    • Maverick July 17, 2013, 4:56 am

      Was thinking the same thing but along the fall of the Roman Empire. “She blinded me with SCIENCE!”

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 17, 2013, 8:03 am

      Well, in thermodynamics, entropy just tells us that order decreases in a closed system – including the whole universe. But in an open system where you add energy, it can increase forever. The Earth is one of these systems, because of the giant beam of sunlight hitting us at all times, which is why life continues to evolve and even create its own fancy bits of organized non-entropy.

      As for your transportation example: 10% of available energy is way more than we need, which is why renewable energy has already become cheaper than some forms of fossil energy even at this very early stage of development (remember we’re only one human lifespan past the golden age of steam trains!). And even 10% is far from the theoretical limit (Sharp announced a 44% efficient solar panel last month, normal ones today are 16%). And if you haven’t noticed the billions upon billions of investment, renewable energy is indeed mainstream now.

      If you want less ambiguous goals, the Badass Utopia would simply reduce the ecological footprint of the average rich-world human by about 75%. It is fine to chop down the odd tree to make a violin, because our continued flow of new sunlight allows us to grow more wood quite quickly.

      • Horatio Spifflewicket July 17, 2013, 12:40 pm

        The bicycle may be less than Carnot efficient. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be better than walking.

      • lurker July 19, 2013, 2:51 pm

        how about your roof? probably many west virginias up on the roofs of homes around the us?

    • Gerard July 17, 2013, 8:16 am

      There already is a device that’s more efficient than walking, because the extra energy needed to propel the device along with yourself is less than the energy saved by eliminating the (friction) inefficiencies of walking. This device uses wheels, so that more energy is turned into forward momentum rather than pounding into the pavement.. And the wheels are narrow, to reduce rolling resistance. It’s about three times as energy-efficient as walking.
      This device is called a “bicycle”.

    • Justin G. July 17, 2013, 6:16 pm

      Don’t confuse thermodynamic entropy with “disorder.” They don’t really have anything to do with each other. Thermodynamic entropy must always increase, but informational entropy has nothing to do with thermodynamic entropy.

      For a fantastic explanation of the difference, check out the eminently readable article at Do the Math: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2013/05/elusive-entropy/

    • lentilman July 19, 2013, 3:45 am

      Sorry, Cats Eye – you are making some big mistakes.

      1. As MMM already discussed, the 2nd law relates to a closed system.

      A simple example: Consider an apple tree. It is constantly increasing order by bringing C, H, O, and N together to make the tree structure. It also makes great fruit year after year – each apple is an amazing increase in order of the elements that were used to make it.

      Does this violate the 2nd Law? Certainly not. The energy came from the sun. If you consider the universe, the entropy is increasing (due to the constant burning of the sun) but in the local area of the earth the apple tree is decreasing entropy.

      2. Your land use argument loses power when you consider that the sun is already lighting up the desert. People just have to convert a fraction of energy that is already available.

      Essentially you are presenting an economic argument instead of a scientific one. And as we all know, economic reasons can change quite suddenly. If oil were to spike to 1K/ barrel tomorrow those solar fields would look a lot better to investors.

  • Spoonman July 16, 2013, 10:13 pm

    I’m very happy to see the MMM and NE universes come together! I knew it was only a matter of time.

    I’m very much looking forward to the next issue of NE. It’s moments like these that I feel the anti-consumerism community is onto something. Yeepee!

  • John A July 17, 2013, 1:20 am

    I’ve caught up! Read all the articles from the start over the last week.

    We are going to see some changes round here, my Cable is already gone, and there’s plenty more to do yet. Maybe a reader case study ….

    This is a life-changing blog, and I am so glad to have found it. Bizarrely, it was featured in an article here (NZ) on a major news site.

    Keep up the good work, I’m going back to the start again, to read the early posts now I know how it ends :-)

    Best wishes from me.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 17, 2013, 7:45 am

      Thanks, John! Wow.. still people making the long journey through this blog to this day – amazing. You should award yourself a Mustachioed avatar photo to show your seniority, as is the tradition around here.

      • Golden July 17, 2013, 10:34 pm

        I also recently completed the mammoth task & am steadily readjusting my life. The frequent commenters here add so much character & class to the blog.
        Special mentions to Mr levelheaded jlcollinsh, brutally/hilariously honest Frugal Toque, anti-consumerwhore Bakari, hyper enthusiastic Freeurchains. You guys are great value

        My sisters have been jokingly asking when i’m moving to the MMM commune, a bit of a trip from Australia, but that just means you’ve got more time to build it ;) Riding/climbing/music/Good Times? Count me in!

      • Jen Scaffidi July 19, 2013, 5:53 pm

        Not only are they still doing it, but today is the day I made it! I’m so excited!

        (Today was also the day I forwarded some links to my dad. In optimizing my own fiscal habits, I’m going back to the source to remind him about wastefulness and consumption. And all from a conversation that started with him saying, “My cable bill is too high” and me replying, “Just cancel it.”)

        Hard-won mustache avatar soon to come.

  • Cline July 17, 2013, 4:14 am

    1.I actually have thought about doing something like this if I win the Powerball Lottery. I have never bought a ticket but I guess my chances are just as good as if I did. I would buy up the entire inner city of one of the many local small towns that used to thrive when NC was king of tobacco and textile and a big house was 1600 sf. I haven’t decided how one would be qualified to live in this city yet. When I do I will buy a lottery ticket.

    2. Your place sounds a lot like Atlantis in the book Atlas Shrugged.

    • David April 28, 2014, 9:32 pm

      A lot of people think that Ayn Rand was picturing Colorado when she wrote Atlas Shrugged. Sure seems like it when reading that portion of the book!

  • Andrea July 17, 2013, 8:50 am

    Beautiful. And in my utopia there are no schools. Children learn real things from the adults all around them and have time to find their own real passions. Go unschooling! http://zenhabits.net/unschool/

  • Otis July 17, 2013, 10:21 am

    Invest in what? There will be very little in which you can invest in a listless so minimalist.

    • Emily July 17, 2013, 12:49 pm

      You don’t need consumer goods to have investments. How about technology? While I imagine the frisbee-throwing inhabitants of BU aren’t waiting in lines for the latest gadgets, I believe they still pursue innovation, efficiency, and improved experiences.

      On that note, you could invest in adventure companies, which would certainly become quite the rage. Survival camps, snowshoe tours, surfing instruction…

      Certainly production and innovation don’t stop simply because our priorities shift. Instead of R&D spinning out a plasma television that simulates the weather of reality shows in your living room, they instead create a badass canning system that allows you to turn homegrown peaches into jam, syrup, and salsa in less than an hour.

  • Pretired Nick July 17, 2013, 10:41 am

    My favorite article of yours so far, MMM!
    Of note, one of the fundamental components of building a better society is to strengthen the concept of the Commons. America has largely lost its way on this.
    We have chosen yards over parks, cars over transit, private book collections over libraries, a corrupt health care system over socialized health care, and even a private mercenary force over a civilian-controlled army.
    It’s a one-way ticket to a very difficult life but yet we continue down the same depressing path, creating a harder and harder life for the people.

    • Derek July 18, 2013, 4:58 am

      Spot on insight here. I believe we’re losing our communities a little bit every day.

  • Kevin July 17, 2013, 11:17 am

    The market produces and consumers chase (often to their detriment) luxury and status goods for a reason. You won’t ever be able to get rid of the impetus to “uselessly” consume, because luxury consumption is a way of demonstrating means and status, which builds influence and social capital.

    Social capital is the only currency that counts, and conspicuous consumption of luxury is (ironically) one of the cheapest and fastest ways to build it, based on our evolutionary impulses. The other ways (building deep and lasting relationships, being a good neighbor, being altruistic/helping others) actually “cost” more because they require more effort and time… and since we all will die eventually, time is an absolutely critical factor.

    Conspicuous consumption of luxuries shortcuts the time component by hijacking the parts of the observer’s brain that assess a stranger’s position in the social hierarchy and their relationship to them and how they should treat them in social situations. If you (as a consumer) can quickly and loudly broadcast higher status by what you buy, then that is a big win when interacting with people who you don’t know but want to have influence over. After all, “first impressions are the best impressions”… the amazing thing is that it holds true empirically based on our biology.

    Those of us who shy away from such things are trading social status for iconoclastic goals. That has to be recognized. It’s not good or bad, it just is. Mustachianism is a tradeoff between self-satisfaction and high status. You will never be able to suppress the impulses of the people who make the tradeoff in the opposite direction, and that needs to be acknowledged, in my opinion.

    • Alex July 18, 2013, 7:02 pm

      “The other ways (building deep and lasting relationships, being a good neighbor, being altruistic/helping others) actually “cost” more because they require more effort and time”

      1. It ‘costs’ effort and time to make the money.

      2. There is an opportunity cost in NOT developing relationships and helping others. Humans are one of the species that evolved with cooperative group behaviors, and in general, social relationships are ingrained in our biology. In nature, individualism within a group can be called cheaters, which are treated harsly by selection.

      3. If someone is already individually successful, relationships can actually signal more status than you’re giving it credit for. Spending the precious time and effort to help others DESPITE maintaining that success displays strength–they do it because they have too much awesomeness for just themselves. It’s called the handicap principle, and works exactly like you describe for luxury consumption

      4. It can happen anywhere on the continuum in biology, but evolution is not done–it is ongoing. The difference is that humans have a choice and can consciously move in one direction or another.

      • Kevin July 22, 2013, 11:26 am

        Alex, I agree with you *except* on point #1. One of the things that capitalism has done is decouple money from time. It is no longer required to expend effort in work to make money to purchase status goods.

        Examples: Commodities trading, lending interest, property rents, data aggregation systems, mechanization/automation.

        All of these things require *initial* effort, but are self sustaining systems that, once in motion, need minimal effort from the one investing the capital (time) and can scale wealth accumulation indefinitely.

        With money so much easier to come by than strong personal relationships (based on the above), the impetus has moved towards status goods and consumption as the primary driver as it is the most abundant form of social capital.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 20, 2013, 1:21 pm

      Good points, Kevin..until the recent change where frugality became the new way to demonstrate social status:http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/07/frugality-the-new-fanciness/

      • Kevin July 22, 2013, 11:43 am

        I tend to think of it as the reaction to severe deleveraging of the economy and deflation, as opposed to a bigger macro trend :)

        I don’t think you can really legitimately draw a comparison between the US and Canada’s history of frugality and now, because the amount of capital generated per-person has exploded to levels that would have seemed fantastical to someone from the turn of the century or before. There is just too much money floating around for the average person to want to sustain a frugal lifestyle.

        Mind you, I’m not saying that you are *wrong*, far from it (the math is on your side after all), but I think that as a broader movement, frugality is the domain of the middle-class-and-upwardly-mobile set who are well educated, can delay gratification, and have secure lives. There are huge portions of the population (particularly in the US) that don’t have those things and see consumption of status goods as a “way out” of their high-stress, low-status lives. It will be a long, long road before Mustachianism takes hold elsewhere, but it’s important to keep trying.

  • Kamikaze Emu July 17, 2013, 11:32 am

    This reminds me a lot of Michael Reynolds. He is the gentleman form the documentary Garbage Warrior, and he has created several communities which fit very well with the MM way of life.


    If you’ve never seen an earth ship home I highly recommend a bit of research.

  • WageSlave July 17, 2013, 12:41 pm

    MMM and readers might also be interested in Marshal Brain’s mini-novel “Manna”. It’s yet another imagining of a Utopia. I found it quite interesting. It’s a short, fun read (I allegedly read it at work :).

  • WageSlave July 17, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Sometimes I think our current society is just the sum total of human nature, multiplied by all the people, with technology as an exponent. Each new technological introduction is always a two-sided coin: so many great benefits, yet so much potential for problems: it depends on which part of human nature is amplified, and changes over time. So I see the state of our society as indicative of which part of human nature currently has the lead in the arms race of value expression, exaggerated by technology.

    It seems that for the Badass Utopia—or any utopia—to work, the positive aspects of human nature need to be strengthened, and the negative aspects need to atrophy. I assume MMM the optimist probably sees evidence that this is taking place daily. Whereas I tend to be more cynical, and depending on my mood, sometimes wonder where things are really headed.

    The BU sounds great, but it’s not my personal idea of a utopia. How can we have a utopia if every single person doesn’t agree that it is in fact a utopia? Isn’t that a pre-requisite for a utopia, that everyone agrees it’s the best possible situation they could imagine? Surely there are at least a few people out there who, for whatever reasons, believe they are currently living in a utopia.

    MMM, and presumably most of his readership (including me), wants a utopia built around science. Meanwhile there’s plenty of blatantly anti-science fundamentalist Christian organizations attempting to subvert politics and bias public education towards rote, unquestioning dogma. How do you “lead by example” people who already have their own beloved leader (the Bible) and are adamantly opposed to learning “a new way”? How could you demonstrate a better life (i.e. the underpinnings of a utopia) if by their definition your life is worse, since it is a godless one?

    • Emmers July 21, 2013, 11:02 am

      Utopias (and socialism/communism, for that matter) only work if people are truly free to opt in and out of them. Science-haters need to be able to leave a utopia that values science, for example.

      Socialism works brilliantly well for monasteries, for another example, because everyone is there by choice.


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