Friday, October 19, 2012

In Defense of Luxury

Penfold's Block 42
I was poking around the internets the other day and found a story about a very expensive, special release bottle of vintage wine.

Of course, for that kind of money, you don't just get wine. There's a specially-commissioned bottle with precious metal detailing and that comes in a custom, handcrafted cabinet. Even empty, it's a pricey object. 
Normally, I'd see a story like this, think "Gee, the crazy stuff people will spend money on", and keep going; but my eye passed over the comments section. I avoid the comments section, as all the bile and vitriol of the world seems concentrated there. But this time I saw it, and in particular, I saw comments saying that people should not be spending money on luxuries, not when there are starving people in the world.
On the surface this seems like a compelling argument. No one needs a $168,000 bottle of wine, and the poor do need help. But if you've ever bought a pack of gum, then you've wasted money on a needless luxury that could have been used to help the poor. Any money spent on extras could be used to help the needy. The real offense here is the scale of the spending. Few people will guilt you over a chocolate bar, but buy a Lamborghini and the moral accountants appear to judge your actions. However:
  • Just because someone spends a lot of money on wine (or cars, or clothes, or whatever), doesn't mean that they don't spend money on charity.
  • Not buying hyper-expensive wine doesn't mean that the money will be spent on starving children. Maybe they'll buy diamonds, a wrought-iron dog run, or just leave it in the bank.  At least if they buy the wine, the money goes into circulation and keeps the luxury goods makers off the dole.
While I don't want to spend the price of a house on a single bottle of wine, I'm glad there's a market for it. I am in favor of luxury items. Can you imagine a world without luxury items? A life where you only get what you absolutely need and nothing more. It would be so dull and sad. Think of all the things that would be gone:
needless luxuries, all of them

toys, cake, nail polish, colored fabrics, cut glass, jewelry, perfume, art, cut flowers, lawns, theater, ornamental gardens, sports cars, fountains, candy, carpets, music, pillows, movies, upholstered furniture, alcohol, the list goes on and on.
And while I will never be among the super wealthy, I appreciate what money and vision can do. It is money and vision that produced the Eiffel Tower, glass windows, mirrors (the making of which led to the invention of telescopes and microscopes) bathrooms with hot and cold running water, the flush toilet (I am really grateful for that one), Oxford, ornamental gardens, palaces like the Hermitage and Versailles which make up the cultural heritage of the world - luxury items, each and every one, and aren't they grand?

Friday Feel Good Video
Something completely frivolous. Have a luxurious weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, loved the Friday video!

    I completely agree with your points about luxury items. In addition to your point that, quite often, the people who buy incredibly high-end luxury items are often giving large sums to charity and funding innovations that later benefit us all, if it makes them happy, and they can afford it, why not? Seems to me the people who take the most offense are the ones jealous that they don't have the expendable income to buy the item in question.

    I'm not one to expend large sums of money on "things," but what I choose to spend my money on--as long as it hurts no one else--is my prerogative.