Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When We Should Ridicule Expensive Purchases

Peter Singer discusses the ridiculous expenditures of some of the rich, which are purchased not because they provide any kind of superior function, but serve merely to display wealth:

Essentially, such a person is saying; “I am either extraordinarily ignorant, or just plain selfish. If I were not ignorant, I would know that children are dying from diarrhea or malaria, because they lack safe drinking water, or mosquito nets, and obviously what I have spent on this watch or handbag would have been enough to help several of them survive; but I care so little about them that I would rather spend my money on something that I wear for ostentation alone.”

Within the article he mentions an interesting point from a 19th century philospher that noted that as social status becomes more and more tied to wealth, as opposed to say wisdom, knowledge, skill, or moral integrity, then the rich will pursue expenditures that serve no purpose other than to display that wealth.  These kinds of purchases should be ridiculed on the above grounds.

Just to briefly note, this does not apply to something like the purchase of an RV or nice car.  These are useful and the premium you pay is providing you a real functional enjoyment.  We're talking here about purchases that are exclusively for the display of wealth.  He uses the example of a watch that's actually not as good at keeping time as a cheaper alternative.


HispanicPundit said...

The same could be said of almost everyone in industrialized countries - even when buying something of value.

Did you really need that Galaxy S3? I mean, more than poor people in say the Congo could have used another meal???

Sure, its different in degree...but not different in kind.

Jon said...

I think my phone is a poor example. I bought it partly because I couldn't run programs on my old phone that I needed, especially certain learning programs I use daily.

But other purchases in my life perhaps should be ridiculed. If I could do it again (and my wife would go along) I wouldn't buy an engagement ring. One of the stupidest purchases ever. Pure manipulation by brilliant marketing people. Pure waste as well.

We really should think about the point made at the end of Schindler's List. The purchase of that watch represents a choice, preferring the style to another life saved. That's an important question, whether I perfectly exemplify the sentiment or not.

Examinator said...

In my mind the answer is the same as last time this topic was broached.
It all hinges on NEED. Of course need varies from person to person.
As I said last time I drive a 19 YO Subaru it was the top of the line when it was made... We bought it second hand . It runs well and it's safe... My previous corporate vehicle up set the pecking order because I refused the up market Bez or BMW my position was entitled to I went for a tricked up Ford Van ( 3 children and 3 dogs) I endured no end of hostility from others at my level... " I was risking their campaign for 'more befitting vehicles'.
Bollocks I say enough is as good as a feast.
If like my daughter and son in law who work out the back of beyond at a mine site a 4wD vehicle is sound. However, they bought an over priced toy a soft top short wheel based Jeep. Fine But now he wants to do "the Cape" the pointed bit of Australia. The reality is he was laughed at by the 4wD club because their vehicle is inadequate for the task. they told him go and buy a cheap but sound Toyota Diesel Land cruiser (condensation in fuel due to the temp change and humidity) then come back the Jeep wouldn't have the room for the extra fuel, spares or the 3 extra spare tyres, camping gear, food, clothes.
1500 miles of Tropical dirt roads, mud, wash aways,corrugated surfaces that can flood in an instant... God's sense of humor for a road.
The point of that is NEED. A disposable work brute not a cool vehicle... it'd come back damaged.
My cell is 8 year old it suits my needs... my wife has a Note because she needs the functions.
People simply need to be more aware of the difference between MANIPULATABLE ** WANT** and IMMUTABLE **NEED**.
Given the number of miles I ride on my bike weekly and the terrain my more expensive bicycle ($1500) is justified (NEED) a wizz bang full carbon or the latest alloy ( 3-$20000) would be a want. I could afford upto a mid range one but why? It'd be an ego thing for about a month ...then it'd be that #$@&*&# torture thing in the shed! This way I save money, same result ;-)


Examinator said...

Now here's an interesting POV
of perhaps one of the most expensive purchases that the US Public is paying for but has no say in

Military Manufacturing complex is making profit at full tilt from this.
Browse the comments too... interesting