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The Ethos of Consumerism and Luxury Consumption - Page 9

post #121 of 131
Like I said before,this is a circular argument made every few years.

I think Reevolving spawned another alter ego. This 1%er describes his theoretical life like a college freshmen or sophomore assigned to an introductory ethics class.
post #122 of 131
Dude needs to save as much money as he can so he can continue to enjoy his free concerts. smile.gif
post #123 of 131
Originally Posted by dbhdnhdbh View Post

Any purchase directs money to someone, so you are making someone better off. One might distinguish between benefiting a wealthy leader of a giant firm (Ralph Lauren), an American or British artisan, or a third world worker making far less, but still taking the best job she can get. Of the three, it is easiest to argue for patronizing the poor worker over the middle class and the middle class over the wealthy. But the real question at thar point is whether clothes are worth this kind of money.

I read SF to learn about care and maintenance of clothes, and for some ideas about less expensive ways to get to the same point. I am not actually that interested in clothing, particularly by SF standards. My job requires me to dress in standard, very conservative, business outfits. People in my workplace do not typically conform to the elements of "style" so valued here. You see button down shirts as the most common with business suits. You see solid black suits as the single most common thing the men and women wear. You almost never see pocket squares, and never cuff links, tie bars, tie clips, or jewelry on men other than a watch and wedding ring. There is a Yankee sense that displays of wealth are inappropriate. This type of frugal appearance is not necessarily typical of my field overall, and I do have colleagues outside of my workplace who spend like crazy.

Although I am personally repulsed by the idea of spending large amounts of money of luxuries and trinkets, I do find it reflects a level of self absorption that I find offensive. If people who spend thousands of dollars on suits had more perspective, they might buy a perfectly acceptable suit for far less money, and invest or give away the rest.

I could agree that there are apparently characteristics of a top quality bespoke suit that are objectively "better" than a low priced OTR. But I would ask "So what?" This better quality really means "conforms to what we have defined as better quality." It drapes better. Well, it drapes the way we have decided a jacket should drape. The canvassed front does not bubble. Well, we have decided that bubbling is bad, and only a complicated construction process can ensure that this will not occur.

I don't have any bespoke or MTM clothes. I cannot imagine I ever will. I cannot imagine spending that kind of money on clothing. Many of my clothes for work I inherited from my father, and I wear them every week. To the extent that I buy more clothes for myself, I go sale, discount, ebay,  and now thrift shop. I find clothes that fit well enough and I wear them. I do not get alternations, and if the fit is not perfect, I don't care. I am not a model, an entertainer, or someone else for whom appearance is part of my career success.

I am in the 1% in income and networth. I could afford to spend a lot of money on clothes, shoes, watches, etc. But I don't. I have one watch that I bought, and I use it. It is a cheap Casio and it keeps perfect time. I have no need of a fancy or more expensive watch. I barely need the one I have, since I am never without my phone, and I am usually in front of several computer screens that all show the time. Plus clocks in every room. I can appreciate the artistry that goes into making a JLC Reverso Gyrotourbillon without feeling the need to own one. I can appreciate an Andrew Wyeth original without needing to own that either.

I don't believe that this sort of spending, or travel, for that matter, makes people better. I live a comfortable life, but I save each year more money than I pay in taxes, and I pay more in taxes than I spend. I have not boarded an airplane for a vacation in over a decade. I have never spent over $100 for dinner for two. When I have time off from work I like to take hikes, go to the library, or free student concerts at the excellent local conservatory. I could afford season tickets to our world class symphony, but the student concerts are remarkably good and free. In this, I have much in common with many people who make much less money. They live fulfilling lives without having to spend the way many of my fellow one percenters do. So why do I need all that stuff that they cannot afford?

We have been lucky to have a long period without a true depression. The Great Recession, painful as it has been, is nothing compared to what the world went through in the '30's, or what Spain and Greece confront now. People who spend large amounts of money on things they don't need should consider how they will live when the bill comes due on the unbelievable level of debt we have accumulated. It will not be conforting to say "I can't pay my mortgage, and this bespoke suit is only worth $100 at resale, but at least I had the opportunity to feel like a man of taste and style when I bought it"

I don't exactly criticize people who spend lots of money on clothing. It is a free country, and this is legal behavior. But on a previous thread I made similar observations and faced an amazing number of bitter attacks for challenging the assumption that everyone should wear the "best" clothes they can, while conforming to a rigid set of rules about what to wear when.

Originally Posted by dbhdnhdbh View Post

As I said, I do need to maintain the clothes I have, and some clothes, like shirts and ties, deteriorate and must be periodically replaced. So ideas about where to find good buys and what makes clothes last longer are always useful. In other words, as a human I am interested in clothing, but not in "style" or "fashion". My style and fashion are determined by the need to fit in at work.

I spend money on food, transportation, electricity... same as everyone else. I think the big difference is that I spend very little on hobbies, including clothing, or entertainment. I like to read, but much of what I read is available for free at the library, or academic papers downloaded for free. I rarely go to movies. In a typical year I will not have seen any movie nominated for an Academy Award. I have certainly gone periods of longer than a year without going to a movie theater at all. Many of the books I want to read are outside copyright protection, and available online for free.

People hang out at the Mercedes dealership, at the tailors, at Brooks Brothers, or on SF with others who spend lots of money on clothes, and they start feeling that this is normal and responsible behavior. Needless to say, I drive a nineteen year old Volvo. When it stops providing safe reliable transportation I will replace it with a "new" used car.

Saving and investment are the same thing.  I save money because I think it is the responsible thing to do. I save against the possibility that I, my family, or my charities may need that money at some time in the future. I would be very unhappy if I were to lose my job, or we have a real Depression. But because I consume at the level of people with fewer resources, I could tolerate a period of unemployment or a major drop in income better than most. I find the low savings rate in the US terrifying. Even more frightening when we consider that this low savings rate does not take into account the $1 trillion dollars a year the federal government is borrowing to support consumption.

Originally Posted by dbhdnhdbh View Post

I guess that is my point. Most people cannot afford to buy the things that I choose not to buy although I could. They do not seem to live miserable lives. I have eaten at fancy restaurants for business when I am not paying. I don't think I am missing anything by not patronizing such places. I really like my reading, taking online courses for free, taking walks. I lived like this as a student (except for the online part, which did not exist), and do not think I was deprived then, nor do I feel deprived now.

For most people in this very wealthy country spending thousands of dollars on a bespoke suit is so completely out of the question that it never crosses their minds. Are satisfying lives dependent on this level of consumption, and therefore only available to those at the top of the wealth distribution? I know plenty of people with far lower incomes who do not do foreign vacations, fancy restuarants, or bespoke clothing. Perhaps they are putting on brave fronts, but their suffering is not apparent.

I suppose I am lucky in that I sincerely don't want a lot of the things on which some people spend a lot of money. Take the example of the JLC watches. They are beautiful. They are works of art. But it would be impossible for me to justify spending 1% that much on a watch. It is ultimately a time-telling device. I have a time-telling device that works even better than a JLC. As my wife and kids know, one of my favorite expressions is "it is paid for".

I love classical music. But I know that most people don't. In this free, if indebted, country people can choose their music. It does not bother me that pop stars are better known and more highly paid than the best classical musicians. As I said, I am quite happy with student concerts.

But enough. I am getting the same reaction I got on the other thread. It is one thing to like clothes. But when you get upset that someone else does not share this passion, perhaps you are taking it too seriously.

Originally Posted by dbhdnhdbh View Post

Wow! I mean WOW!

I was planning on droping this, since it upsets people so much. But I don't see how anything I said could be interpreted that way.

First, I don't use profanity. That does not make me superior to you. But it does mean that the language I quoted is not something I ever would say.

I envy people who enjoy things so much that they can know that spending an amount of money they can afford will give them enough pleasure to make it worth it. For me, I would be so worried and guilty about the cost, and my belief that the shirt/suit/trip whatever could not be worth that much that I would not enjoy it. As I said, it is a free country, people can and should spend their money as they chose.

Of course, this thread is specifically about consumerism. So I offered an opinion about consumerism. Obviously many vocal people on here do not share my opinion. Apparently some believe that those who do not share their opinions should avoid this site. But as I indicated one might find discussions of clothing interesting and useful, even if they do not choose to chase expensive designer/MTM/bespoke clothing.

I find the talior thread fascinating. I had no idea the level of skill and detail that goes into fitting suits. I had no idea how easy it is for an experienced tailor to identify fit problems, and to determine whether and how they can be fixed. I found it fascinating to read an explanation of why one should not steam a suit- ruins the tailoring done with ironing. I find DWFII's posts on shoe construction endlessly fascinating. I will never buy a pair of shoes or boots from him- I would consider doing so unjustifiably indulgent. But I am sure they would be beautifully made by an artisan who has studied construction of footwear for decades and makes the best he possibly can.

I can appreciate these things without feeling the need to own them. I don't think an expensive suit, a fancy watch, or an expensive car make me a better person. I doubt that they would make me feel better having them. I do worry, daily, about the economic future of the country, and how we would survive another Depression.

So when I buy clothing I go cheap, on sale, and more recently used. My wife's father was a child of the Depression. Although he was a very successful professional, he had a job that did not require the level of clothing that mine does. Seeing him wear his clothes until they fell apart I don't think he or others of his generation would have found my approach at all odd.

But do I think I am superior to others because I don't want these expensive things, and I don't buy them? No. Being a better person requires something more than not wasting money. Everyone is anonymous on this blog. I have no basis for judging anyone (unlike those who are piling on to judge me). I don't know how you treat your employees, how much time to give to charity, how to treat strangers, and the care you take of your children. Knowing that I don't know that, how could I decide I am superior?

Now, having apologized on your behalf for your placing insulting words in my mouth, I am finished with this topic. It is a free country, spend your money as you wish.

Can I just say how saddened I am by the board chewing up and spitting this guy out for his "different" views. No doubt this guy is more financially secure and successful than the majority of people (let alone on the boards) ever will be. I have the aching suspicion he is more satisfied and content with his life too than any of the gurus who flamed him out.

LIke-minded people stick together, so I know why the board jumped like that. No one likes their bubble pricked. Let me just say how much I respect dbhdnhdbh for voicing this way of life. I wish I was more content myself and not so wrapped up in this. No doubt I'd be more financially secure.

EDIT: FWIW, this thread has been a great read. So much nicer to read competing opinons and personal beliefs on an issue that is really important as opposed to multiple threads about getting sizing right (or sik fadez on dem jawnz on the SW+D side).
Edited by El Argentino - 1/20/13 at 2:24am
post #124 of 131
The strange thing about the OP is that he's criticizing consumerism and then he's telling us that he saves or invests all of that money. So he's not giving it to a charity or to his college or school, he's just handing it over to bankers who skim a % off the top every year. Or if he doesn't use bankers or wealth managers then he's letting inflation erode the money. Or perhaps he manages his own investments carefully, which would be much more consumerist/avaricious and a waste of time than simply going shopping.

Everyone has their own principles vis-à-vis spending. I'd rather support the artisan craft and tradition of my small tailor and bootmaker, and support a few local charities, than hand my cash over to the financial market and its employees.
post #125 of 131
Originally Posted by El Argentino View Post

I have the aching suspicion he is more satisfied and content with his life too than any of the gurus who flamed him out.

You don't know that. Fear of financial insecurity leads to self-imposed austerity and guilt about frivolous spending, and, apparently, writing polemics to justify his miserliness by calling others self-absorbed, while simultaneously denying he's being judgmental toward anyone. If we all spent money like him, there'd be none of his beloved student concerts or library books, because no-one would have patronised the composers or authors who wrote the music or books in the first place.
post #126 of 131
ahahaha i thought he was finished with this topic. couldn't resist, huh?
Originally Posted by El Argentino View Post

Can I just say how saddened I am by the board chewing up and spitting this guy out for his "different" views.
to be clear, it's not the different views, it's the judgmental attitude. c'mon, all of us have learned to deal with people who would be horrified at spending $200 on jawnz or $1000 on shoes - it's only the vast majority of the people we interact with. but a guy who comes onto the "safe haven" for people like us and pronounces his disdain for what we are doing is going to be flamed. particularly when coupled with this child of the Depression thing that elicits a reaction because it sounds like all the parental speeches received about how much better we have it.

in fairness, he seems to have toned down the whole "repulsed", "self absorption that i find offensive", "if people had more perspective..." shtick, so perhaps the discussion can be saved. i do agree with you that he holds an interesting point of view on how to live one's life, assuming that this isn't an elaborate troll
post #127 of 131
this, however, is next-level patronizing and passive-aggressive all at the same time
Final question: Do you find that hurling insults at people on the internet gets them to state they agree with you? Or to just give up and stop posting, for fear of losing your favor?

I am genuinely interested in your thoughts, and I am sorry that my attitudes apparently cause you such distress. Here's hoping you find some peace
post #128 of 131

The problem is pleasure.


We have been programmed to be pleasure seeking machines, by Madison Avenue and our government funded and regulated indoctrination centers call schools.


Pleasure is truth for far to many. If it feels good, it must be good and worthy.


If you try to apply a morality or even some ethical construct to the manner in which someone seeks pleasure, they will no doubt become upset with you because you are making a direct attack on their guiding source of truth; or that what makes them feel pleasure is truth for them.


Religion is simply a belief system of any kind and practices based on those beliefs.


If you call into question someone's behavior [a form of practice], and worse, the underlying beliefs that support their behavior, you are inadvertently, if not consciously, seeding a religious war and liable to get someone at the very least, uncomfortable, if not upset with you. If you get them upset enough, they will seek some truth and feel better by acting out against you and possibly aggressively so.


If pleasure is truth for someone, then be wary of calling it into question unless your relationship with them is very secure or the very opposite of an anonymous internet persona.



post #129 of 131

Some might find it illuminating to look at the financial independence and retire early boards. There you will find people who are far more frugal than I am. They are also fixated on retiring early by minimizing their need for money. I get the goal of being cheap, but the early retirement part still strikes me as a gamble. No matter how well you plan, you can still find yourself short of money and out of the work force too long to have good prospects for returning to your former income.


Crinklecut has it right for me. I am largely fear-motivated, so there is definitely consumption I avoid because I am worried about the future. There are also lots of things I don't want. If I had infinite money I would spend more than I do, but I suspect still less than many on this board. There are plenty of things that I think I might enjoy that I am not going to do. I would like to attend opera at La Scala, Bayreuth, and Covent Garden. I would like to see the Louvre, the pyramids and the Acropolis. It is highly unlikely that I will ever do any of these things. The time and cost of going just are not worth it. I go to Europe on business periodically, but I don't go sightseeing. I just do the work and come home. Extending the trip to see some of these things would be an expense not worth it to me.


The one sense in which I may be more content is that I do not have a long list of things that I want but cannot afford. I have a list of things that, I suppose, I might buy if I had far more money than I will ever accumulate, but I don't worry about them. My possessions, and certainly my clothes are good enough for me.


This puzzles me



perhaps he manages his own investments carefully, which would be much more consumerist/avaricious and a waste of time than simply going shopping.



How is managing my own investments consumerist, avaricious and a waste of time? It is not particularly time-consuming, and I don't see the consumerist element at all.


I do make current contributions to charity, but, due to the fear noted above, that is more something for testamentary than lifetime gifts.


It is certainly true that my beloved free concerts and libraries did require someone to put up the money. Nowadays, this is largely funded by tax money, and I certainly pay taxes! Much of the music was composed long ago, under economic systems that permitted aristocrats to accumulate enormous wealth at the expense of the rest of humanity. Among many behaviors I would find horrifying, some of these wealthy people did something good by commissioning music. This was for their own enjoyment, not for the greater good, but the music survived and we all benefit. The performers are students for their own purposes, not necessarily to provide me with entertainment.


But back to clothes. I view my work attire as somewhere between a uniform and a costume. I am fitting in and playing a part. There is more room for choice than most uniforms would provide, but there is certainly the possibility of being out of costume. I don't internalize the appearance I achieve. I don't think I look particularly good. I am not a model or celebrity. I do not need to look my best to get parts or modelling jobs. I do not need to impress others with my taste and refinement. In fact, being too well dressed might lead me to be taken less seriously.


I think the reactions to my posts have shown that there is little risk of SF people cutting back. I suppose that is good for economic growth, but I still worry about the national saving rate.

post #130 of 131
Originally Posted by dbhdnhdbh View Post

 I suppose that is good for economic growth, but I still worry about the national saving rate.


Interesting. How does the national savings rate do anything for the economy, much less economic growth.


As a source of capital, savings are not needed, since the U.S. has a fiat debt based currency whose value depends solely on the faith and trust of the consumer; e.g., value of capital is not influenced by any other factor than faith and trust, including supply.


The only source for capital in the U,S. is a printing press restrained by nothing more government's avarice towards borrowing from the Fed. An avarice that is unequaled in history.


U.S. government fiscal responsibility is something that is not real and only the fantasy of those that wish to believe the government has any real capacity to act outside of its own very limited self interest. This fact is proven daily by the fraud the government and it's agents, our elected and tenured trustees, create by plundering the public trust while denying the beneficiaries of the trust, otherwise known as you and me, good and ethical service.


Nothing drives up the cost of capital, which has never been more abundant in the history of the world than today, more than government borrowing.


Nothing drives up the cost of goods and services, and hence fuels inflation, more than government spending, And that includes printing more money which is a secondary condition of inflation, contrary to any macro economic theory now in vogue.


The fact is that the government is the single largest consumer of goods and services, and hence the only inflationary force worth considering outside of the Fed Reserve practice of charging the U.S. government usury to print money that the Congress could print for merely the cost of ink and paper, as the Constitution allows.


Keynesian economics is for this reason not only a failure as a theory, but disruptive to an economy to the extreme.


The national savings rate is therefore a perfect image of the faith and value that people place in a fiat currency whose true value is less than a nice square of toilet paper; or zero.


If people understood that the currency is really just an IOU in the form of a promissory note for a debt that the U.S. government owes the Fed for no good reason, and not a bill of credit or certificate [both of which are representative of real money with value and not simply evidence of a debt], the national savings rate for everyone would be zero or less, since the par value of any dollar denominated security has no basis in reality.


So, whence your interest in the national savings rate as indicator of economic health or anything else?


For me, any country with a Federal Reserve type banking system, and a positive national savings rate, is merely an indication of a compliant, docile, and fully brainwashed people.


Here at least, people may not understand the fraud of the Fed, but they do understand that for them, someone else's IOU has a value of near zero when it comes to keeping it in their private reserve. Better to store toilet paper, which is functional and has real value.

post #131 of 131
The real question is, does all the spending actually make you happy? if the answer is no, then you're not spending it correctly!!
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