Saturday, February 07, 2004

The Democratization of Luxury is one of the attractions of the modern age. Most of us live much better than royalty of 100 years ago. Documentation is available in Cox and Alm's Myths of the Rich and Poor, Stanley Lebergott's Pursuing Happiness and David Brooks' Bobos in Paradise, among others. Greg Easterbrook's The Prosperity Paradox is more ambivalent because money does not buy happiness. Surprise. Many of us, nevertheless, prefer more wealth to less.

Oprah's recent 50th birthday bash generated 123,000 Google references. By all accounts, it was outsize lavish -- as are many other such extravaganzas. There may even have been some ABC-TV promotion involved. Yet, it is the private wealth and time of all those involved and they should have at it.

Now, here comes the cranky part: it is a good bet that many of the conspicuous consumers are strong supporters of the welfare state. They love legislation that coerces the rest of us to support their pet causes. I, for one, am happy to pick my own good causes to support. How about before they coerce and party again, the glitterati consider supporting their favored causes with their own funds rather than compel the rest of the population to do so. Have the high-minded fully considered the morality of their actions?