Trickle-Down Luxuries

I’m sure at one time almost everything we enjoy, or take for granted, was considered a perk for those who had money. Having grown up overseas, there are many ordinary things whose ubiquity I almost haven’t gotten over yet, such as air conditioning and carpet. I remember my mom telling me that most Americans owned a car, and many of them even had two. Two cars. What would you do with them?

But there are some luxuries that seem to have been an especial provenance of the rich, either q…

  1. Devereaux

    The point has been  made, sort of, above, but all you mention are really just a part of the standard of living. Ours has been moving upward for a long time.

    A little known fact is that back in the Revolutionary Times, this country had the highest standard of living of any nation – the fruit of freedom and open markets. That is what drives innovation and the spread of products. It is the wealth creator of a nation. And everyone benefits when it is open and unfettered.

  2. Crow
    RushBabe49: Instead of calling obesity an “epidemic”, we should be celebrating it.  Obesity is a disease of Prosperity.  It’s time to worry when we have an epidemic of under-weight. · 6 hours ago

    I’ll take issue with this. If we are right to call obesity a disease, we cannot celebrate diseases. Starvation and under-nourishment are both terrible, but a population that cannot control its appetite, of whatever kind, is vicious. A sound body ought to be the goal, properly nourished and not extreme either in its excesses nor in its wants.

    Which sort of points us back in the direction of luxuries. It is a good thing, I think, that standard of living has risen–but it is not unambiguously good, for this same technology has also increased our capacity to destroy without fundamentally changing human nature. Luxury can breed an easy-going softness that will tolerate anything so as not to upset its digestion.

    So, while we should cheer our improved material condition, we oughtn’t let it overwhelm our attentiveness to the more eternal things which truly matter, and that begins with our awareness that it is not unambiguously good.

  3. Franco

    I think they have given us, maybe particularly the younger generations, extremely high expectations of life–to put it bluntly, spoiled us rotten. I’d be interested in your thoughts on this,…   

    Yes and no. No, because once you have these things, you realize they aren’t any kind of answer – or even a luxury. How many hot tubs were used for a year and then abandoned? Why is it difficult to sell a house with a pool? My family now, finally, has a flat-screen like everyone else. Does my 14 year-old want to watch a movie? No, she wants to snap-chat with her friends – maybe that’s a case of one technology supplanting another. Having these great phones comes with a downside, too. Is it really a luxury to be able to be reached by anyone at anytime for any reason? Sure, you can manage some of that, but not enough. Are there any more real vacations?

    In part, luxury is having what other people don’t have, so even when you are tired of the hot tub, your friends want to come over, and that’s the only thing that makes it worthwhile.

  4. Franco

    I saw a promo for one of these reality shows Doomsday Preppers special about bunkers, and they are showing off this elaborate underground bunker, fully equipped with all the amenities. Included was a flat-screen and a library of DVD’s and I thought, Who would want to watch When Harry Met Sally in a bunker knowing Seattle is rubble, Billy Crystal is dead and no one is ever going to eat in a diner again?

  5. Nicegrizzly

    I remember cell phone ownership exploding in the late 90′s. 

    1) Cruises: really not that much of a luxury. When Carnival and a few others sell 4 night cruises for $350, including all your meals, that’s quite doable. 

    Numbers 3,4,7,8,9, and 11 I’m going to have to disagree with you on. I don’t think these are at the point of being accessible to the masses. 

  6. House ownership and real estate ownership in general. I believe this has been one of the biggest contributors to wealth creation (and security) in this country and has not been the historical norm. Many people these days do not look at it in this way and it’s unfortunate.

  7. sawatdeeka

    Numbers 3,4,7,8,9, and 11 I’m going to have to disagree with you on. I don’t think these are at the point of being accessible to the masses.

    I dunno. These seem prevalent to me.  For example, people I know, when they build new homes, spare no expense. There are so many luxury homes built (many of them stand empty out here . . . a few short-sighted contractors/builders).  And the gourmet equipment is everywhere in stores.  I think there is a strong inclination to live up to the lifestyle seen on the big/small screen.

    Another example: I know quite a few ordinary people that have gone vacationing in Europe, Thailand, etc.   A good percentage.

     

  8. HeartofAmerica

    Never been on a cruise,  spa, luxury resort or to an exotic location. I enjoy a hot tub at reasonable hotel when traveling. The most expensive piece of clothing I have ever purchased was my wedding gown and it was under $600. No granite counter tops, marble showers, or Italian tile in my house. My husband’s vehicle is almost nine years old and mine is two years old. It’s got a few more bells and whistles than the last one and the one before it. I went many a year without air-conditioning in my cars much less auto-locks and even power steering. No snow or water skiing, no power boats.

    But we do dine out a couple times per week because we enjoy it. Dining out does not mean a lavish dinner prepared by celebrity chefs. It’s just me and Mr. HOA visiting one our locally-owned restaurants.

    Life is pretty simple at our house…good music, books, and fellowship with our church and friends. We don’t need much.

  9. sawatdeeka
    HeartofAmerica: Life is pretty simple at our house…good music, books, and fellowship with our church and friends. We don’t need much. · 0 minutes ago

    Sounds very nice, HoA.

  10. Foxfier

    2, 3 and 8 I’d say are more a “depends” thing.  

    My husband and I have a cellphone because, with all the BS around having a land line, it’s cheaper.  Of course, we’re also on a family plan with several other family members, don’t have smart phones, etc.

    Spas sort of depend on the area and what you mean by spa; high end, sure.  Basic ones, that’s been common enough since before WWII, at least in Northern Cali around the hot springs.  Think an updated sort of version of Roman baths, but G rated.

    Skiing was the cheap sport when my dad was a kid– his dad skied for the Army in Italy during WWII, and secondhand skis were as basic a purchase as winter boots.  It just gets expensive when you’re getting all specialized.  (Simple wood skis, and they were still around– and got used– when I was a kid; cross-country is fun, though hard.)

    I’m laughing at the gourmet cooking, because it seems to highlight something I’ve noticed… rich folks make a big deal of basic things, and spend a lot of money complicating them.

  11. Barkha Herman

    You forgot a major one – College education, especially in “for education only” majors such as philosophy and women’s studies – for all.

    Back in the day, rich kids went to university to gain knowledge (and nothing else, they were not training for a career unless they went further to study Medicine, Law etc.)

    Today, the same luxury is not only available but misunderstood by young folks and their parents.

    They think that they are owed a living as a result of “self exploration” at someone else’s expense.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Universities, and am a big proponent of self exploration; but a career it does not make. 

  12. Olive

    I remember in the eighties when my one of my friend’s parents had a car phone! Such luxury! Such sophistication! 

  13. Barkha Herman

    For some perspective, Sawatdeeka,

    I lived in a house with no electricity for 2 years when in elementary school

    That same house had an out house.  Going to the bathroom at night meant pee-bottles.

    First TV at age 11.

    First Refrigeration at age 11.

    First airplane ride at age 21 (on my way to the US).

    …and much more.

  14. Daniel Jeyn

    Democratization of Luxury is a very American, very Capitalist thing.  I worked for a Consulting Company that produced a book with that title.

    There has never been a better time in history to be poor.  You can have little income, bad habits, and poor in every sense, but technology has afforded us big-screen televisions and cell phones even for the poorest.  It boggles the mind to think my father talked about relatives is in the Ozarks who had dirt floors and no shoes when he was young.

  15. RetroGeek

    I find myself thinking about this quite often. Mr. Geek works in DR, so he sees lots of people arguing they cannot live on/pay said amount of child support because of X necessity.  These necessities include things we would’ve considered absolute luxuries in my childhood (which wasn’t THAT long ago, no matter how old I feel):

    • Full spectrum of cable channels instead of just local

    • New cars on a regular basis
    • New cars for teen drivers
    • Each kid having their own bedroom
    • Smart phones for everyone in the family
    • High speed Internet access (I might grant them this one!)
    • Gaming consoles at both parents’ homes
    • Individual computers for each family member
    • Huge homes with rooms they don’t even use (the “off limits to everyone but company” room doesn’t count)

    What constantly gets to me is comparing the life of the average “poor” American to the poor in most other countries, especially Third World . I know we have people who are truly poor, but for the sake of politicking, the threshold continues to raise. My family was comfortably middle class growing up, but, now? We’d be considered dirt poor by the statisticians.

  16. Jimmy Carter
    Foxfier:

    …. rich folks make a big deal of basic things, and spend a lot of money complicating them. · 8 minutes ago

    Ricochet’s comment of the month, maybe year.

    It’s so rich and the shock wave is incalculable.

    Try it:

    “…[federal government] make[s] a big deal of basic things, and spend[s] a lot of money complicating them.”

  17. Doc

    This is what is so nice about our country. There are no class barriers. People work hard and they achieve whatever they want. Unfortunately, this administration is emulating the European Socialist model. They pretend to be on the side of the middle class, but in reality they make it more difficult for the average person to succeed. The end result is a stratified society where the elete have the power, money and luxuries, and the masses have inferior education, medicine, and opportunity.

  18. Anna M.

    Gourmet cooking and fancy expensive kitchens don’t go together as much as one might think. 

    A woman I knew had her kitchen remodeled a few years back–granite countertops, brand-name restaurant gas stove, and stainless-steel appliances.  I complimented her on her gorgeous kitchen and she said, “I only turn the stove on two or three times a year; all I eat is salads and ready-to-go microwave food.” 

    Which boggled my mind, because cooking has always been one of my passions (my mother and grandmother taught me how to cook and bake when I was a child).  I didn’t stop cooking when I lived in cramped grad school housing. 

    Some of the best meals I ever cooked were made on cheap nasty gas stoves that had such warped tops that everything in the pan slid to one side.  I mixed baked goods with a wooden spoon (couldn’t afford an electric mixer) and kneaded bread by hand (no bread machine). 

    Buy good ingredients and have a few really nice pots and pans; that’s all you need (money-wise) for the best cooking.  Fancy expensive kitchens are about social status. 

  19. sawatdeeka

    Foxfier: Spas sort of depend on the area and what you mean by spa; high end, sure. Basic ones, that’s been common enough since before WWII, at least in Northern Cali around the hot springs. Think an updated sort of version of Roman baths, but G rated.

    Skiing was thecheapsport when my dad was a kid– his dad skied for the Army in Italy during WWII, and secondhand skis were as basic a purchase as winter boots. It just gets expensive when you’re getting all specialized. (Simple wood skis, and they were still around– and got used– whenIwas a kid; cross-country is fun, though hard.)

    Thanks for the perspective, Foxfier. I guess I should have known this.

  20. Mollie Hemingway
    C

    I think about this all the time. We eat, live and travel better than kings. It’s awesome.

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