When Luxury Goods Are Necessities, Ctd

A reader provides some key conservative pushback:

The article you highlighted on luxury items being necessities may have been the most preposterous thing I have ever read on your blog. First off, the author appears to take aim at what is mostly a strawman: I don’t think anyone really begrudges poor people for buying a nice set of clothes and accessories for wearing to job interviews and other special occasions. That’s good sense and isn’t really the issue. The real problem is expenditures on items such as expensive rims or speaker systems for one’s car, buying designer parkas and jackets for casual wear (HellyHansen seems to be popular around the public housing near my house) or ridiculous tattoos that, rather than projecting an image of class and sophistication, actually do the opposite.

Also consider that, if buying luxury items is such a great strategy for getting ahead, shouldn’t groups who embrace such strategies be doing best while other poor people who engage in less conspicuous consumption and carefully save their money be performing worse? Does this comport with anyone’s actual experience?

The much more likely truth is that many poor people spend money on luxury goods not as part of a strategy to escape their plight, but as part of a misguided competition with their friends, neighbors and others in their social circle to project a false sense of prosperity. In short, it’s about status. The first step to correcting this behavior is to stop making excuses for it.