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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-13-2006, 04:21 PM   #41
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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And it doesn't get any easier... Things seem to collect and pile up even without effort at doing so. Even with periodic cleanings and lettings-go, stuff just seems to want more stuff around it! yikes!
Yeah, my consumption falls behind some of my better-heeled friends, and it's not conspicuous to them or in the way Jay_Gatsby is talking about but it's still conspicuous to me in the literal sense.* My stuff's everywhere in the house!* Granted, a lot of my furniture, books, and clothes are second-hand, but they're still a lot and distract me for sure.

A few years ago, I became aware of this book and borrowed a hardcopy version from the libe:* Material World:* A Global Family Portrait.* It was pretty interesting to see the number and variety of possessions of an "average family" from different countries of the world.* The most striking photographs were the main ones where their stuff was hauled outside their home and the family was photographed surrounded by their stuff.* It was eye-opening to an non-traveling sort like me to see how little some families had, like those from Ethiopia and Afghanistan IIRC.
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-13-2006, 05:01 PM   #42
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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Originally Posted by flipstress
The most striking photographs were the main ones where their stuff was hauled outside their home and the family was photographed surrounded by their stuff.* It was eye-opening to an non-traveling sort like me to see how little some families had, like those from Ethiopia and Afghanistan IIRC.
Well, it's certainly true that people in poor countries have less "stuff" than people in rich countries, but I suspect that the primary reason is that they can't afford the extra stuff, not because they don't want it.

Quote:
And conspicuous consumption has been bred into us over the years through advertising and creating appetites for things we don't need.
It's hard to tell what causes conspicuous consumption since it's a relatively recent phenomenon, at least on this scale. Throughout human history, a vast majority lived very close to the edge where even survival becomes problematic. Perhaps we should wait another 10 generations or so to see how our spending patterns may change once we internalize the prosperity that the last few generations have enjoyed. Assuming that the prosperity is here to stay, that is*
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-13-2006, 05:12 PM   #43
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

I am trying to remember when life changed. There were "skips" and there were keds. They did come out with a few other accepted brands before nike came out and changed things. The same thing with Blue jeans. It had to be levi's or wranglers. Neither were all that expensive. Then came the "designer" jeans. I was never really sure what the lure was since I thought wranglers were still better.
Its also interesting how things have changed. I can understand that 8 tracks were pretty awful but some day soon they will find out a way to make cd's obsolete. People with regular tv's will probaly have to replace or buy a box to get the hdtv reception . They now sell satellite radio. Although every kid I know already has an ipod or some other mp3 player. Plus of course everyone had to have a fancy cell phone and a digital camera *
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-13-2006, 08:04 PM   #44
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

Cut throat:
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Whenever I spend money on life's necessities. - Grocery Store, Property taxes, Medical care, utility bills, Gasoline - I'm not having any fun
You have a point there... I remember one time a girlfriend of mine in Thailand was asking me the difference between the words 'pay' and 'spend.' It took me a little while (I don't walk around with a dictionary so I had to wing it..)* but I had decided that 'pay' wasn't a fun word. I paid for things like the above mentioned items. It was something I had to do in order to remain in good standing, but you are right, the fun factor was missing.

'Spend' on the other hand had fun, delight or skill involved as in "I only spent this much for these airline tickets" or I feel like going out and spending some money today!

'Pay' had an obligation to it, like a debt, whereas 'spend' was more my choice.* I could be wrong here...*

Quote:
Let's not confuse Conspicuous Consumption with our own Jealousy.
From Retire to Simplicity: http://www.retireearlylifestyle.com/...simplicity.htm: "The American middle class is one of the most affluent groups of people ever, yet the goalposts marking our satisfaction level keep moving, and instead of having a sense of fulfillment, many feel discontented."

I think this is what the advertisers are counting on to be sure that we continue to consume beyond what is necessary, playful or rewarding.

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I am trying to remember when life changed. There were "skips" and there were keds. They did come out with a few other accepted brands before nike came out and changed things. The same thing with Blue jeans. It had to be levi's or wranglers. Neither were all that expensive. Then came the "designer" jeans. I was never really sure what the lure was since I thought wranglers were still better.
I'm not sure that it has actually changed that much... I think having the 'right' clothes or the 'right' look or address or car has pretty much always been there. It's a way to separate the masses and classes. If you buy into that concept one can feel pretty crummy about one's self. If you don't buy into it, there is tremendous freedom of mind, with room to be authentic, unique and for personal creativity. That being said... being authentic, unique or creative might not be someone else's value. They would rather have the right look, address or jeans...*

Nothing is free. Everything has a trade off. Coming to peace with that helps.

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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-13-2006, 08:29 PM   #45
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

Good viewpoint - I like the idea of being a pay less so I can spend more kind of guy.

heh heh heh
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-13-2006, 08:38 PM   #46
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

Question.

Isn't all this spending what keeps the market growing, companies expanding and fueling the economy?

My big fear is when everyone has maxed out the CC's and exhausted the HELOC's what's going to happen.

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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-13-2006, 10:29 PM   #47
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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Good viewpoint - I like the idea of being a pay less so I can spend more kind of guy.
heh heh heh
Yeah, me too. It's all about personal choice...

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Question.* ..Isn't all this spending what keeps the market growing, companies expanding and fueling the economy?

My big fear is when everyone has maxed out the CC's and exhausted the HELOC's what's going to happen.*
I understand your point. However, I can't worry about what 'Everyone else' does.. I* simply try to manage my own life - which at times - simple as it is -- can be overwhelming.

Keeping chaos at bay, managing consumption based on my own choices, and having my values prioritized takes up about all the free time I have (!!) There will always be people who 'need' more or think that they do... and you are right - it's what keeps a good deal of the economy going.

We all make choices, and so long as you know you have choice...* you are ahead of the game.

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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 08:06 AM   #48
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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Originally Posted by Scrooge
Well, it's certainly true that people in poor countries have less "stuff" than people in rich countries, but I suspect that the primary reason is that they can't afford the extra stuff, not because they don't want it.
I agree--poverty limits one's consumption.* In some poor countries, the people have probably not even seen a lot of products available in the developed countries.* So they can't even want what they don't know exist.* As they get exposed to what's available and see other people in their "peer group" having them, then they might start wanting them.* This is where advertising exerts a big influence, creating desire for something not necessarily needed but added to one's want list, or to put a positive spin on it, creating material ambition or something to strive for, with the ambition directed not only to acquire the goods themselves but also to achieve a certain lifestyle or standard of living.

I just brought up the book as an aside in case it might be interesting for some of us to see what people in other countries have (or had since the book was published some years ago).* It shows how adaptable we are as humans in terms of what we can survive on.* But then, my definition of a good life means more than just surviving;* my ideal would be between just surviving and heedless acquiring/consuming.
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 09:00 AM   #49
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

I've sometimes heard conspicuous consumption described as an attempt to fill a hole. Yet the "hole" isn't the type you see in the ground, but rather more like a hole in a dam. You buy lots of material things in an attempt to patch the dam, but somehow -- like water -- the negative emotions still find a way to get through. The key is to focus on lessening the flow of "water", not on strengthning or patching the dam.
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 09:48 AM   #50
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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Originally Posted by flipstress
This is where advertising exerts a big influence, creating desire for something not necessarily needed but added to one's want list
Well, there aren't that may things in the life of a denizen of the First World that are really "needed" as opposed to "wanted". Shelter, food, water, and bare bones health care are pretty much all you need for survival. Everything else, including things that we take for granted like music, books, radio, computers, television, movies, travel -- any form of leisure, really -- education, daily showers, etc are "wants" rather than "needs".

And once you are in the "wants" territory, there is always something bigger and better out there: a bigger house, HDTV, plasma, high speed internet, HD and satellite raido, leatherbound books, live performaces, bigger cars, SUVs, iPods, foreign vacations and the list goes on and on with more "stuff" being added to it every day.

One possible stimulus for conspicuous consumptions is competition for mates, something akin to the birds'*mating song and dance. Granted, one might think that a fat checking account and the security that comes with it would act as a more powerful aphrodisiac than a fast (and fast depreciating) car, but then many humans are not that much brighter than birds*
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 10:06 AM   #51
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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One possible stimulus for conspicuous consumptions is competition for mates, something akin to the birds' mating song and dance. Granted, one might think that a fat checking account and the security that comes with it would act as a more powerful aphrodisiac than a fast (and fast depreciating) car, but then many humans are not that much brighter than birds*
I believe you are right about the competition for mates - that is in our genes from the beginning of mankind. The story goes like this: females want the stronger, more virile male (providing comfort and security) so that the children she bears will have a greater chance at survival. More food and better shelter against the elements allows for stronger, healthier children.

I can see that in nature and appreciate it for what it is...

It's probably just me, but there comes a point when the consumption really is conspicuous, and it makes me nervous. Having 8 light switches in one's master bath is just too much for me and having food in the pantry that is years old and dusty because it is never seen or intended to be used just freaks me out.

I incline more towards 'mean, lean, fine machines' that are efficient, lithe and offers many ways to be useful.

Each to his own, I guess... Zen and the art of? 8)

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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 10:10 AM   #52
 
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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Originally Posted by Scrooge
One possible stimulus for conspicuous consumptions is competition for mates, something akin to the birds' mating song and dance. Granted, one might think that a fat checking account and the security that comes with it would act as a more powerful aphrodisiac than a fast (and fast depreciating) car, but then many humans are not that much brighter than birds
I think this is a big part of it. Look at rich old buggers with young 'trophy' wives. Remember Anna Nicole Smith and her 90 year old Billionaire husband? Reminds me of the joke of the rich guy that went to his 60 year class reunion with a 25 year old wife. The other men were asking him how he snared the young woman,. He replied 'I lied about my age, I told her I was 95'

And of course you cannot 'see' the fat checking account and the security that comes with it. And most 20 year olds cannot fathom saving for retirmement. They just want to get laid. - Whatever works!
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 10:11 AM   #53
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

A long time ago, I took an introductory psych class and I remember Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs from that.

The needs that you mentioned, Scrooge, are the basic biological needs and they are what we need to have for survival. *Beyond that he named other levels of needs--and I had to look these up now: *safety, love, status, and actualization.

The fat checking account would seem to fall into the safety level, and the sports car would fall into the status level. *Come to think of it, the conspicuous consumption described by Jay's posted blog seems to fall into the need for status--whether derived from external approval or one's internal measure.

We do have needs beyond our physiological needs, so the books, music, education, radio, travel, even showers are all needs we develop after we satisfy our basic survival needs. *My dream is to get beyond my needs for stuff and reach self-actualization, but it's hard to do that when one's worrying about lower-level needs.

Edited to add:* The advertisers likely work along the lines of associating their product with our need for love and status.* Maybe all of us have different levels of at which our needs are sated, so the products appeal more to those of us who have a bigger need for love and status.* In any case, it would benefit me to ask myself why I buy a certain thing--almost impossible to do for all purchases, but at least for expensive purchases.
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 10:21 AM   #54
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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Originally Posted by Cut-Throat
And most 20 year olds cannot fathom saving for retirmement. They just want to get laid. - Whatever works!
Ain't that the truth. NTTAWWT
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 10:32 AM   #55
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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Originally Posted by Cut-Throat
I think this is a big part of it. Look at rich old buggers with young 'trophy' wives. Remember Anna Nicole Smith and her 90 year old Billionaire husband? Reminds me of the joke of the rich guy that went to his 60 year class reunion with a 25 year old wife. The other men were asking him how he snared the young woman,. He replied 'I lied about my age, I told her I was 95'*

And of course you cannot 'see' the fat checking account and the security that comes with it. And most 20 year olds cannot fathom saving for retirmement. They just want to get laid. - Whatever works!
The cover story and several articles in Business Week this week are on competition. Interesting reading.

From one of the articles:

If you want to understand the urge to compete, consider the rat. Male wild rats fight each other as a matter of course. When an adult male so much as tries to enter territory already claimed by another, there is a battle royal. The losing rat dies soon after -- not from any wounds, which are usually superficial, but from sheer humiliation. Rats, in other words, are about as competitive as you can get.

Except when they don't have to be. Put a bunch of male rats in a cage with no females, give them plenty of food, and they get along like they're on some sort of male sensitivity retreat, grooming each other and curling up together.



http://www.businessweek.com/magazine...4/b3998405.htm


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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 10:59 AM   #56
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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Originally Posted by flipstress
A long time ago, I took an introductory psych class and I remember Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs from that.

The needs that you mentioned, Scrooge, are the basic biological needs and they are what we need to have for survival. *Beyond that he named other levels of needs--and I had to look these up now: *safety, love, status, and actualization.
I am tempted to say that calling a "want" a "need" won't change its optional nature but upon further reflection it may be a bit more complicated than that. For example, the need for "safety" is just a way of ensuring that your basic needs that are satisfied today will still be taken care of tomorrow -- a projection of your current basic needs into the future, if you will.

"Love" is about procreation, a basic biological imperative and as close as we come to immortality. "Status" is mostly about improving your mating/procreational choices/chances, so it can be seen as an extension of the procreational imperative. "Actualization", on the other hand, is much too messy to be explained away with my reductionist brush

Quote:
Edited to add:* The advertisers likely work along the lines of associating their product with our need for love and status.
Yep, much of the time it's the old "Are you telling me that you are still using that old [gadget101]?! Goodness, everybody has long upgraded to [gadget202]!" pitch.

Quote:
Maybe all of us have different levels of at which our needs are sated, so the products appeal more to those of us who have a bigger need for love and status.
It also depends on who your perceived peers are and what they like. Well over 95% of all advertising doesn't appeal to me at all simply because my peer group couldn't care less about that stuff. In retrospect, it was a bit of a trap because I thought that I was immune to advertising, conspicuous consumption, etc. It turned out that I wasn't, it's just that I was buying things that I felt my peers would have approved of *

Quote:
In any case, it would benefit me to ask myself why I buy a certain thing--almost impossible to do for all purchases, but at least for expensive purchases.
Once my mortality sunk in, I found it fairly easy to do a cost-benefit analysis on most (durable goods) purchases: how many years of use I will get out of them, how much they will cost to maintain, how much they will cost to dispose of, will I still be able/willing to use them once my health declines, etc.
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 12:28 PM   #57
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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Except when they don't have to be. Put a bunch of male rats in a cage with no females, give them plenty of food, and they get along like they're on some sort of male sensitivity retreat, grooming each other and curling up together.
Am I the only guy wondering what happened in the cage full of female rats? Why wasn't that reported on?
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 01:19 PM   #58
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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I just brought up the book as an aside in case it might be interesting for some of us to see what people in other countries have (or had since the book was published some years ago).* It shows how adaptable we are as humans in terms of what we can survive on.* But then, my definition of a good life means more than just surviving;* my ideal would be between just surviving and heedless acquiring/consuming.
Hi Flipstress,

I got this book from my library some time ago. I found it very interesting. One thing that struck me is that the household items that many of the people from poorer nations had seemed more esthetically pleasing. I mean, pull the stuff out of an ordinary American house and it really looks crappy. A lot of particle board furniture, polyester rugs and unused sports equipment.

Maybe it is just because there was less of it, but some of the 3rd world stuff looked nicer.

Ha
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 07:11 PM   #59
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

Hi again, Scrooge.

I once had a friend like you who thought all our needs stem from survival and procreation.* Perhaps it is so, that most of our needs evolved from the need for biological survival.* But here they are now with us, and to use Jay's analogy of a hole, practically, I've got to evaluate what I'm filling my "holes" with or which holes I'm trying to fill when I buy something.* Maybe something else will fill the hole more cheaply or will be a better fit and be more satisfying.

Maslow's hierarchy is just a model anyway, but it made sense to me.* What we may consider conspicuous consumption of the very rich may be associated with big high-status needs, arising from their family background and association with their reference group or peer group.* For me, coming from my background, if I became rich, I would probably not flaunt it because my need for physical security is bigger than my need for status--I'd be concerned about being a target for robbery or kidnapping. Per Martha's post, it seems that Maslow's theory might even apply rats: they have status needs--the need for respect. I didn't know rats could be humiliated and suffer and die from it!

I was mistaken in calling the stuff like books, showers, TV's, trips "needs" when they are but the things with which we try to satisfy our needs.* Our needs, our holes are always with us; they don't seem optional to me.* It's the specific stuff that could be optional; what one person thinks is necessary might be optional to me because I use other stuff to fill a similar need.* OK, enough talk about holes or the cucumber solution might be introduced into the thread.

Haha, I am putting the book in my request-list at the libe again.* That's an interesting observation; I'll see if I notice that when I read it again.
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption
Old 08-14-2006, 09:08 PM   #60
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Re: Conspicuous Consumption

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I once had a friend like you who thought all our needs stem from survival and procreation.* Perhaps it is so, that most of our needs evolved from the need for biological survival.* But here they are now with us
Oh, I know, I know, reductionism will only get you so far, as Marx and his disciples illustrated all too well However, evolutionary psychology and sociobiology are fun new areas which can lead to non-intuitive results, so I tend to play with them more than I probably should* 8)

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Sure, they are all models of varying degrees of usefulness. Let a hundred models bloom, to misquote another prominent Marxist!*
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