Yet it does seem to be true that the line between need and
useful convenience on the one hand and embarrassingly decadent
luxury on the other sets in at roughly twice one's current level
of consumption--no matter what one's current level of consumption
Or, as George Stigler put it:
"It would be easy to provide everyone with a physiologically
adequate diet; for example, a [hu]man could perhaps live for
a year on the following diet, at a cost of about $8 a month in
--370 pounds of wheat flour
--57 cans of evaporated milk
--111 pounds of cabbage
--25 pounds of spinach
--285 pounds of dried navy beans.
"But [hu]man insists upon luxuries such as meat, and
should we somehow fully satisfy his desire (despite his penchant
for shifting from sow belly to pheasant), he will no doubt insist
upon shifting to another and more expensive food.
"Thus, from an Olympian peak, one may say that the economic
system has as its purpose forcing people to find new scarcities.
From a closer vantage point, the study of economics has as its
purpose the alteration of a host of circumstances and policies
that deprive large numbers of people of eminently desirable things
a more efficiently organized society could afford..." (From
The Theory of Price, (New York: Macmillan, 1952), pp. 2-3.)
And, indeed, when I posted the Chez Panisse dinner menu (which
has changed; today it is all fish even though it is not yet Lent:
--Smoked fish salad with pickled Chino Ranch greens
--Truffled scrambled eggs with Dungeness crab and garlic croutons
--Black sea bass cooked on its skin; with roasted root vegetables,
fried onions, and garden lettuces
--Hazelnut, coffee, and chocolate ice cream bombe)
One of the first comments was "how about wine?"...