Luxury isn’t synonymous of frivolity

magnus3In the 18th century, David Hume, a rare case of economist who could even think straight (that was so then) wrote a glorious essay on luxury. He thought that a taste for luxury was a positive thing in society, because it promoted economic and political development (it brought down feudalism, among other wonderful things). Adam Smith, on the contrary, thought that savings were the one and only engine of economic growth; spending on luxury was venomous for growth. I think Hume was essentially right and the author of the Wealth of Nations mostly wrong on this one occasion.

I bring this up because some friends of mine were a little outraged when I told them that I intended to write about luxury here at Le Cognac, so they suggested that writing about luxury was some sort of elitist frivolous snobbery, read implicit despise for the mass of common people. I told my self "luxury frivolous"? It was one of those occassions when you need your classics.

So, instead of reaching for my Carlyle (he who wrote off economics as "the dismal science") I picked up my Hume and re-read his profound considerations on luxury consumption and the relationship between luxury and work motivation, an important and neglected area these days of reality shows and massification of taste. I love Cognac and I hate reality shows. I think luxury is a constituent of the mysterious force that drives human ingenuity forward.

I willingly plead guilty of crudeness if I am told that massification is a crude term. Cognac, good Cognac, is a luxury and it has a sense as such, not as some sort of liquid candy for the masses. I think that our society is living through the debacle of the adaptation of the foot of the reality of human nature to the politically correct shoe of declaring egalitarianism a virtue. It is not, and here come these days the Chinese, after fifty terrible years of egalitarianism, to teach us a lesson, buying as much luxury as they can, starting with Cognac.

The pursuit of luxury is probably one of the oldest (and most civilized) motivations for work and inventiveness. By the way, the competence at producing marvelous luxury products is a reason for me to love France. So, I am going to write about luxury friends even if some of my aging leftist baby-boomer friends are offended, well, so be it.

To celebrate, I’m pouring myself a glass of Delamain’s Réserve de la Famille. And I promise, I’ll start to write about luxury right away.

Cheers to you, David Hume!