In Defense of Conspicuous Consumption

After my March letter, "Three Days in Sodom, Two in Gomorrah," readers of this magazine have written to ask why I am so down on conspicuous consumption. I want to go on record here: I am not. But even a gourmand should disapprove of gluttony, since pleasure exists only insofar as it is subject to will. If you think about it, this applies to all human activity of which conspicuous consumption is the fruit: "Labor not for the meat which perisheth," we read in John 6:27, "but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life." The scientific advances in refrigeration, the spread of vegetarianism, and the art of nouvelle cuisine change nothing.

A book entitled The Fashion Conspiracy is all the rage here. It is a chatty book, by a chatty man (Nicholas Coleridge) who edits a chatty magazine (Harpers & Queen), written for chatty people; that it has received so much attention in the pages of serious periodicals run by sober editors and read by ordinary people is largely attributable to the author's digressions from his fashionable subject. In these, the author "exposes" the industry's terrible secret, namely (in the words of one serious reviewer) the fact that

serious money can be made in the fashion business, although outworkers, on whom...

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