- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (April 4, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691146934
- ISBN-13: 978-0691146935
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 30 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #767,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Luxury Fever: Weighing the Cost of Excess Paperback – April 4, 2010
See the Best Books of 2018
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Luxury Fever is an important book. . . . It's admirable that an economist makes use of the research of behavioral biologists and evolutionary psychologists to explain why consumers spend as they do. (USA Today)
Frank's analysis should be just as interesting to those who do not share his political position as to those who do.---Samuel Brittan, Times Literary Supplement
One does not have to be the kind of person who complains about fat-cat City salaries to wonder whether certain wealthy people are not, on the one hand, rich beyond utility, and spending their money on things that no sane consumer needs, on the other. Robert Frank's thoughtful study of conspicuous consumption . . . has a dreadful fascination. (Sunday Times)
The shop-till-you-drop, 'retail therapy' culture may have become more dominant in the last few years. . . . But are we really any happier for it? One person who thinks we are not is Robert Frank . . . whose new book, Luxury Fever, has been causing a bit of a stir. . . . The burst of consumerism in the U.S. . . . gives a new bite to these well-rehearsed concerns. (The Independent)
About the Author
Robert H. Frank is the Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management and professor of economics at Cornell University, as well as an economics columnist for the New York Times. His books include The Winner-Take-All Society (with Philip Cook), What Price the Moral High Ground?, The Economic Naturalist, and Principles of Economics (with Ben Bernanke).
Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features:
Read reviews that mention
Showing 1-5 of 30 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
With respect to the conspicuous consumption, the author does seem to show some facts supporting his argument that the prices in the upper end of the consumer market spectrum (i.e., luxury cars and watches as opposed to those geared to the middle and lower ends) have been increasing at an incredible rate. For example, between the early 1980s and the early 1990s the price of very high end automobiles and watches has approximately doubled. He also claims, with less evidence however, that spending on upper end consumer products has been increasing relative to that of the rest of the market. Unfortunately he does not provide very much in the way of empirical evidence to support this specifically. For example, no market research data is provided showing how consumer spending has been split between the upper end and middle and lower ends. He provides considerable evidence showing that consumers have been saving less, working longer hours, etc. (this data is quite strong). This evidence, per se, does not support the contention that spending has been increasing at the upper end of the price spectrum than the lower. It could be that consumers, instead, have been being squeezed by lower real wages, higher prices for low and mid-range non-luxury products (i.e., gas, housing, etc.) and have hence had to increase their work hours.
The author contends that the posited explosion in spending on upper-spectrum products has been caused by the massive increase in the incomes (and hence spending on upper end products) of the wealthy (the author does provide very strong evidence indicating that the incomes of those in the upper 10% have been increasing considerably). Again, the author provides little direct evidence that the non-wealthy have been imitating the spending of the super wealthy.
The author believes that the solution to the explosion of "conspicuous consumption" is to replace the current progressive income based federal income tax system with a progressive consumption tax. The logic is that if consumption is taxed more than savings there would be an incentive to decrease consumption vis-à-vis savings and hence there would be less conspicuous consumption. There are a number of problems with this argument. The first is that even though there would be an incentive, there is no evidence provided that "conspicuous spending" per se (instead of all consumption) would decrease significantly. In addition, even a progressive consumption based income tax would fall much more heavily on the non-wealthy than the wealthy as the wealthy tend to save a much larger percentage of their incomes. A third problem is that the progressive consumption tax can be circumvented more easily than an income tax. For example, money could be channeled through financial instruments that appear like "savings" but can easily be converted into spending based instruments. For example, "consumption" can be decreased by investing in CDs or bonds but then loans can be taken out on those same CDs or bonds (using them as collateral) that can still enable high consumption patterns to persist.
For the above reasons, the book is quite weak. Not only is there not strong evidence provided to support the author's contention that "conspicuous consumption" has been increasing relative to non-conspicuous spending, but the "solution" seems unable to provide a significant capability to decrease that "conspicuous consumption" and hence the negative externalities stemming from it (i.e., more work hours, etc.).