In the advanced countries we spend by far the most of our surplus income on ‘status’ goods (and services). We gather these around us in order to show our friends, work colleagues, local neighbours and sometimes — if we are very rich — the public more generally, just where we think our social rank-order is, or ought to be.
As a simple check-list of what constitutes a status good rather than a necessity or a tool, does it satisfy the following criteria?
1. Originally, it was an exceedingly expensive hand-made unique item made only for the very rich;
2. It was later capable of being made in successive stages of automation until mass-producible and relatively cheap;
3. It is highly desired by individuals in all social ranks as a guide to show others during social interchange;
4. It has to be readily perceptible by others — visually, audibly and tactilily, particularly on first meeting.
We have run out of new status goods, but man’s prolific curiosity and inventiveness will no doubt continue whenever it’s a case of “necessity is the mother of invention”. Instances of these include environmental catastrophe, man-made mess, more energy-efficient infrastructure, and search for a better scientific hypothesis than the one in current use.