28 February 2010

Benjamin Wallace on the price of happiness

Benjamin Wallace says some stuff we all should know, but either don't or sometimes forget.

The counterpoint to this, of course, is as the Stanford study he references suggests: some large portion of the pleasure of a luxury good is the simple act of possession or consumption. This is why the question, which any devoted wine geek is asked with great frequency, "yeah, but is your wine X times better than what I buy at Trader Joe's?" is only marginally relevant. Often, the wines are better by some identifiable measure of the sort of things that wine geeks value (which is, of course, not the same as saying they're objectively better), but whether or not they're enough better to justify the price increase becomes less and less likely as the price escalates into the stratosphere. At that point, the lessons of the Stanford study come into play: the experience and/or the "having" are, of themselves, a measurable value. It's impossible to separate the two.

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