I found it interesting that Hayek puts a great deal of focus on what he calls the leisured portion of society; this refers to those as in the upper class, which have a focus on education and philosophical thought. He mentions that in America this class is not really apparent. However, he points out that this lack of a cultured upper class has brought about a new leisured group in Europe. It seems that this new group is looked down upon, rather than respected (like the former upper class) for their obnoxious amount of consumption. Yet he points that others in poorer countries feel that the American masses are wasteful.
I feel that this is true to a certain extent. I believe that a lot of this envy or critique of others wastefulness first stems from the knowledge, that there’re those who have more than others. I did not really think about how wasteful celebrity’s seemed to be until a watched a few episodes of Cribs and saw shoe closets bigger than my house. Like children who have tantrums about not getting the new toy that their neighborhood friend has we seem to have a focus on comparative view of resources and view of consumption and if we did not know that they had this toy we probably would not give a care. I think that perhaps at the time Hayek wrote this work, that others in developing countries did not feel that the average American was wasteful, as much so as they probably do now since there is more access to the knowledge of how much we consume compared to them.
Hayek next goes on to the point that just because the amount that the leisured class spends on materialistic goods seems wasteful, that we should not interfere as they should have the liberty to spend their income as they desire. It is this consumption that allows others in the economy to gain wealth.
I follow this argument and I actually hear it quite often. Typically, the person bringing it up uses the pie example and asks do we want to care about how the pie is split up or the total size of the pie. If we want to be good economists we need to care about the size of the pie, not tax people and reap the benefits. Quite honestly, I feel this argument is flat on both sides.
This is for the reason of thinking only about the NOW.
We are placing resource decisions through our consumption (whether frivolous or frugal) on future generations because of scarcity. I think that it is shallow in the name of liberty that we should not judge others as wasteful and give them the total liberty to use resources in very a wasteful manner as we are taking away the liberty for those in the future to use resources. Perhaps I have gone too far in a direction that was not meant to be mentioned, but it is a direction I feel is often neglected and not thought to the extent that that it should be.