The mobile phone was the last innovation to become fashionable — and widely fashionable as no other consumer good has ever been — but even that was not truly a status good but only an improvement of one of a century ago.
I’ve been venting this idea for 15 years or so on the internet challenging — requesting, imploring — others to tell me of another uniquely new status good for consumers that has appeared in the last 30 or 40 years or so. By this I mean a product or a service that only the very richest people could enjoy — usually hand-made or hand-delivered — but which then worked its way down through the social strata as it became mass produced and successively cheaper.
I’ve only had two proposals, but both are incapable of mass use in this vastly over-crowded world. These are family helicopters (or airplanes) and space flights round the earth (or anything else). Therefore, is it not unsurprising that the drying up of new consumer goods should have coincided with a particularly mad episode in man’s financial history — all the clever documentary devices invented by investment banks to vastly enlarge the amount of credit sloshing about the world?. Is it not unsurprising therefore that since the 2008 credit-crunch that the advanced countries have not been able to pick themselves up from the floor?
Nor likely to until the next big wave of consumer demand starts to hit the advanced countries. This time the goods — or, rather, services — will be in even greater demand than status goods ever have been. I mean the mass production of superb genetic health services enabling most to live full and healthy lives right up to extreme old age. All these are in the pipeline but may be 50, 100 or even longer, away. Meanwhile there will be a dearth of new consumer goods and services.