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The Consumption of Wealth (Classic Reprint)

The Consumption of Wealth (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from The Consumption of Wealth

It is the purpose of this essay to bring all those facts into harmonious relations to one another which throw light upon the laws regulating the consumption of wealth. These laws are not merely the laws of human enjoyment. Doubtless the desire for happiness is always an important element in determining consumption, yet it is modified by many other elements to such a degree that our consumption could not be inferred solely from the relative intensity of our desires. Economists have too often forgotten hat the pains of producing commodities have an influence upon the order of their consumption. We produce to consume; but what we will desire to consume is largely determined by the cost of production. While production is determined by consumption, the latter is itself largely modified by the former. Every improvement in production thus changes the order in which different commodities are consumed, by taking more from the cost of some commodities than from others.

There is, moreover, a great need to examine the laws of human enjoyment. Men do not always have the same desire for a commodity. With individuals the change is very slow; but from age to age there are important modifications in the demand for commodities. Some pleasures are growing while others cease to have their former power. There seems, also, to be a general direction along which changes in consumption are forcing mankind, the causes of which must be discovered before the laws of consumption can be explained.

It is doubtless true that consumption as a whole needs no encouragement: all that is produced will find consumers, if there are no obstacles in the way. The interest of the public lies solely in the direction which the consumption of a given amount of wealth will take under different conditions.

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