CONSUMPTION OF WEALTH 1. The objects of consumption.—Consumption is the end of all human effort. It is the goal toward which are directed the energies of' all producers. When anything is produced for which there is no demand at a price above the cost, the producer has made a mistake and suffers loss.
The first and primary object of consumption is the satisfaction we get out—ortliFiniiintenance of life and health. In ordinary times many a—us—give little thought to the importance of food, clothing and shel ter ; but if an emergency arises which threatens their loss, we suddenly realize their hnportance and put forth every possible effort to avert the deprivation. Lacking the proper food and environment,' we can not possess the energy necessary for either mental or physical effort and are unable to provide for our fu ture wants.
The _second object of consumption is enjoyment or pleasure. The larger our incomes, the greater the amount we are able to devote to consumption of this sort. The poor man indulges in very little of it. He must be satisfied with the simplest forms of pleasure, for the bulk of his income is needed to support his family and maintain the energy necessary for his work.
2. Necessaries of life.—Articles which are con sumed, not in order that the taste or the senses may be pleased, but in order that life and energy may be maintained, are called the necessaries of life. The most important necessaries, of course, are shelter, food and clothing. These satisfy so-called primary wants.
From the economic poinf of view anything is a necessary of life to an individual if the lack of it in any way impairs his efficiency or productive power. Tobacco is often called a luxury, yet to men who have formed the tobacco habit it seems a real necessity. Indeed the governments of many countries recognize it as such and make it part of the soldiers' and sailors' daily rations. By most Anglo-Saxons wine is re garded as a luxury, but the French people think of it as among the necessaries. To the Germans beer seems as much a necessary of life as bread or xneat.
It is evident that we cannot draw a clear line be tween necessaries and luxuries. We can say in gen eral that clothing is necessary, but there are many Clifferent kinds of clothing. If a man wears anything but the simplest and plainest kind of clothing, think ing of personal adornment as well as of the warmth of his body and the preservation of his health, he is indulging in something not strictly necessary. Ex pensive food, such as terrapin and lobster, while they undoubtedly contain nutriment, cannot be classed un der the head of necessaries ot life. But the economist does not attempt to make any such fine distinctions. He is satisfied with the general statement that any article is necessary to an individual or to a people if its consumption increases productivity and effi ciency.
3. little consideration of the word luxury will show us how futile it is to attempt to draw a clear line between necessaries and unnecessaries. In everyday speech, and even in the writings of many economists, the word luxury is vaguely used and is made to include all articles the consumption of which gives pleasure without contributing in any way to the production of additional wealth. The rich are said to enjoy many luxuries which are beyond the means of the poor. Silks, champagne, diamonds, jewels of all kinds, confectionery, and hundreds of other articles the consumption of which adds greatly to human enjoyment, must all be classed as luxuries if we give the word a broad definition and make it include everything not necessary to the main tenance of human life and energy.
But we find people using the word luxury as if somehow it was related to a man's income. What is a luxury for one man is not always regarded as a luxury for another. We do not get at the fundamen tal idea embodied in the term unless we think of it in relation to income. Men work, not that they may barely live, but in order that they may get the most out of life ; and a man does not do that unless he suc ceeds in developing and gratifying certain wants.