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The 1920s in the United States of America is marked by a period of “conspicuous consumption” which is a phrase that was a coined by a Norwegian-American economist and writer back in 1899.

Think The Great Gatsby—luxurious cars and leisure as well as flashy accessories. The economist I just mentioned was named Thorstein Veblin, also a sociologist whose work changed the way everyday people were understood. Initially luxuries and flashy items were intended for the wealthy class, but studies show that people with low-incomes invest in less than practical items too. Not only does it assert social class, but it influences the dynamics of power. You may see someone who looks wealthy or poor (whatever those schemas mean to you) and that will change the behavior in which you interact with them—either consciously or subliminally.

It’s important to know that, visually, it could merely be an illusion and not an allusion of wealth.

It used to be that only those of nobility status could acquire enough precious metal to splurge on the impractical things in life, but with today’s notion of consumerism that is not the case. Another economist by the name of Paul Nystrom theorized that this was a result of the industrial revolution and there was an influx of addictive or narcissistic behavior which was caused by the immediate gratification that may result consumerism. That’s not to say that having nice things is bad—of course it’s not. But being conscious of the repercussions that can arise from the infatuation with man-made things is just something to be aware of. There’s a reason behind all the flashiness.

The term “Veblin Goods” refers to luxury items that undergo an increase in demand with an increase in price. This goes against logical principles at first, but once you understand the psychology behind it, you can put two and two together!

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