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Demand for luxury is also soaring from emerging economies such as Russia, India, Brazil and China. Antoine Colonna, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, estimates that last year Chinese consumers already accounted for 11% of the worldwide revenues of luxury-goods firms, with most of their buying done outside mainland China. He forecasts that by 2014, they will have overtaken both American and Japanese consumers, becoming the world's leading luxury shoppers, yielding 24% of global revenues.

These emerging consumers have a big appetite for the top luxury brands—and the owners of those brands are increasingly keen to oblige. Russia is producing today's most determinedly conspicuous consumers. Roman Abramovich, the best-known oligarch not in jail, has conspicuously set new standards in buying mansions, ski resorts and soccer teams.

Veblen revisited
For the already rich, strategies such as splashing out on ever bigger houses, longer yachts or getting special treatment from luxury-goods firms does not contribute much marginal conspicuousness. Meanwhile, the list of new ways to get noticed by the masses is shrinking fast. Even space tourism—impressive in 2001, when Dennis Tito paid Russia $20m to visit the International Space Station—will soon be humdrum.

As it gets ever harder to consume conspicuously, are some traditional luxury consumers giving up trying? According to Virginia Postrel, author of “The Substance of Style”, conspicuous consumption is much more important when people are not far from being poor, as in today's emerging economies. In developed countries, in particular, “status is always there, but the shift in the balance is towards enjoyment”. For instance, the first thing the newly super-rich tend to buy is a private plane. But that, she says, is “not so much about distinguishing themselves from the masses as not being stuck with them in a security line”.

But perhaps the true symbol of exalted status in the era of mass luxury is conspicuous non-consumption. This is not just the growing tendency of the very rich to dress scruffily and drive beaten-up cars, as described by David Brooks in “Bobos in Paradise”. It is showing that you have more money than you know how to spend. So, for example, philanthropy is increasingly fashionable, and multi-billion-dollar endowments such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are certainly conspicuous. However, since the new philanthropists are keen to demonstrate that their giving produces results, this does not quite meet Veblen's threshold of being a complete waste of money. So the laurels surely go to those who are so wealthy that they are willing to buy adverts encouraging the state to tax them. Kudos, then, to those conspicuously non-consuming wealthy American opponents of recent efforts to abolish estate taxes: George Soros, Bill Gates senior (the father of the world's richest man) and Warren Buffett.

I don't know the parts in red.

Thank you in advance!
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Hello Hly

to oblige.] to provide what the consumers want.

Veblen] was an American economist. He wrote about consumerism.

not so much about distinguishing themselves from the masses as not being stuck with them in a security line ] not in order to make themselves different from ordinary people, but to make sure that when travelling by air they don't have to queue with ordinary people for security checks, etc.

to buy adverts ] perhaps "to buy advertising space to encourage parties that advocate higher taxation"

recent efforts to abolish estate taxes: ] efforts to abolish taxes on inherited property [though you may want a US member to verify this].

MrP
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Thanks, MrPedantic

and Happy 2006!
So the laurels surely go to those who are so wealthy that they are willing to buy adverts encouraging the state to tax them. Kudos, then, to those conspicuously non-consuming wealthy American opponents of recent efforts to abolish estate taxes: George Soros, Bill Gates senior (the father of the world's richest man) and Warren Buffett.

I came up with another question:

Do "laurels" and "Kudos" means the same thing?

or, I suppose, literally, people who receive "Kudos" made more contribution than those who receive "laurels".

I looked it up, they both have a meaning of "prestige". Is it a repetition?

Thank you in advance!
Hello Hly

I think it's case of moving from the general to the specific: "people who do X deserve laurel crowns; these particular people do X, so 'kudos' to them".

A laurel crown is a metaphorical mark of honour (laurel crowns were presented to the victors in various athletic competitions in ancient Greece).

"Kudos" is the Greek word for "glory" or "renown"; in your example, it means little more than "praise".

Happy 2006 to you too!

MrP
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