Saturday, February 11, 2006

Crabs buying wine in bulk.

At Los Angeles airport I bought the December 2005 issue of the Wine Spectator, a US magazine for wine devotees. It cost $5-95 US but $20 in Australia so I seldom do more than steal free views in newsagencies when I live here.

There were a number of articles about wine collectors and I was struck by one concerning a Mr. Julian LeCraw, whose Atlanta home has 6 cellars underneath it to store wine as well as one cellar off-site. Total wine stored was 25,000 bottles though he is planning to increase his storage capacity! Moreover the wine is not cheap plonk - he has 200 bottles of DRC (by far the world's most expense burgundy) dating back to 1920 that on my guess must be worth over $500,000US at least.

If I divide his bottle wealth by 365.25 (I scrupulously allow for leap years), Mr LeCraw (if he consumes one bottle per day) has enough wine to last him 68 years. He looks to be in his early forties so, even if the anti-oxidants in the wine outweigh the neurotoxic effects of ethyl alcohol on his brain health, he should have good wine supplies up at least until he is at least age 108.

I am happy for him.

I know left wing activists would decry the 'waste' apparent in such conspicuous consumption and, indeed even perhaps something that approximates commodity fetishism but I don't. I thank Mr LeCraw for increasing the social advantage. As Adam Smith pointed out the rich, in attempting to realise such daft excesses, advantage the poor because the rich dissipate their increased wealth on trinkets such as unnecessary expensive wine, while the distribution of necessities is much more equal. (Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 184). This relies on the idea that cross-sectional differences in income will bring about only small changes in happiness. The Mr LeCraw's of this world are helping humanity by an 'invisible hand' despite themselves.


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