LUXURIES AND EGALITARIANISM

[Also see "Egalitarianism and Private Property"]

Yes, there will be luxuries in an egalitarian society if people want them. Why not?

Here's an example of a particular luxury to illustrate how luxuries in general would be available in an egalitarian society. The example I have in mind is a luxury french gourmet restaurant.

What about a Gourmet French Restaurant?

 

Let's assume that some egalitarian people in a local community would like to be able to dine in such a luxury restaurant now and then. In that case they can propose at their local assembly of egalitarians (read here what this is) that it would be nice if there were such a restaurant. The local assembly could decide to announce that it would like such a restaurant and that it seeks proposals from people who would like to operate one.

 

If some people make a proposal that is satisfactory, then the local assembly would give them a green light to operate the luxury restaurant, just like it gives the green light to other economic enterprise making widgets or providing any other kind of service, as discussed in "What Replaces the "Free Market" in an Egalitarian Sharing Economy?" (which you really ought to read to fully understand how an egalitarian society decides what economic enterprises get a green light to operate and what exactly that "green light" means.)

 

Briefly, as long as the restaurant provides the service expected of it with a reasonable number of workers and uses a reasonable amount of economic resources, then it can take what it needs to operate from the economy for free and the restaurant workers can also take what they need or reasonably desire from the economy for free or have equal access to scarce things that are equitably rationed according to need.

Also, when people dine at the restaurant they don't pay for anything; it's all free (as far as money goes.) The way people "pay" for their meal is by contributing to the economy reasonably according to ability, in exchange for which they can take for free from the economy what they need or reasonably desire or have equal access to scarce things (such as gourmet french restaurant meals) that are equitably rationed according to need.

How Are the Gourmet Meals Rationed?

Of course it isn't possible for everybody to dine at this gourmet restaurant every night. Its service (serving a gourmet french meal in an elegant venue) is, presumably, a scarce thing (that's what it means to be a luxury, right?), and must therefore be rationed. The principle of an egalitarian society is, as mentioned above, that scarce things are equitably rationed according to need.

Well, as far as need goes, in this particular case everybody presumably has the same "need" for a luxury gourmet french restaurant meal. So what would be a sensible way to ration such meals? Very possibly the restaurant would simply take reservations on a first call first served basis much like restaurants do today, with the provision that people would be limited to a certain number of reservations per year as long as others who hadn't reached that limit wanted a reservation.

How Is this Different from Today?

Note one big difference between what is described above and what exists today. In an egalitarian society with no rich and no poor, everybody has an equal opportunity to dine at the gourmet french restaurant now and then. In contrast, today only relatively wealthy people can dine at a gourmet french restaurant.

Egalitarianism Is Compatible With Any Kind of Luxury

One can replace "gourmet french restaurant" above with any other luxury one can think of, even something like a Rolex watch, and the same reasoning would apply. The method of rationing would vary according to the nature of the luxury. There could be a lottery for something like a Rolex watch, with the winner getting to have the watch for some length of time (perhaps his/her lifetime if people decided to do it that way.) People in an egalitarian society can be creative about how to equitably distribute luxuries. Why not?

There is nothing about egalitarianism that conflicts with a decision to produce luxuries. What egalitarianism prohibits is class inequality making some people rich who can buy luxuries and some people poor who cannot.

Could the Existence of Luxuries Lead to Some Rich and Some Poor?

Egalitarians believe that there should be no rich and no poor, in other words that nobody should be allowed to be a hog, to take for their own personal benefit more socially-produced wealth than they need or reasonably desire. Egalitarians can enforce this principle in a manner that still allows people to have equitably rationed luxuries. Why not? (Please also read "Barter vs. Money" about this question.)

Egalitarians Can Also Produce High Quality Things that Would Not Need to Be Rationed Like Luxuries

Luxuries, by definition, are scarce things that must be rationed. But there is nothing about egalitarianism that prevents people from producing high quality products or services in sufficient quantity to make rationing unnecessary. Egalitarians might, for example, think it makes sense to produce especially high quality cameras so that there would be a sufficient supply of such things to enable people who contribute reasonably according to ability to take for free the high quality cameras they need or reasonably desire. Why not? Obviously the decisions about what to produce and in what quantity will be made by people taking into account the prevailing circumstances, as described in "What Replaces the "Free Market" in an Egalitarian Sharing Economy?" .

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