At one time we would have bristled at the accusation that we Yanks were decadent. We no longer do, chiefly because, in too many ways, we are.
In these rough economic times that may appear an odd lament, yet we stand by it. What type of luxuries have we demanded in recent years? Things such as seat warmers in our cars. Seat warmers? The seat is the first thing that warms up when you get in your car, in a span of maybe five seconds. This is before we even get to remote starters; how much money do you have that you can burn gasoline simply so that your car is toasty warm the instant you get in it? This at a time when, we'll say it even at the risk of appearing liberal, there are too many people in the world without enough to eat, and even too many in our country without proper access to housing and medical care.
This is not naive. We know realize that there is no direct correlation between add-ons to cars and someone in Haiti lacking good food. We will even readily concede that these luxuries do have the positive side benefit of keeping people in jobs. Further, we recognize that the problems elsewhere are not, as a rule, our fault. As P. J. O'Rourke for example explains so very well in his funny and enlightening book All the Trouble in the World, many of those problems are caused by the local government in question and not American selfishness. Still, we have to ask whether this sort of consumerism is what we ought to be promoting when there are folks who lack basic necessities. On their own merit, we have to wonder whether they are worthwhile uses of our time, effort, and cash.
In short, that something is doable doesn't mean that it's worth doing. That we can buy something doesn't mean it's worth the purchase. What we consider basic creature comforts may be little more than modern forms of let them eat cake. We believe it would do our souls well to mull that over when we make certain purchases or demands on our productive forces.
Who knows? We may actually find that what we want isn't what we need.