Things are expensive
Skiing is way more expensive than it used to be.
Anecdote: I recently went to Heavenly in Lake Tahoe. The rack rate for a 1-day lift ticket is something like $160. 1-day ski rentals were $59 from the resort. And it was crowded as anything, from the 20-minute lift lines to the 2-hour wait for a shuttle back home.
Mitigating factors and more accurate comparisons: we should compare Heavenly’s $160 to the $60-80 in Breckenridge/Keystone/ABasin ~10 years ago; we should compare the old days' $10 rentals to the $30 in-town rentals.
Going to a pro sports game is way more expensive than it used to be.
Anecdote: Friends and I went to a Golden State Warriors game last year. For the uppermost-deck tickets, on a random Wednesday, it was $120.
Mitigating factors and better comparisons: basketball always costs a little more than baseball; the Warriors are better than the Cavs were 8 years ago and even than the Indians 20 years ago; lots of people in SF and the Bay have money.
Traffic is worse than it used to be.
Anecdote: I dunno, it is, right?
Fancy College (defined as “going to a school with a good name”) is crazy more expensive than it used to be, and we’ve even got data for that.
I remember enjoying these things as a child in a comfortable professional family 20 years ago. What’s changing? Granted, a ton is changing, but I think one big factor is that the “Middle Class” is growing a lot. (the definition of “middle class” depends on the circumstances.)
The “sports-going middle class” that can afford sports games is growing a lot. The “skiing middle class” is growing a lot. The “driving middle class” is growing a lot, and certainly the “fancy college middle class” is growing like crazy (especially internationally!)
However, the supply of these things isn’t growing as much. There have not been many new sports teams or amazing ski areas. You can’t build enough roads to adequately compensate for traffic. And you can’t “build more fancy colleges” very easily; sure, you could start Angry Dan’s Angry University, but until people start recognizing ADAU as a good school, it won’t be considered a decent substitute for Harvard/Yale/MIT/Whatever.
This is good!
This probably feels bad if you were used to being in the Sports-Going or Driving or Fancy-College Middle Class. But this reflects the weird fact that we used to have this huge underclass that wasn’t able to do these things. Now that underclass is a little smaller and the “Middle Class” is a little bigger. This is good.
What should we do, given this?
- for some things (fancy colleges), we should try whatever we can to increase supply. This probably means starting to accept colleges that aren’t Harvard/Yale/MIT as “top tier”, and increasing the quality of all of them at every level. I notice this starting to happen. I think if I were a Corporate Executive, I could probably hire a ton of great people by just recruiting heavily at “second tier” universities.
- for some things (cars), we should try to reduce demand. Tax cars until they remain a luxury for the rich, and give the Middle Class some kind of public transit that lets them live an equivalently good life.
- for the other things… I don’t know, up to you, but I’m certainly going to look for more and more ways that I can get entertainment that don’t depend on a scarce asset like sports or skiing.
So many luxuries are only luxuries based on other people not having them! This is so f’ed! I write this from an airport lounge, which is literally just this: pay us (or get a certain credit card? which is obv the route I took) and we can get you away from the riffraff. (plus free beer.)
Anyway this particular subset of luxuries is completely destined to fail and/or increase prices spectacularly as more people can afford them, so don’t get too comfortable :P
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