How did a holiday that began as a way to honor the dead morph into just another ritual of over-the-top American consumption? As a relatively frugal person who has reused the same Halloween costumes for years, I found the $86 figure shocking. But I’m hardly the first economist to moan about out-of-control consumerism.
In the late 1890s, an economist named Thorstein Veblen looked at spending in society and wrote an influential book called “The Theory of the Leisure Class,” which explained reasons why people spend. It laid out the idea that some goods and services are bought simply for conspicuous consumption.
Conspicuous consumption is designed to show others you are rich, smart or important. In Veblen’s mind, conspicuous consumption was spending more money on items than they are really worth. Veblen pointed out that people buy homes with rooms that are rarely used, just to show off the owner’s wealth.