What do you think of teenagers (or their parents) who spend inordinate amounts of money for designer bags, jeans, sneakers or coats? 

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The word “inordinate” already means something like “excessive.”  When we say that people are spending an “excessive” amount of money on something, we are already saying that we disapprove.  We make a value judgement simply by saying the word “inordinate.”  Of course we would disapprove of people who spend “too much” on these things, but what about people who spend “a lot” of money?  When you phrase it that way, it’s a much different question.

I have very little problem with people who spend a lot of money on these things, as long as they can afford it.  There are two main reasons why I feel this way.

First, when people spend money, they help our economy.  When people buy these goods, they support the people who were paid to make the goods.  They also support the people who work in the stores that sell the goods.  If people stopped buying these things, those people could be harmed.

Second, and more importantly, who gets to decide which things people should spend their money on?  Is it morally bad to spend on a pair of jeans but fine to spend on an iPhone?  What about buying a cable TV subscription or going to a movie?  Are those things okay?  Then think about food.  Should we say that it is only okay to buy, for example, hamburger and chicken because those are relatively cheap? 

It is very problematic, in my mind, to say that people should not spend their money on certain items.  The fact that they value something more than we do does not mean that the thing that they value is bad while the thing that I value is good.

Of course, if you spend your money on something that you do not need and neglect to buy things that you really do need, I would have a problem with you.  For example, if you buy designer jeans but don’t buy diapers for your baby, I would disapprove.  However, I think it is not right to criticize people for spending their money simply because we would have used the money differently if it were ours.  Therefore, I am fine with people who spend a lot of money on designer jeans or bags, just as I am fine with people who spend their money on an expensive vacation in Hawaii or on a really nice car.

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