But once we concede that people do care about status, it necessarily follows that the status
competition that makes people buy expensive consumer goods in order to impress other people constitutes a failure of the
market economy - a failure as real as traffic congestion, or pollution, or any other activity in which the individual pursuit of
self-interest leads to a collectively bad outcome. Suppose that we could somehow agree to stop competing over
who has the fanciest car; everyone could then work a bit less, spend more time with their families, and raise the sum
total of human happiness. Or to put it a bit differently, Americans (or at least the top few percent of the income distribution)
have gotten into a sort of arms race of conspicuous consumption that, like most arms races, consumes huge quantities of
resources yet in the end changes little.