Interesting how the dismal science of economics so theoretically influential on all our lives is now becoming, well, a little bit sexy.
Economists such as Andrew Dilnot, founding presenter of Radio 4's More or Less programme, and his pops-up-everywhere successor Tim Harford of the Financial Times have been delivering economic ideas without the carapace of academic distance that has hitherto made most economics so remote from ordinary life.
The British-born New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell has become a stage superstar off the back of his ability to make difficult economic ideas wonderfully accessible in books such as Blink and The Tipping Point.
One other economist who would probably have become something of a household name is the Austrian-born Fred Hirsch, who died at the age of only 47 in 1978, three years after he was appointed Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick.
Prof Hirsch explained the book's thesis to the New York Times like this: "Material growth can no longer deliver what has long been promised for it – to make everyone middle–class".
Part of these observation was the Positional Goods idea: putting it simply, positional goods are things whose value is partly derived from their perceived scarcity, or desirability.
A house with a unique view is "priceless", perhaps. So is a particular painting, though people love to put "prices" on artworks. The "pricelessness" gives things a value which puffs up the owner and increases the value of the good or service.
Well, we cannot all own unique things, but we itch to be "special" and own special things. And in a world of increasing wealth for many millions of people, these special things are luxury goods. Around this desire for – yes – positional goods has grown a vast new luxury industry. Producing what you might call partly positional goods.
It's more than swanky houses, and clothes. It's the things we put in them: expensive clothes, handbags, jewellery, luggage, wines, single malt whiskies, limited release spirits in crystal decanters, all of them branded with much advertised names and endorsed by much photographed celebrities.
New kinds of things with new kinds of economics attached to them, in a similar way to how health care economics is different from conventional supply and demand ... the more health care you get, the more you will probably need at the end of your extended life. And network economics appears to be different from classical economics too, though it needs A Dilnot or M Gladwell to explain it.
These thoughts about positional goods are brought up by this programme on the mechanical watch industry.
For two centuries mass-made mechanical watches were the way you told the time until quartz watches were launched in the 1960s with superior accuracy.
Thus began the quick decline of the mass manufactured mechanical watch, hastened later by the digital display.
But of course mechanical watches were not doomed. They reappeared as a whole new industry, dominated by big luxury brands both venerable and also quite new.
The long boom that started the 21st century saw a big expansion in demand for luxury watches and the industry as a whole with new names appearing every year.
At the same time the maverick Nicolas Hayek pushed the threatened mass Swiss watch industry into turning out fashion–driven cheap digital watches under the Swatch brand, and that was so successful that the Swatch empire now embraces several venerable mechanical watchmakers as well.
Every new brand needed its own story, and so did the cascade of limited edition models produced by the existing watch houses, many of them still Swiss.
But I have been hearing the stories told by several people creating or designing expensive new watches in Britain.
Some, like the laboriously built handmade watches made by Roger Smith and his tiny team on the Isle of Man, are rare: 12 a year is what he makes, at £40,000 and upwards.
Roger Smith has been inspired by his Manx neighbour George Daniels, a legendary craftsman thought of by many experts as the finest watchmaker in the world.
George Daniels is the inventor of the something called the Co-Axial escapement which much reduces the need for the sticky lubrication of the watch.
It is a revolutionary change in the way mechanical watches work and has now been adopted by Omega of Switzerland. Mr Daniels says he expects the rest of the industry to follow, eventually.
His extraordinary reputation rests on only 37 watches he has made completely by hand (ignoring his prototypes, that is).
George Daniels is working in the great tradition of English watchmaking, producers of most of the great innovations in watchmaking in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Now others are trying to revive the English tradition with their own brands. The clock making company Dent, makers what is probably the best-known clock in the world, Big Ben, has been taken over by entrepreneurs who have launched the first Dent watches for 40 years, made in Switzerland to British designs.
They start at £8,500 each.
Christopher Ward has launched a completely different approach to positional goods with his own name brand of (again Swiss-made) watches selling on the Internet for £500, and boosted by an early enthusiastic appraisal from one of the multitude of Internet watch bloggers.
I'm told the rule of thumb for conventional luxury mechanical watch brands is manufacturing prices multiplied sixfold to get the final retail sales prices, though that is been dented by recession at the moment.
Big luxury brands carry a huge overhead of promotion and marketing.
Watch advertising is still filling the pages of some magazines, newspapers and supplements when so much pother brand promotion has withered after the Credit Crunch.
And there is an extraordinary and growing appetite for branded luxury from the newly wealthy parts of the world, particularly Asia.
The big brand producers make hundreds of thousands of expensive watches a year, the ones that sell from upwards of £3,000 or £5,000 in the shops, an industry kept rolling by aggressive marketing and a flow of somewhat limited editions backed by heritage stories.
But I cannot get away from the weirdness of the marketing idea that the higher the object is priced at, the more "valuable" it is seen to be.
In the end the unstaunched flow of stuff may start to damage the reputation of these things Professor Fred Hirsch identified as positional goods. They will have to get more expensive, and more rare ... and much less advertised.
After all, if you know how rich you are, you are not really rich. Is "the best" anything to do with "the most expensive"?
Who can possibly tell?
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