The NYT article, "In the lap of luxury, Paris squirms" includes this quote,
“Since the ancient Greeks, luxury goods have always been stamped with the seal of immorality,” said Gilles Lipovetsky, a sociologist who has written several books about consumerism. “They represent waste, the superficial, the inequality of wealth. They have no need to exist.”
I don't buy it. If they have no need to exist, then why have we always been surrounded by luxury goods "since the ancient Greeks." Luxury may not be as basic as food, water and shelter, but it definitely serves a need.
What the article does mention, though, is not the end of luxury but a move to a more moral consumerism.
"But last week in Paris, Mr. Sarkozy and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted a conference of political leaders and Nobel Prize-winning economists to find ways to instill moral values into the global economy. The old financial order had been “perverted” by “amoral” and uncontrolled capitalism, Mr. Sarkozy said, deploring the fact that, “the signs of wealth count more than wealth itself.”
Of course it's easy to call this recession a return to modesty and/or a balancing of core values, but again, I call b.s. It's awfully sobering to find oneself in an economic recession, but that doesn't mean the taste for the booze of yesteryear has evaporated. It's simply easier to convince yourself that a reversal of fortune is good for you and your peers. After all (and especially to true lovers of luxury), the glass can always look half full, right?
Optimism, as Kirkus Reviews said of the material in Optimism: The Biology of Hope, "Optimism is inextricably bound up with the future, and [author] Tiger notes to what extent humans are unique in their awareness of time passing and mortality."
In other words, it's perfectly natural for us humans to hit a wall, scratch our heads in disbelief and decide we won't be hitting one of those again in the future. Thus we come up with ways of avoiding the wall (e.g. economic fallout), by naming new guidelines that we all must follow to be successful; in this case discussion of morality in economics, the death of luxury and "the new modesty."
But moralism is subjective, right? Especially on a global scale. And when it comes right down to it, once we humans get our hands on a big chunk of change again, we'll probably just run into another large and obvious wall, dressed to the nines from other people's money.
Trust, when and if the money comes back, so will the insatiable appetite for force-fed goose liver.