Here’s a nugget worth sharing, from David Ricardo’s On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation.
Adam Smith has justly observed ‘that the desire of food is limited in every man by the narrow capacity of the human stomach, but the desire of the conveniences and ornaments of building, dress, equipage, and household furniture, seems to have no limit or certain boundary.’ Nature then has necessarily limited the amount of capital which can at any one time be profitably engaged in agriculture, but she has placed no limits to the amount of capital that may be employed in procuring ‘the conveniences and ornaments’ of life. To procure these gratifications in the greatest abundance is the object in view, and it is only because foreign trade, or the carrying trade, will accomplish it better, that men engage in them in preference to manufacturing the commodities required, or a substitute for them, at home. If, however, from peculiar circumstances, we were precluded from engaging capital in foreign trade, or in the carrying trade, we should, though with less advantage, employ it at home; and while there is no limit to the desire of ‘conveniences, ornaments of building, dress, equipage, and household furniture,’ there can be no limit to the capital that may be employed in procuring them, except that which bounds our power to maintain the workmen who are to produce them.
So what happens when food itself becomes a convenience and an ornament?
Well, then there’s no limit to the amount of capital that can profitably be applied in agriculture. Lady Gaga 1, David Ricardo 0, I’m afraid.