Magazine article The Spectator

The Leftist Case for Joining a Pall Mall Club

Magazine article The Spectator

The Leftist Case for Joining a Pall Mall Club

Article excerpt

I recently met a friend at the RAC Club in Pall Mall. Leafing through their brochures, I noticed there was an entrance fee of £2,900 and an annual renewal fee of £1,265. Gosh, I thought, that's expensive.

Except it is and it isn't. It is expensive when you compare it with other clubs. On the other hand, if you compare it to the cost of owning a second property, it's a bargain.

The council tax on a London weekend flat will be far more than £1,265 a year. And, however nice your flat, it is unlikely to have five full-sized billiard tables, several squash courts, a swimming pool, a Turkish bath, three dining rooms, a library and a staff of twenty. If you stay overnight at the RAC club, you pay perhaps 25 per cent of the cost of an equivalent hotel. And, unlike owning a second property, nobody from the RAC will phone you up at 2 a. m. to tell you that the immersion tank is leaking and you have to come over right away and fix it.Left-wing people would typically hate the RAC. But it, is, when you think about it, a wonderfully successful experiment in social housing. It is a posh co-operative society.

I tell this story to make several points. One is to illustrate the extraordinary power of perspective in deciding what's expensive and what's cheap ('framing' is the phrase behavioural economists use). So a £2 takeaway coffee from a London coffee shop may seem reasonable, whereas to buy a £50 bag of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (equivalent, perhaps, to 75p a cup) seems like egregious extravagance.

The second point is that we should perhaps make more of a distinction between pro-social and anti-social consumption. If I join the RAC, my dues not only benefit me but also improve the environment of the club for other people as well. If I own a weekend flat, it is largely at the expense of other (probably younger) people who may need the flat more than I do. …

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