Morality is a Private and Costly Luxury

Melvyn Teillol-Foo

“Morality is a private and costly luxury.”Henry B. Adams

Viper Venom 650R vs Corvette ZR1 (photo by JoshL) @AlphaLuxe

As we embark into a new year with AlphaLuxe as a luxury lifestyle magazine, we cannot but help to be moved by the seasonal messages of renewal and new life. As we are all aficionados of the luxury lifestyle, we are cognisant that there is more to it than objects and experiences. I have oft said: “The true cost of luxury is the choice that it affords.” With each passing year, I’m more aware of the different nuances that my own statement presents to me!

Until I read the title quote that sparked off this introspection, I had no idea who Henry Adams was but his quotation resonates today. Sure, even as a non-American, I knew of the two US presidents in the Adams family but the U.S. Civil War history is not my forte.

Henry Brooks Adams (February 16, 1838 – March 27, 1918) was an American historian, political journalist and member of the Adams political family, being descended from two U.S. Presidents.


Morality is defined by the dictionary as “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour.”

  • a particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society.
  • the extent to which an action is right or wrong.

Therein lies the imprecision despite an ostensible “definition”. It is a set of rules adhered to by either an individual or that person’s society. In the final analysis, even within a tight knit community [Insert your preferred category here: # millionnaire: foodie: petrolhead: fashionista: vegan], only your personal system applies.


I have learned not to judge people as I judge myself as I understand more the implications of Henry Adam’s quoatation. Morality is private because it is your personal set of values.

I’ve overhead snide remarks about the rich and famous, whether about their consumerism or public persona that have no bearing in private reality. I know of private acts of charity and morality that, by their very definition, were private and purely beneficial to the recipients. That the benefactors remain anonymous did not dilute the hope, joy and gratitude of the ones who received.


A wise Indian friend whom I consider my ‘guru’ told me: “We talk on principle but act on interest.”
The actual quote was “Principles can not mainly influence even the principled; we talk on principle but act on interest.”Walter Savage Landor

In the context of personal circumstances influencing your morality, any “good” action is costly.

Is is moral to eat roast turkey over the Holidays or drive your Rolls Royce on the Amalfi Coast?

Rolls-Royce Phantom VII Mk.2 (2012 – 2016)

Some may argue that morality is a luxury that only the Haves have.

If I am well fed, in good health but for mild obesity, under a dry roof and with a robust bank account, the choice of morality may be natural; I can choose to be vegetarian.

If my children are in threadbare rags, shivering in a damp hovel and dizzy with hunger, that turkey sandwich is looking pretty good, right now.
Henry Adams knew this from his privileged background and observations as a political journalist, having lived and worked on two continents.

Sustainable Luxury

L.U.C Tourbillon QF Fairmined ref.161929-5006

I am most impressed by the emergence of ethical gold certified as Fairmined.
‘The Journey to Sustainable Luxury’ began when Chopard, with Eco-Age, forged a philanthropic relationship with the influential South American mining NGO, the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM).

Responsibly Mined Opals

This applied to both gemstones and gold procurement.


Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and EcoAge director Livia Firth (photo by MTF)

Chopard became the world’s first watch and luxury jewellery company to directly support mining communities to reach Fairmined gold certification as well as providing training, social welfare and environmental support. You can see the difference it would make to the mining villages.

Village of Bajo Octobaya (photo by ARM)

Cynics initially remarked that it was merely a publicity stunt when only one or two product models were certified but Chopard and partners resolutely progressed to the point where ALL gold L.U.C watches and jewellery are now Fairmined certified. There was a 10% cost premium for this morality but that is expected to reduce with mass production and if other brands can be persuaded to follow.

Fairmined Gold (photo by Chopard)

AlphaLuxe Comment


On a personal and until now, private level, my morality is comfortable with paying that premium on top of costly luxury.


Author’s Biography:  Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)

Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He was former CEO of horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.

Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications.  He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).

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