Quality costs. Simple as that.
People (like myself) that spend what some seem to think is way too much, have more than likely done a ton of auditions, and know what sound we are looking for, and for the most part what we are looking for cant be had for cheap. I personally put my system together not really knowing what the final cost would be, but also not having a bottomless source to dig from either. When I finally found the sound I wanted, the cost wasnt even considered because it was going to be worth every penny. Its not about stature, or bragging rights, well, maybe for some, but more the satsisfaction of a system put together over time, and enjoyed on a daily basis. None of my friends know how much I spent, nor will I ever tell em, but they know whatever I paid, it was worth it, and they wish they could do the same.
I cant agree with the "all about perception" theory though, there is a HUGE difference in a speaker that is say 15,000, and a speaker that is 5,000, and I highly doubt the 15,000 speaker designer is only charging more because of the 5,000 price point of the other speaker line, there are better materials being used, probably a lot more research/development, and the end product is heads and above performance wise than that of the cheaper models that are designed to appeal to the masses, which is what makes up most of this hobby.
Until you hear some serious hi-fi gear, or own it, you can think of it as a waste, or someone with too much money on their hands, but get out and do some head to heads, and you will see that the high end gear (most) is worth every red cent!
BTW, Levinson doesnt need to charge less! Thats an example of putting out high quality gear, and outperforming competition, and getting paid for it. Could he charge less at this point? Maybe, should he........Nope.