Sunday, December 06, 2009

Package deal

I’ve never really liked Christmas. Even its few redeeming features are dying out; the Salvation Army band that used to play at Victoria seems to be have replaced by an ad hoc, plain-clothes combo that barely gets through a single verse of ‘David’s City’ before grinding to an embarrassed halt.

So I was delighted to read the thoughts of Joel Waldfogel, who has offered sound economic analysis to support my instinctive distaste for that cornerstone of the modern Yuletide, the giving and receiving of gifts. The transaction, he argues, represents a deadweight loss; the value placed on a present by the giver inevitably exceeds that which the receiver calculates. In any case, in a developed economy, if people want something, they’ll probably buy it for themselves. ‘Gift shops’, almost by definition, sell things that nobody really wants to own.

But then you read down the article, and discover that Waldfogel has a book out, with the Zeitgeisty title Scroogenomics. I can’t help but think that, for all the author’s protestations, more than a few copies will be purchased as Christmas presents; probably for grumpy gits who profess to loathe Christmas. And of course I have a book or two out at the moment, and despite my anti-festive feelings, I’m not going to forbid anyone from buying copies as gifts.

Maybe Waldfogel and I should enjoy Christmas together, scowling across a bowl of lukewarm sprouts, pulling crackers with royalty statements inside and then spending the rest of the day feeling guilty.


Anonymous said...

So the answer is to shun his book to spite him, buy yours to challenge your jaded viewpoint, and then present them to someone else, thus ensuring the value placed on them by the recipient far exceeds the value (itself great) ascribed to them by the purchaser.
Wrap them in socks. Job done.

GreatSheElephant said...

Spot on point about the transaction value.

I've just received an invitation to spend Christmas with someone and am absolutely reeling in dismay.

Dick Headley said...

Kids still find it exciting. Nowt wrong wi' that.

Charles Edward Frith said...

Thank God its not just me that finds the whole Christmas consumer fest a bit too much.

Tim F said...

BWT: Unfortunately, his books sounds potentially interesting, in a superficially Gladwellian way. Maybe I'll nick a copy.

Oh social events are even worse than presents, GSE. Is your acquaintance proposing games? Carols? Actual, y'know, religion?

Dick, I have no problem with anyone under the age of eight getting into it. It's the people who revert to a pre-pubescent state for the duration of December who annoy me. They're the ones who put up those neo-Koonsian household lights, the sort that remind us what a disaster the Thatcherite policy of expanding home ownership really was.

I think most people really do, Charles. But they're scared of being dubbed Scroogelike. Bollocks to that.