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.