So how was your Christmas?
Are you sure?
Because our girl McMegan is here to tell you that your Christmas actually sucked harder than a Hard Sucking Machine (Hammacher Schlemmer, Christmas 2012 catalog – page 37 – bottom right corner) and wasn’t near as winter wonderland wonderful as hers was. Ready to be diminished by being told that your family and friends are a bunch of hapless but well-meaning doofuses who wouldn’t know a béchamel from a sauce foyot?
Well then, let’s get started. First, the disclaimer that the Daily Beast requires at the beginning of each McMegan post:
I am probably not the right person to answer this question…
Yes, we are aware of all internet traditions but, please, proceed:
…in this post I’m specifically addressing a question that is raised by one economist or another almost every year: isn’t Christmas a huge waste? All those presents that no one wants represent huge deadweight loss. Wouldn’t well all do better by giving cash, or skipping the process entirely?
But first, McMegan has to tell us about all of the cool shit that Santa brought her:
This seems like a silly question in a world of wishlists–I got the exact martini glasses I wanted, the exact electric pressure cooker I wanted, and the exact 13-inch cast iron skillet I wanted, because people could go right on my Amazon wish list and identify them. And yet, I still had the surprise and thrill of opening gifts (well, okay, I knew what the skillet was before I opened it), because there were a number of things on my list.
As you can see from the picture above, McMegan has many skillets, but apparently not the exact 13-inch cast iron skillet that she so desperately needs, and now her life is complete, because, also, martini glasses! Also too, the exact ones! And now McMegan doesn’t have to hate on her family for buying her some shitty off-brand RC Cola-esque kitchen whatsis because THEY COULDN’T FOLLOW SOME SIMPLE FUCKING DIRECTIONS ABOUT WHAT TO BUY AND WHERE TO BUY IT.
Christmas is saved, just like in Whoville! Who-ray!
But now… what about you people?
But even when families freelance, I think economist (sic) ignore two things: the social role of gifting, and the option value of gifting.
McMegan is applying something called “the option value of gifting”. Prepare yourself to have all of the joy of Christmas and giving and being thoughtful leeched from your body by people who would quantify love through a cost/benefit analysis. Here is a sociologist:
… consider Joel Waldfogel’s AER article “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas” (which he later adapted into Scroogenomics). The article basically demonstrates that people don’t especially like the gifts grandma gives them for Christmas. I like Waldfogel a lot* and think this article makes a real contribution in showing how gifts are a deadweight loss when viewed from the perspective of market pricing. However treating this as a problem and normatively asserting that people are irrational to give gifts is like an astronomer chastising a comet for not having the right orbit.
“…gifts are a deadweight loss when viewed from the perspective of market pricing”.
Oh. You shouldn’t have! Now I have to assign to your gift an emotional value that will not only translate into an acceptable amount of love that I may extend to you in return (quid pro quo) at a later date to be determined, but I also have to research current market trends and valuations. If you will turn to this simple amortization table I have prepared…
Back to McMegan:
I’m reading David Graeber’s book, Debt, and while I’m aware of the problems, I do think he gets one thing really right: his exploration of money as a substitute for strong relationships. That is its appealing feature for cosmopolitans, of course; relationships are wonderful in theory, but in practice, they inevitably turn out to be parochial and limiting and an endless amount of work. You do this time consuming task of finding gifts which often aren’t right, and then pretending to like and use the wrong things others have gotten you . . . and why bother if you could each buy yourself better stuff? The sociologist and anthropologist answer that the work is the relationship. The only way to have strong social ties is to spend an “inefficient” amount of time and resources investing in them.
Sex at the ‘cosmopolitan’ McArdles must be an increasingly arduous process, what with the initial RFP and then the negotiations involving lawyers (“Will there be digital stimulation and for how long? Acceptable. Position? Okay, doggystyle…will that include barking and yipping because that’s not in the original proposal and it’s going to cost you, at least, an Impressa Z7…” ) all for seven minutes of heaven.
But these are the kind of things you need to do if you intend to have skin in the game (eww) because, by just giving it away, you’re sanctioning your own victimhood and everyone knows that the rubber mask and fuzzy handcuffs cost extra.
Same as downtown.