Defending the Humanistic Virtue of Holiday Commercialism
Keywords:Scroogenomics, altruism, signaling, trust, cooperation, exchange
A prominent study of holiday gift giving estimates the correlative amount of wasted value (“deadweight loss”) to be roughly $25 billion worldwide. This result is predictable (in direction if not in actual magnitude) from economic theory and casual experience. Regrettably, the study neither substantiates its broad condemnation of holiday gift giving, nor does it support any of the normative generalizations that might be drawn from it; for example, the desirability of modifying the Christmas holiday’s commercial aspect, or of augmenting its religious dimension. The following essay argues that holiday gift giving actually is privately and socially beneficial on balance despite its economic costs.
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