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Christmas Gift Guide 2010

Keynes on Saving and Investment.

Image via Wikipedia

Volume One: The Gift of Nothing

How many gifts have you received that spend one glorious day out of the box, then disappear into a closest somewhere? lost forever in the murky shadows of our previous life? Somewhere, next to that guitar you never learned to play, by the shoes that only go with one dress that hasn’t fit since 2003*, next to your old baseball mitt and those pictures you keep meaning to put on Facebook, back behind your Nintendo 64, there, there is where so many gifts hide in possession purgatory.

Go digging around the closets and crawl spaces in you home, find these items and think of the waste. Now multiply it by the population of the country. This will give you some perspective on the size of the problem. Economist Joel Waldfogel calls it the “deadweight loss of Christmas.” All sorts of resources that have alternative uses are wasted in our pathetic pursuit of Gift Giving. Imagine Man at the dawn of civilization, were they giving unwanted gifts to each other too? Probably not.

So my recommendation this year is to give nothing. And thank those who give you nothing in return. Unchain yourself from the consumerism that has dominated American life and destroyed the economy. Really, gift giving is just as silly as people giving each other wads of cash (The Wad, of course, being the best gift option). Gift giving is Keynesian Economics, by pushing stuff from person to person we somehow think we will all become wealthy.

This idea is not original to me. Besides Waldfogel there is Captain Capitalism. The lesson is clear, friends don’t buy friends gifts.

Most people are bad at buying gifts, just admit it.

And if you can’t, if you refuse to listen to reason, read through my archives for some gift giving advice and check in here¬†over the coming weeks as I publish the rest of my annual Christmas Gift Guide.

*Going out on a limb here, but I assume I have at least one female reader.

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