Art Carden has an amusing article up at Forbes titled “Ruining Christmas: An Economist’s Guide.” Here’s a taste:
1. You Shouldn’t Have. No, Really. You Shouldn’t Have. The classic salvo in the literature on the economics of Christmas is Joel Waldfogel’s “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas,” which provides a bit of evidence that people would be happier if you gave them cash instead of an equally-expensive present. Yes, it’s the thought that counts, but how many of us have given (or gotten) gifts that have ended up in an end-of-year Goodwill donation or a Spring yard sale?
We learned this first-hand at a family holiday party that involved a white elephant gift exchange. Everyone went home happy, but one participant (an Alabama fan) opened a box of Auburn stuff, another (an Auburn fan) opened Alabama stuff, and one of the gifts I (an Alabama fan) opened was an LSU cap. Again, everything worked out in the end, but the initial distribution was incredibly inefficient.