My review of Joel Waldfogel’s *Scroogenomics*

It's locked away in Books and Culture, A Christian Review and I don't know if it will show up on-line.  Anyway, here is a bit from that review:

…For all his polemic, Waldfogel never recognizes that the instrumental nature of gift-giving can alienate us from the true meaning of Christmas and other holidays and celebrations, not to mention alienating us from the true virtue of giving.

Nor, on the other hand, does Waldfogel consider the best available defense of gift-giving — namely, that it is a useful form of social theater.  His economist biases reveal themselves when he considers only the value of the gift and not how the gift may enhance (or damage) the associated relationships.  Don't we all use gifts to judge who really understands us and thus who is worthy of our time?  To put it bluntly,I wouldn't marry or even continue to date a woman who gave me The Da Vinci Code for my birthday.  But if I receive the book, maybe that's for the best: then I know the relationship doesn't have a future.  In a world where we are looking at a large pool of people for the potential of closer ties, poorly chosen gifts in fact may be the greatest gift we can receive.  Using economic terminology, a lot of gifts are about sorting and signaling.  A world of perfect gifts is also a world where I don't meet many new people or take many chances in relationships.

I should note that I liked the book more than that excerpt, taken alone, indicates.  As is often the case, the parts where I praise the work are simply less interesting.  You can order the book here.  In case you don't remember, he's the guy who did the first work on the "deadweight loss of Christmas."  The book has come out just in time for…the Christmas season.


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