The economist as Grinch
The Economic Society of Australia has started running a panel in which economists are asked to give their views on policy questions. I wasn’t too happy with the last one, on penalty rates, where I thought the question was ill-posed, and the majority of responses (though by no means all of them) failed to address the basic microeconomics of the issue.
The latest is a more light-hearted one, asking for responses to the proposition
“Giving specific presents as holiday gifts is inefficient, because recipients could satisfy their preferences much better with cash.”
Rather than give an opinion, I took the argument to its logical conclusion, as follows
The obvious problem with this claim is that exchanging cash is also inefficient, especially when combined with the generally accepted norm that equals should give presents of equal value. This results in a costly exercise that nets out to zero. Anyone who accepts the stated proposition shoud be in favor of cancelling Xmas and relying on the existing intra-family tax-transfer system