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Monday, December 29, 2008

Is Christmas bad for the Economy?

Readers who are spending this week returning gifts they don't really want - or those who think Wal-Mart playing Jingle Bells beginning the week before Thanksgiving is one of the greatest crimes against humanity - might be interested in a couple of articles on economists view that Christmas is bad for the economy: a 1990 piece from the New Republic and a 2006 article in the Wall Street Journal (HT Club for Growth).

That is, it is not the celebration of Christ's birth itself (though let's face it, gold was a much better gift than frankincense and myrrh), but the commercialization which results in buying gifts that are largely unwanted or even buying Christmas themed items - fruitcakes, wrapping paper, decorations, etc. - that have little economic utility and result in "dead weight loss" to the economy. 

This may make economists sound like the Grinch - but recall, at the end of Dr. Seuss's tale, the Whos down in Whoville celebrate Christmas even after the Grinch steals their presents, trees, food, and misletoe.

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