Izgubljeni strošek božičnih daril

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Predbožični čas prebudi v ekonomistih iskanje napak v sistemu obdarovanja. In potrebo po recikliranju. Tim Harford in Josh Barro sta se, motivirana s težavami božičnega obdarovanja, v svojih kolumnah na isti dan (minuli petek) spomnila 21 let starega članka Joela Waldfogla “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas”. Walfogel je namreč leta 1993 v American Economic Review ocenil izgube zaradi napačnih oziroma neželjenih daril v ZDA za leto 1993 na med 4 in 13 milijardami dolarjev. Nauk je torej, da ekonomisti že vsaj od 1993 vedo, da ljudem, ki jih ne poznamo zelo zelo dobro, ne bi smeli kupovati daril. In vendar jih kupujemo. No, razen če, kot si zase domišlja Joshev oče, prominentni konzervativni ekonomist Robert Barro, smo sposobni prepoznati želje obdarovancev, še preden jih prepoznajo oni sami. 

“The Deadweight Loss of Christmas” is the sort of academic paper that makes ordinary people think economists are kind of crazy.

“I find that holiday gift giving destroys between one-third and one-tenth of the value of gifts,” proclaimed Joel Waldfogel, then an economics professor at Yale, in the 1993 paper. He estimated that ill-chosen gifts caused between $4 billion and $13 billion a year in economic waste; for comparison, he cited an estimate that put economic costs of the income tax at $50 billion.

This is the sort of provocation economists love: It rejects a beloved, sentimental tradition and devalues interpersonal interaction, while upholding the virtue of individual choice. After all, why should you shop for me, when I certainly know what I want better than you do? It’s no surprise that Mr. Waldfogel’s paper, “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas,” was published in The American Economic Review, one of the world’s top three economics journals.

But one thing I learned from growing up around economists is they do not always live up to their provocations. For example, my economist father, who taught me as a young child that voting is irrational because your odds of affecting the electoral outcome are infinitesimal, votes. And Mr. Waldfogel, who went on to write a book called “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays,” actually does buy presents at the holidays, at least for some people.

“When I know people well, I choose gifts for them,” Mr. Waldfogel told me. “I know my family well.”

That puts Mr. Waldfogel in line with most economists: Last year, members of the IGM Experts Panel at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business overwhelmingly defended gift-giving as an efficient way for people to show that they care about each other.

Preberite več v Josh Barro, An Economist Goes Christmas Shopping, The Upshot

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