Tuesday, December 25, 2001

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE ECONOMIST: Of course the article's title is Is Santa a deadweight loss? Apparently somebody tried to figure out what percent of gifts actually go unused and thus constitute "deadweight." Then the article points out alternate considerations, like the uncalculated sentimental gifts and the gifts that give the recipients preferences they didn't have before:

Some of the best gifts, after all, are the unexpected items that you would never have thought of buying, but which turn out to be especially well picked. And preferences can change. So by giving a jazz CD, for example, the giver may be encouraging the recipient to enjoy something that was shunned before. This, and a desire to build skills, is presumably the hope held by the many parents who ignore their children's pleas for video games and buy them books instead.

Of course, some people will tell you that video games build hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills, so I guess it depends on whether the parents want to raise humanities professors or fighter pilots. I guess a combination of both would produce creative scientists. Speaking ideally, of course, as if input X always leads to output Y.

By the way, who writes The Economist? There's never any actual names in there if you get the magazine. Never any photo credits either. Is it one guy in his basement? Crazed geneticist who has cloned himself? Crazed physicist who creates alternate-universe versions of himself and then collapses them back into his "one" "true" "self"? I mean, I just don't see how you can build a resume writing for The Economist.

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