The real problem with holidays is that they are illiquid. You can’t trade them very well, which is why roses cost so much on Valentines Day and the price of a swiftly-dying severed evergreen increases prior to Christmas Day and drops immediately afterwards. Here in New York City people do manage to trade holidays in some ways—choosing to give up Memorial Day in the summer share house for a random summer weekend while seeking excess profit on the trade by also scoring hard to get restaurant reservations in the under-populated city—but Steve Sailer thinks we’re not going far enough. Smart people, he says, should internally trade comparable holidays.
On Mother’s Day, it’s hard to get a brunch reservation; and on Father’s Day, it’s hard to get a tee time. So, just switch days and celebrate Father’s Day in May and Mother’s Day in June.
Interestingly, doing that violates Kant’s Categorical Imperative, which is a sort of Teutonic philosopher’s version of the Golden Rule (“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”). Yet, if everybody switched months, then we’d be right back where we started. But if you switch, then you’re a lot better off and everybody else is a tiny bit better off.
One question would be how to charge others for the positive externality created by switching holidays. After all, we can’t have them free-riding on our holiday trading, can we?
Remember this for next year [Steve Sailer]
Our economic education was somewhat unorthodox. Much of it took place in the basement of a library with moveable stacks, located not far the center of campus but very far, intellectually speaking, from the lecture halls where famous economists taught throngs of undergraduates to ignore what they know in favor of what could be depicted in graphs and equations.
We were helped along by a newsletter published by the Ludwig Von Mises institute, the foremost center for Austrian economics in these United States. Each year around this time our favorite edition of the newsletter was printed, the Christmas issue. It usually presented some contrarian take on a famous Christmas story. One year it might be the economics of Santa’s workshop. Another year the feature story was about the entrepreneurialism of shiny red noses. Another year about Scrooge’s generosity.
The folks who put together the newsletter now run both the Mises.org website and LewRockwell.com. We decided today to take a look at those sites. Sure enough, there was plenty of contrarian Christmas stories that we thought we would pass along.
We’ll start with Butler Shaffer’s “The Case for Ebeneezer.” He makes the case that Mr. Scrooge, who seems to have been a money lender of some sort, may not be quite the villain he is made out to be for much of Charles Dickens’ carol. In the first place, if Mr. Scrooge were not in the business he was in–lender money on the expectation of being repaid with interest–the lives of the people of London might have been far poorer. They needed money when they borrowed it, and Mr. Scrooge was willing to part with it for a time. If he was not willing to trust them with his money and if he was not accumulating wealth while practicing this generous art, they would have never had been able to avail themselves of the opportunities that allowed them to start and continue their own businesses and buy and live in their homes.
Lew Rockwell himself explains the economic lessons at the heart of the story of Bethlehem. Remember those wise men and their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh? To hear the preachers of the gospel of poverty, who remind us always about the eyes of needles and camels, you might think that the holy family would have rejected these gifts as too extravagant. But that’s not the way it happened. “Far from rejecting them as extravagant, the Holy Family accepted them as gifts worthy of the Divine Messiah,” Rockwell writes. “Neither is there a record that suggests that the Holy Family paid any capital gains tax on them, though such gifts vastly increased their net wealth. Hence, another lesson: there is nothing immoral about wealth; wealth is something to be valued, owned privately, given and exchanged.”
And if Rockwell’s take strikes you as a bit too anti-Roman, we suggest you read Tom Fleming’s very different appreciation of Rome’s accomplishments. It reminds us of an oath we once took when joining a society of like-minded people while we were undergraduates, which included a plea that if we could not be saints (which was beyond the hopes of most of us in that room that night), then at least we could be like the Romans who made the world in which the first Christmas occurred.
You’ll hear a lot about how Christmas is ruined by rampant consumerism. Very few people bother to defend the common practice of buying and giving gifts but the practice continues on. Gary North explains why. “There is great value in satisfying the desires of consumers, a value that goes beyond the prices that consumers pay,” he writes. “Producers understand this. Consumers may not.” And you won’t want to miss North’s take on “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
So why are we back again on Christmas night, writing for the few of you who may still be reading? Well, we’re recovering from our Christmas feast and thinking about some of the most important people in our own lives: our readers, our commenters, our sponsors and our investors. You make it possible for us to do this wonderful work each day, and we’re grateful for that gift you give to us each day. It’s been a happy holiday season for us, and we hope it’s been merry for you. We’ll raise a glass to you tonight.
As Bess Levin noted on Friday, posting will be light this week. We didn’t post yesterday despite the half-day for most US exchanges. Frankly we don’t get paid enough to work on Christmas eve and our bosses are not Scrooge-y enough to expect us to. Tomorrow we will pick up publishing with a few updates throughout the day from the staff, and we’ll continue at that pace until the New Year. If you find yourself working through the holidays just remember that somebody has to work the desk and just resent that that somebody had to be you. We suggest you walk around the hallways, treat the trading floor like a putting green and otherwise act out your I Am Legend fantasies while no one else is around. You, our friends, are legends. At least today. And at least in your minds and ours.
For Thanksgiving, we wrote a guide to working through that national holiday that pretty much applies to all these kind of days. Read it here and remember that we’re thinking of you. Please feel free to carry on the discussion in the comments section. Check out the “recent comments” link to the left. Leave news updates, rumors, links and such in comments below.
Merry Christmas, gang. We’ll be back soon.