Christmas and economists go together like — well, like drinking and walking. Joel Waldfogel, the economist who is famous for highlighting the deadweight loss of gift-giving, has a new book out called Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays. A few years ago, we argued that gift cards in particular are a bad idea. Alex Tabarrok, writing at Marginal Revolution about what he wanted for Christmas, put it this way: “The economist in me says the best gift is cash. The rest of me rebels. … [W]e want the gift giver to buy something for us that we would not have bought for ourselves. Or more precisely, one of our selves wants this — the self that is usually restrained, squashed, and limited, the wild self, the passionate self, the romantic self.”
So today’s question is: what’s an optimal gift for the economist on your shopping list?
If you qualify for the following question, you might want to answer it as well: what’s the best (or worst) gift you’ve ever been given by an economist?