The true economics of Christmas present and past

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Giving and accepting gifts at Christmas? Why? Because it is tradition – or because we seize the opportunity to show our love or gratitude or acknowledge a special relationship with those we often take for granted?

How much of this fest of eating, drinking, showing goodwill to all humanity is part of Christianity?  People who concede that they don’t openly embrace the faith still celebrate. Others may not go inside the four walls of a church but say that their belief that Jesus directs their life as they follow the ethos.

I heard an economist mention the link between economics and Christmas.  The gifts become part of cold economics at some point.  We give to bring pleasure and satisfy the recipients’ tastes as far as we are able.  But in some households the presents chosen are a matter of fulfilling ‘a need’.  Food is given partly as a means of filling bellies or clothes are chosen as a way of warding off the chills of winter – that is when economics versus tradition becomes a blurred line. I was inspired to think thus, outside the box, by hearing an economist discussing Christmas.

Scrooge, Dicken’s epitome of mean spirit seems, on reflection, to be saying, “I paid my taxes; it’s for those who collected them to take care of the poor.  It’s not for me to become a charity.”

Tiny Tim, had he lived a century later would have had the NHS to fall back on; Bob Cratchit would later have been paid a minimum wage from our taxes.  Benefits for the needy would have wiped out the poverty which Dickens portrayed. Or would they?

Nowadays, Scrooge’s humbug cries against the necessity of ‘charity’ have not faded into a thing of the Victorian past.   Charities proliferate. We, the taxpayers, from UK and from many other countries are inundated by pleas for personal and financial help.

We look at our screens, and were we to fully respond to the heartbreaking calls from war torn lands, people starving, lack of sanitation, victims of abuse – we would take our entire home budget and send it rippling through the internet

Economics and Christmas are two different entities – yet they are almost kindred spirits.

We see our taxes paid directly through income, or on goods, property, ad infinitum – and watch them being spent by governments and councils, during times of austerity, on re-designing a town centre, re-furbishing a town hall, backing a football stadium, buying costly furnishings for mayoral offices.  Millions, billions, being wasted while Tiny Tim and his dad struggle to survive.

The ordinary man or woman has learned a word governments have overlooked.  Prioritize.

The Christmas gifts in some households will be disguised versions of ‘need’ being catered for in pretty paper. This is where Scrooge was right – the tax collectors should look after the needs of the people by using our money wisely – not relying on charity.

It used to be called, Cutting your coat according to the cloth.

Happy Christmas to one and all.

Dorrie Jane Bridge

Dorrie is a former educationalist with a major interest in politics … she writes our Grey Pride section.

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