Christmas cards from economists

Christmas is a time when economists are wheeled out to proclaim the benefits of giving cash. Of course, we’re not really that out of touch as a discipline and The Atlantic has sought to set the record straight. Drawing on the wealth of economists’ writing on gifts and relationships it has created some heart-warming cards that demonstrate our understanding. As it says,

In some cases, non-pecuniary values are important.

Merry Christmas!

H/T: agnitio

5 replies
  1. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:

    Very true, as the IGM forum also discussed!

    However, we also shouldn’t forget that sometimes people self report wanting cash:

    And that even with the signal and non-pecuniary benefits mentioned, we also need to think of the opportunity cost – there are other means to provide these same benefits that aren’t tied up in a costly “arms race” 😉 :'s-Christmas-present

    • jamesz
      jamesz says:

      After reading all that I’m still not convinced that economists have any good models that explain social interactions 😉

      • Matt Nolan
        Matt Nolan says:

        True! Economists have many models, with differing assumptions, begging for elements of the individual to be observable, measurable, and thereby making them testable.

        But they aren’t, so instead we just have to enjoy making fun micro models, yus! 😀

        • Luc Hansen
          Luc Hansen says:

          I’ve been thinking, while blissing out in holiday time out reading Skidelsky and Sheehan on Keynes, that if micro works, why did Keynes invent macro?

          • Matt Nolan
            Matt Nolan says:

            I’d say this touches on it a bit:


            A couple of things I’d keep in mind though:

            1) Micro “works” sure – but what this means depends on the question being asked! For “macro” questions, micro doesn’t provide unique answers.

            2) Macro variables “supervenes on” microeconomics. Individual agents are making choices, but with reference to aggregates. In this context, when asking macro (and even a broader set of) questions we need to consider how this use and evolution of aggregates impacts upon behaviour. One of the key channels of analysis is by thinking of these things as a form of “coordination game”.

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