Wednesday, December 18, 2002

No gifts, just cash

That's what some economists say. The person who knows how to get the most for Geraldine Doogue out of $50 spent on her is Geraldine herself. Anyone else trying to guess what will make Geraldine the happiest won't hit the spot as well. That's I told her on Life Matters this week and I presented estimates from the US last Christmas suggesting that eight billion dollars of the 50 billion dollars spent on gifts is wasted as a result.

The debate has important implications for welfare payments. Should needy people be given cash that they probably want, or gifts in kind that they might not such as cheap bus trips, discounted housing etc.

But there's another side to the debate, and I said on Monday that I was reluctantly quite taken with it. The paper I quoted from had the intriguing title of Here's something you never asked for, didn't know existed, and can't easily obtain: A search model of gift giving.