Scroogenomics 101 (5×8 – 12/24/13)


It’s the first day of the Christmas shopping season for many people, still time to consider what exactly it is we are doing when we buy presents. For a University of Minnesota economist, it means we’re on the losing end of a financial proposition.

Against the backdrop of the Rosedale Mall on the PBS NewsHour last evening, Joel Waldfogel, author of “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays,” suggested the odds are you’re going to spend money on a present that will have less value to the recipient than what you spent.

“Economics is premised on the rational maximization of satisfaction,” according to Waldfogel. “Isn’t it irrational to buy a badger hat for $150, when even University of Wisconsin zealots or ‘Frances’ the kid’s book badger fan would prefer the actual money?”

So why not just give money or a gift card? Economist Dan Ariely says it’s because it would reveal the underpinning of friendship: money. “The reality is that a lot of relationships, even marriage, has a lot of financial underpinnings to it. But we do a lot of work to try and hide it because, if we didn’t hide it, love without not be able to flourish,” he said.

What is Waldfogel getting his beloved for Christmas? An oven mitt, apparently.

Related: Unusually bitter cold snap even hard on Santas (Fargo Forum).

North Mpls. Family’s Front Door Kicked Down, Presents Stolen (WCCO)

Little Falls pizzeria serves Christmas Day community meal (St. Cloud Times).


Not all the great public media is on radio and TV, — the public media newspaper — reminds us today. It profiles Black Folk Don’t, to spark “frank discussions of racial identity in modern-day America.” PBS is supporting the series through distribution on its online platform.

“It was just an idea that popped into my head, being someone who technically does things that black folk ‘don’t do,’” series creator and director Angela Tucker said. Tucker and Black Public Media launched the show in August 2011 after Tucker, a documentary filmmaker whose credits include a 2011 documentary about asexuality, responded to an open call for pitches for web series.

The show is updated on Mondays.


Dear America: Thanks for paying attention when we asked you to conserve money by conserving electricity. Now we’re raising your rates because you conserved electricity.

The Electric Company


Yeah, we got it. It’s cold. As if you don’t relish the joy of telling your out-of-state family on Christmas morning that it’s 10 below, as you soak up the pity. It’s why we live here. We love the pity.

Still, can your friend’s tropical locale do this?


Related: NPR Listeners Got Talent: A 'Morning Edition' Singalong (NPR).

Bonus I: Bill Holm’s Christmas memories (Marshall Independent).

Bonus II: Lutefisk? What are you thinking? (Pioneer Press)

Bonus III:
The lives they loved. Readers of the NY Times Magazine share their stories about the people who died in 2013. It’s well worth taking the time to read.


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Teens and marijuana.

Second hour: DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

Third hour: Local music picks.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – MPR reporters Annie Baxter and Curtis Gilbert’s presentation of “Holidays on our Minds.”

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – An update on the fighting in Syria.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Dan Olson meets the people at the Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley who conduct the annual Christmas Bird Count, the oldest citizen science project in the country.

The good news is 2013 was a great year for panda births in captivity. Forty-two giant panda cubs were born in captivity this year, and survived. The bad news: Pandas in the wild remain endangered. NPR reports on the effort to breed a more robust panda.

  • wendywulff

    Re #1: my son got married in Saturday, so I decided to take a break from Christmas presents this year. It has been wonderful. I wish I could do it every year, but I think the rest of the family would rebel.

    • Jack

      I dare you to take a break next year from gift giving. Find a cause your family would support – some ideas are the local food shelf, Toys for Tots, Meals on Wheels, refugee relief, KIND fund at Unicef, etc.

      While I can’t guarantee that this will bring more satisfaction than the current physical gift exchange, it will mean so much to those in need.

      I know it’s a tough concept for some (my parents still insist on giving some type of physical present) but in the end we have found it much more fulfilling.

      If only we could all get the gifts of health, peace, and equal rights among all.

      Happy Holidays!

  • Paul Weimer

    There is more to life than maximizing economic efficiency. There is the joy of giving someone something they want, or even didn’t know they wanted.

  • BReynolds33

    Thank you for #3. I’ve never understood how that doesn’t get attention. The only group that can pull this off are the utilities and the people who make gasoline.

  • Chuck

    Bonus II Lutefisk: Here’s an old family recipe for lutefisk (which one of my brothers calls “fish jello”). Put frozen lutefisk on a paper plate. Microwave on “high” for 5 minutes. Remove lutefisk from microwave, throw away the lutefisk, and eat the paper plate.

    • Kassie

      I’m going to eat lutefisk tonight for the first time. I’m pretty excited about it. Two things are getting checked off my food list this year, lutefisk and brains. It has been a good year.

  • joetron2030

    You caught my interest with “Nina Totenberg shaking it”. LOL.