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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Dec 26, 2019



[This is an entry to the 2019 Adversarial Collaboration Contest by Cindy Lou Who and the Grinch]

Christmas Day is a a time full of laughter and cheer which is held in the West at the end of each year.

Believers in Jesus traditionally think the day marks his birth; scientists disagree. They point to the shepherds; when carolers sing about fields full of sheep, that occurs in the spring. The Star of the Magi provides further doubt. Simulations can tell us what star it’s about: it was most likely Jupiter shining near Saturn, but it’s only in autumn one sees such a pattern. It is proven in space and it’s proven on Earth – Christmas isn’t the real time of Jesus’ birth.

One of the most popular Yule celebrations is handing out gifts to one’s friends and relations. Parents offer the story these presents appeared due to Santa, a jolly old man with a beard. Originally a historical saint, his tale was embellished, with little restraint. He flies through the air in a reindeer-pulled sleigh, and visits all households on Earth in a day. This tradition seems pagan, with some scholars noting the details are pulled from a legend of Odin. Though sources like NORAD appear to support Santa’s presence, we think that their data fall short. After reading the pros and the cons, we both feel the consensus perspective is Santa’s not real.

And what are these gifts’ economics effects? According to Goeddeke and Birg, it’s complex. Since presents are valuable, one might assume that their giving would cause stores and markets to boom. You give to your parents! You give to your boss! But economists say it is all deadweight loss. You would spend the same money on something, you see, and presents are chosen incompetently. Others’ preferences aren’t as clear as our own, so when we buy for others, their needs are unknown. Presents don’t increase welfare and don’t increase growth; all the papers agree they are harmful to both.