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November 30, 2005


Hi Half Sigma
Here's a concept: the gift that keeps on giving. Just recycle those old gifts and save money in the process.

I would agree that the holiday "upswing" is a bit of an illusion. People deliberately save or hold back on their spending so that they'll have extra money to spend during the holidays, thus evening out the differences. And yes, it's rather wasteful and inefficient to buy a gift for someone that they don't want, but I wouldn't say the same if they get a gift that they really do like and want.

While you seem to have a point about Christmas, I'd have to say you don't seem to present the "broken windows" theory properly. Certainly if you live somewhere, like a war zone, where the repaired windows are likely to be broken again, it does no good to fix them (Tom Friedman traced the ebb and flow of the Lebanon War by whether or not the glassmakers could do business). But the "broken windows" theory as it is used in Criminal Justice is psychological. When people see that a street is neat and clean, and windows aren't boarded up, they will have a psychological feeling of safety and order, and will be less likely to, say, mug an old lady who comes their way. It may be flawed, but it is not about the economic advantage of fixing the windows.

The Broken Window Fallacy is an economic theory, originally by Frederic Bastiat and repeated by Henry Hazlitt, that breaking windows might seem to be good for the economy (or war is good for the economy), but is an illusion, because money that would have been spent elsewhere on new things must now be spent fixing broken things instead.
While I've heard of the psychology of safety and order, I've never heard of it being referred to as the Broken Windows theory of criminal justice.

Sorry, here's a link about the economic theory:

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