Santa Claus Economics

What is the proper conservative response to Santa Claus?

DougJ wonders,

On the one hand, Santa is part of the great unseen C. S. Lewis-style world, on the other he gives presents to lazy, undeserving children. He has created jobs for thousands of elves but there’s no evidence that he ever fires the less productive ones or gives merit bonuses to the most effective cobblers.

What is the proper conservative response to Santa Claus? Surely someone has written about this before.

The Santa story is a sweet one for small children, especially those mired in poverty.  It doesn’t matter what their parents’ economic circumstances are, if they’re good little boys and girls, a magical figure from the North Pole will come during the night, riding his sled pulled by flying reindeer, and deliver toys made by elves.

Much like the Star Trek economy, wherein all one has to do to get what one wants is to say it into the replicator, it’s preferable to our own reality in every way save one:  It doesn’t exist.

It’s not that conservatives have some abiding preference for scarcity and different levels of ability and motivation, merely that these things exist in the reality in which we find ourselves.   We’ve thus crafted our economic theories accordingly.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. rodney dill says:

    Santa voluntarily provides charity through-out the world by his own means and good will as he sees fit, and within his abilities and talents, not through mandated taxation and redistribution of his resources by others.

    People are going to see what they want to in this one James. It’ll be interesting seeing the ‘fights’ it’ll start. … and right after Christmas too, tsk tsk.

  2. legion says:

    Well, there’s conservatives, and then there’s the modern Republican Party – the two are not congruent. For today’s GOP, it is an article of faith that being poor is a sin – the result of some moral failing – and that therefore it’s ok to punish and mock the lower classes. It has nothing to do with reality, it’s absolutely necessary for a small handful of wealthy elites to maintain their psychological grip. Not all, mind you, but certainly the ones running the show…

  3. Alex Knapp says:

    Actually, quite a bit of “scarcity” in our economy is purely artificial. Price supports for agriculture, artificially limited monopolies in many industries, licensing systems, etc. etc. etc.

  4. JKB says:

    Well, first a note to the reality-based community: Santa isn’t real.

    That’s pretty much the conservative response. As such the many flaws in the Santa economy are not matters of concern.

    That Santa seeks to reward the good and not the naught requires a constant, overreaching surveillance system only workable with young children. Even so said system was flawed in that it promised presents from Santa but depends on third parties (parents) to fulfill. Thus, a poor child would receive a toy but with less comparative value to that received by the child of a wealthy benefactor regardless of the comparative “goodness” of their behavior. The system also suffers from an agency problem in that the fulfillment agents have close ties to the beneficiary and are likely to ignore misbehavior in order to avoid labeling the child bad which is both frowned upon and would reflect badly on the Santa agents.

    Originally, those beneficiaries who did not make the behavior cut were given a lump of coal rather than even a poor toy. The coal, while beneficial and valuable, provided little opportunity for joy unless the recipient was without heat. It did however signal that they were being held accountable. Unfortunately, with today’s technology, the utility of coal to the beneficiary has become that no better than a common rock. In addition, with recent governmental changes, the receipt of such a gift would probably promote a complete mobilization of the Department of Homeland Security Climate Change Response Team. So the Santa program’s signally mechanism for behavior change has collapsed rendering the program little more than a give-away with little expected from the beneficiaries.

  5. john personna says:

    The real Star Trek didn’t have replicators, and even went in occasionally to secure trade (dilithium crystals being the oil analog).

    That said, of course Conservatives believe in Santa Tax Cut!

  6. tom p says:

    >”redistribution of his resources by others.”

    Which a person is (strangely enough) only able to acquire through the use of community resources…

  7. Drew says:

    Slow day, eh?

  8. rodney dill says:

    I’m pretty sure Santa can see Russia from his living room.

  9. floyd says:

    Both Liberals and Conservatives see the government as Santa Claus.
    As viewed from the left he is “Santa Claus”, the bearer of free gifts made by imaginary elves without consequences.
    As viewed from the right he is “Klaus Santa”, he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake,he knows if you’ve been bad or good….. so you’d better watch out…
    Either way, “Klaus Santa Claus” is coming to town!

  10. anjin-san says:

    > Santa isn’t real. That’s pretty much the conservative response.

    Right. Now lets get back to a serious topic like “death panels”, or the fact that Obama is not a citizen, or…

  11. Steve Plunk says:

    Santa? Kirk? Picard? Jesus? Why do people insist on these mental games? How about a serious topic like our huge deficit or the Administrations failure to move the economy forward?

  12. An Interested Party says:

    “How about a serious topic like our huge deficit or the Administrations failure to move the economy forward?”

    Certainly…perhaps you could start the conversation by admitting how much blame for the deficit can be placed on your side of the political aisle, how tax cuts will not help with that deficit, and what exactly the Obama Administration should do to stimulate the economy…

  13. anjin-san says:

    > the Administrations failure to move the economy forward?

    Hmm. Obama inherited an economy on the brink of collapse. Today we have economic growth, a historically strong rally in the stock market, and near record corporate profits. How exactly do you define “moving forward”?

    Oh, an here are a few chestnuts from that noted pro-Obama rag, the Wall St. Journal:

    Job Offers Rising as Economy Warms Up

    Consumers Lift Economy:

    Economic Growth Exceeds Forecasts:

    Bad news for the right? Certainly. But good news for America.

  14. ratufa says:

    The proper conservative response to Christmas is obviously: