I'm of the somewhat Grinchian cast of mind that does things like worry about the deadweight loss of Christmas every time to so-called "Holiday Season" comes around. To make a long story short, if two people each buy each other a gift worth $100 the odds are that both will wind up worse off than if they'd just spent the $100 on themselves. But try explaining this thinking to loved ones and you'll probably wind up worse off than if you'd just spent the $100. Tyler Cowen is working toward a solution:

Buy someone a book of stamps. It has the efficiency properties of a cash transfer (who doesn't need stamps?), yet if you choose an attractive issue it will show (a little) more thought than money alone. And hey -- you had to stand in line to get it, or endure their ugly web site, and at a monopolistic institution at that.



There you have it: Stamps, the efficiency-minded person's Christmas gift. I suppose farecards at your local mass transit authority also have some of the same properties (speaking of which, I actually need a new SmarTrip Card if anyone's looking to buy me something...) so consider that as well.

Photo by Flickr user threlkelded used under a Creative Commons license

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