Essays About


Consumers live by the fads that marketers make up in the shower. Every consumer must have, as essential to his being, what until recently did not exist. Advertisers portray the new as indispensable, and consumers mistake their greed for need. Nothing can be a need that most of humanity lived without. Nor unless you think of it by yourself, without the aid of advertisements.

Christmas is not so much the season of giving but of trading. Commerce is nearer our nature than charity, so we strive to exchange gifts of precisely equal value. We resent the friend whose gift is unexpected, forcing a late run to the mall to reciprocate. Like accountants, we must settle the books and rid our balance sheet of debt.

Often, lest we surprise each other with unwanted gifts, we tell each other what we would like: in brief, we run each other's errands.

Since, in exchanging presents, everyone's net gain is null, I prefer the more efficient gift of not giving.

Perversely, gift-giving has a bias toward the useless. Specialty electronics, imported bath oils, and time-saving tools that require more effort to operate than they save have an air of extravagance and luxury, while useful gifts like bread or cereal or coins for parking meters seem thoughtlessly uninspired. Thus we clutter our friends' attics with products no one would purchase for himself. We give our most useful gift, money, to corporations.

At holidays we make donations to the economy in each other's honor.