Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all Spend Matters readers! It's my sincere hope that you're not reading this post today in the office and that you've gone home early to spend time with family and friends. I decided to dispense with the politically correct "happy holidays" this year because of the silliness of other holidays competing with the relative importance of Christmas in the Christian faith compared with other holidays throughout the year. Chanukah is not even a Jewish High Holiday -- really, I believe it's an excuse for kids to hound you for a week of gifts while hopefully not starting a forest fire in your dining room every night -- and thank goodness that this whole Kwanza thing is not getting the press it used to, stealing the limelight from Old Saint Nick and such. Seriously, can't we all just get along without needing invented cultural holidays to compete with ancient religious ones?
Even though I believe that the Christmas and New Year's season is best thought of as a time of giving and reflection, I can't help but jot down a quick list of updated goodies I'd like Santa to leave under the Spend Matters Christmas tree (which thanks to a friend and frequent reader who stopped by the office last week, happily sits in the main room of the office). Consider this list an addendum to an earlier wish list to our friend at the North Pole. This year, I'll focus my list on a few consumer "wants" rather than corporate ones:
- Santa, for the sake of finding enough dough to fill your sack of goodies in future years, please get the word out to the US government that the best way to target the deficit is to not spend more or reduce taxes. Rather, tell those in office how critical it is to reduce their own spending in the first place and to adopt procurement practices that reorient effectiveness measurement towards concrete savings and cost reduction on a total cost, life-cycle basis rather than subjective "value." The latter is something we, unfortunately, can no longer afford.
- Santa, I recently gave a small gift to all of the employees in our office: The Road to Serfdom, a book by the famous Austrian-school economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek. Make this required reading for anyone you know in the private or public sectors, especially those with controls and influence over budgets and spending. A close second on the holiday book list this year is another decentralized authority and (reduced) spending classic: P.J. O'Rourke's Parliament of Whores.
- I won't even preface this with a "please" because it's an imperative -- somehow, Santa, find a way to convince holiday shoppers and consumers that each time they buy something that's produced in a nation with a long-running, material trade deficit with the US where an alternative option exists, that their actions have consequences that extend far beyond plunking down the MasterCard at the checkout aisle. Heck, I'll even settle for having them begin to check the country of origin label as a start.
- Santa, I realize you're a crowdpleaser and like to give children most of their wishes, but you of all people realize how times have changed. Belly up to the imaginative bar 00 not those dispensing "medical pot" mind you -- and select gifts that will motivate kids to step away from the flat screen and exercise their creative minds as well as their increasingly sedentary butts.
- Lastly, and most importantly Santa, less truly is more. The economy will not rebound via a holiday spending spree and -- hopefully unlike you -- gas is through the roof. I know you're real, but flying reindeer? Give them a rest along with the credit cards.