Charles Dickens’ character Scrooge has lasted for more than two centuries because we love to witness a villain who stubbornly refuses to see the value of human connection and kindness -- and then, suddenly, gets it! Scrooge comes to mind when re-reading The Deadweight Loss of Christmas (pdf file), a now-classic essay that appeared in the venerable American Economic Review in December 1993 (vol. 83, no. 5, pp. 1328-1336).
In the mid-1990s, my colleague Jonathan Rowe co-authored a major piece in The Atlantic about the gross deficiencies of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a way to measure national well-being and progress. The essential point was that our nation’s obsession with economic growth as an end in itself was (and is) trampling on all sorts of other forms of wealth that we must also nurture. We need stable families and communities as much as economic growth — and sometimes the two are in direct conflict.