Growing up, among my favourite holiday story was Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In this tale, we accomplish the curmudgeonly Grinch, that hates the Christmas season and therefore decides come “keep Christmas native coming” come Whoville. To perform so, he devises an evil system to steal any kind of trace that Christmas from the town—removing who pudding and roast beast from kitchens, taking Christmas trees and also wreathes that adorn homes, and even lying to small Cindy Lou Who. Once he and his trusted canine companion Max return to their hill top lair and revel in your malice, however, the Grinch is startled to hear the whos joining together in song and also celebrating Christmas—which came without ribbon, tags, packages, boxes, or bags. See the Whos’ joy regardless of not having actually their decorations and also gifts reasons the Grinch’s love to thrive three sizes. Upon returning Christmas to the Whos, the Grinch is welcomed and even joins their celebrations.

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Sounds prefer a heart-warming vacation tale, right? The miserly Grinch sees the whos celebrating Christmas together despite adversity and also has a change of heart. If this could be whereby the story ends, what does economic theory need to say about it? economists traditionally i think that human being act in their own self-interest, or that they execute what is ideal for them personally in ~ the time. This would describe why the Grinch stole Christmas (because it uncomfortable him), yet we don’t really recognize why he provided it back.

Economic Altruism

Luckily because that our purposes, the late economist Gary Becker has actually written around economic altruism, or why world act benevolently once it may injury them (or lessen their income). In his work, Becker explains two species of people: altruists and also egoists. Altruists space willing to offer up few of their revenue to rather or to benefit society as a totality (which we can consider to it is in “social income”), if egoists think just of themselves. However, egoists can engage in seemingly altruistic habits in times that the overall benefit come them outweighs the personal costs. That is, they can give up few of their income (to one altruist or come society) if this would then advantage them more than what they gave up. Becker calls this “simulated altruism” because their actions show up to be altruistic but their intentions space not.

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With ours Grinch example, the Grinch is most definitely an egoist at the beginning of the story—he steals Christmas native the Whos for his own benefit despite thinking that he will decrease the Whos’ social income. However, once he sees that the whos still celebrate despite his actions, return Christmas come the Whos. The Whos climate welcome that with open up arms and give him the honor of carving the roast beast. However, has actually he really end up being an altruist, as the narrator says (his love did thrive three sizes after all), or is he just simulating altruism because he look at it together an chance to further advantage himself (with the invitation to dinner and the respect of carving the roast beast) through pretending to it is in benevolent? after ~ all, what benefit would he gain from a sleigh-load of Christmas gifts and toys, when he go not also like Christmas?

Now ns may have actually mellowed your holiday cheer (economics is the dismal science, after ~ all), yet not even I can stop Christmas native coming.