Friday, December 23, 2011

My Christmas gift to you is a link to the Wikipedia entry for "revealed preference."

Increasingly, I'm convinced that news articles recommending giving gifts that the recipient doesn't actually want are not actually about providing recommendations that are supposed to be useful, but instead a literary device that enables the author to mount her soapbox on behalf of a familiar cause without her plea sounding tired and shopworn. Ignoring the gimmick aspect of the genre would be akin to my husband's refusing pick up Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation because he is Jewish and it is rude to read letters addressed to other people. Or encouraging my sort-of boss to stop writing "Questions for the President" blog posts because the President never seems to answer his questions,  without realizing that the "question" device is a clever way of framing his commentary on Obama's policies.

Take, for example, the most extreme and outrageous entrant into the genre that I have yet discovered -- ""As a Christmas Gift, Tell Your Friends and Relatives That They Are Overweight." No sane person can possibly think that this is intended to be real gift-giving advice. Please, please, as my husband points out in a somewhat different context, while we can perhaps easily judge the health risks associated with a friend's being overweight, it's much harder for us to figure out how much pleasure the other person gets from indulging in her bad habits. This would counsel for leaving our friends to their own devices and not sticking our nose into others' private business. Fortunately, most of us do this already.

That said, the genre's feeling pretty tired to me already. I'm starting to prefer my "here's why you should support my pet cause" sermons straight up, rather than watered down with "here's how this is relevant to the Christmas season" gambit. I'm in luck then that it's December 23. But I hope that this particular form of gimmickry gets retired next year, seeing how not-fresh and not-original it feels. 

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