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11 December 2008

Indulge the urge to splurge this Christmas

By Aloysius McDowell

We would like to reassure readers that this issue of the New Statesman offers no advice on Credit Crisis Christmas gifts to make at home, no Christmas Crunch recipes for under a fiver, no Dozen Ways to Deal with the Depression, no advice on Parties for the Penniless. For some reason, it has become de rigueur to boast of the frugal festivities you intend to inflict on family and friends: the 50p limit on presents, the witty newspaper tree decorations, the sheep’s-head puddings . . . Stop, please!

Such pessimism endangers the economy and would even be a criminal offence in Latvia, where a university economics lecturer, Dmitrijs Smirnovs, was arrested last month for telling his students, in a Darlingesque kind of way, that things were arguably pretty bad. Happily, Mr Smirnovs was released after two days and, while we do not condone enforcing economic optimism, it would be good to see a little of it here. For, paraphrasing Keynes, it is our gloom about the future that risks bringing about the very result we all hope to avoid.

Objectively, most of us are no worse off this Christmas than last. Those with tracker mortgages may be better off. Petrol is going down in price. Retailers are offering huge discounts. And, if you are in work, what else can you do with your money apart from buy things? Save it at 2 per cent interest? There is really nothing better to do this Christmas than spend your cash (or give it to a cause that will). Indulge the urge to splurge!

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