Monday, December 23, 2002

Elfinomics 101
In today's Wall Street Journal, Micheal Judge analyzes (link requires subscription) the economic consequences of the Santa shortage:

It takes much more than cherubic cheeks, a bright red suit and a weight problem to be Santa these days. Criminal background checks are merely the first in a long list of requirements to be met before one can so much as go ho-ho-ho at anyone under four-foot tall.

In the industrially-challenged English town of Wigan, one hears, new government guidelines on child protection have led to a six-week vetting process. Not surprisingly, there's a serious Santa shortage. "A few years ago you could ask someone's grandad to be Santa," store manager John Parker recently told the Wigan Evening Post. "But you are not allowed to do that anymore." (Perhaps not such a bad idea given the probable blood-alcohol level of the average Wigan grandad around the holidays.)

The beer-loving Brits (God bless 'em) aren't the only one's clamping down on St. Nick wannabes. From Australia to Anchorage, impersonating Kris Kringle has become a serious (and potentially lucrative) business. In our politically-correct, hyper-litigious culture, the risks associated with wearing a furry red costume and sitting a child atop your lap are simply too great for many would-be Santas.

But as in all markets, elfin or otherwise, the greater the risk the greater the potential return. Welcome to Elfinomics 101. Scarcity boosts prices. A smaller Santa supply (due to tighter regulations) combined with a growing demand (film manufacturers hiring them up for photo-ops in malls) is sending wages through the roof -- or in this case, up the chimney.

For aspiring Santas willing to endure the background checks and sensitivity training, there's some serious cash to be made in this environment. A properly vetted, professionally trained Santa working seven days a week can clear as much as $30,000 in a single Christmas season. Top Clauses (not the mall crawlers) working corporate and private gigs can rake in as much as $500 an hour.

Potential returns are so high, in fact, that professional Santa schools are a growing trend. One of the oldest and best established is called, appropriately enough, Santa School. Located in Calgary, Canada, it's run by longtime Santa-hand Victor Nevada, a dead ringer for Father Christmas who kindly offers a two-day, $300 course on the art of being the Jolly One.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Rich Christmas
This gem from a letter writer in today's Australian:

WE should not accept disdain from those who hold Christmas to be too commercial.

It is perfectly moral to regard Christmas as a celebration of wealth. We celebrate wealth during the festive season through prolific shopping, offering and receiving gifts, indulging in splendid food, enjoying Christmas parties, decorating our homes and taking leisurely holidays.

True wealth can only be created by thinking and hard work, in countries which recognise individual rights. Those of us who understand that the symbol of the dollar is the symbol of the free mind, and therefore of the free man, would like to see Christmas be more commercial.

David Lee
Croydon, Vic

Right on.

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