Past event: 2014 Public Finance Christmas debate

In December 2014, Government Economics Network and the Chair in Public Finance were pleased to present the 2014 Public Finance Great Festive Debate:

This house believes the Christmas extravaganza is a waste of time and money

Andy Williams reckoned "Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year". While a fine singer he was no economist, and so at this event two teams will debate the lessons that economics provides on this season.

Given research published in the American Economic Review showing the deadweight losses of Christmas gifts, should people simply give cash instead? What rights should people who don’t enjoy Christmas (like the Grinch) have to negotiate this season away? And, more generally, is the Christmas extravaganza a waste of time and money?


  • Eric Crampton, Head of Research, New Zealand Initiative
  • Patrick Nolan, Principal Adviser, New Zealand Productivity Commission


  • Anne-Marie Brook, Principal Adviser, The Treasury
  • Bronwyn Croxson, Chief Economist, Ministry of Health

The proponents argued for the motion that the ‘Christmas extravaganza’ was a waste of time and money. However, they were ultimately defeated, through audience vote, by the opposition, which appealed to the sentimentality and emotion of the audience. There was great participation and engagement from the large audience, and it was a fun afternoon for all of those who could attend.

Have a look at Eric's blog for his perspective on the afternoon.