Past event: 2015 Festive Debate

An overview of the 2015 Festive Debate.

The Government Economics Network and Chair in Public Finance present:

This House Believes “You can put a price on happiness (even at Christmas)”

The Chair in Public Finance and the Government Economics Network had the pleasure of hosting a light-hearted Christmas debate and networking event on 9 December 2015.

“Christmas is the happiest time of the year”. Can we be sure about this? Do policymakers need a measure of happiness at Christmas? And could measures of happiness tell us precisely how much happier Christmas makes us?

An analysis along these lines has practical implications. It could enable a more robust Cost Benefit Analysis of the Christmas extravaganza and provide insight into the impact of the season on measures like GDP and Living Standards.

No doubt there will be challenges in measuring how happy Christmas makes us. How should we deal with exchanges that do not usually have market prices attached to them? And what about any possible externalities from activities like carol singing?

Speaking for the motion was Professor Arthur Grimes, Senior Fellow at  Motu  and Professor of Economics at the University of Auckland, who presenting a compelling and entertaining argument about the costs associated with happiness and Christmas - complete with musical accompaniment. Dr Veronica Jacobsen, Chair of the Government Economics Network, spoke against the motion touching on the concept of happiness, how this is obtained and the inherent joy of Christmas. Professor Norman Gemmell , Chair in Public Finance at Victoria University of Wellington closed the debate with some brief comments lead by a quote from Coco Chanel - "The best things in life a free, the second best a very expensive". The questions from the audience were lively and engaged and the votes were very close indeed.

Thank you to all of those able to attend the Christmas debate.