All Commentary
Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Please Protect Us from Santa Claus

A modest proposal

Dear Mr. President:

We applaud your valiant efforts to protect the American economy from the pernicious effects of cheap imports, but we fear you have overlooked one of the worst culprits.

Readily available goods for the consumer at reasonably low prices have been shown time and again to be toxic to domestic producers, who are the backbone of any advanced society. We urge you to expand your scope and protect us from someone your predecessors have neglected to stop: Santa Claus.

Every year on December 24, we struggle to fall asleep, anxious over the arrival of the villain known as Father Christmas. Santa’s crimes are not breaking and entering or stealing foodstuffs. No, Santa is guilty of the much more serious crime of destroying American jobs. Products imported from abroad and consumed domestically make Americans worse off. Every “gift” from Santa represents a reduction in measured American welfare; this is one of the fundamental assertions of national income accounting when calculating gross domestic product. In fact, the North Pole is worse than other countries, for the North Pole does not receive any goods produced for export from the United States. Thus, the US trade deficit with the North Pole is entirely one-sided.

American jobs lost due to Santa

Mr. President, using the methodology your own Council of Economic Advisors employed in evaluating the effect of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, where the volume of dollars spent by government equated jobs created or saved, we can estimate the employment impact the North Pole deficit has.

A recent Gallup poll reports that 77 percent of Americans identify as some sort of Christian and are therefore eligible to receive presents from Santa for good behavior. Crime-rate data published in the National Crime Victimization Survey, which gives a sense of the prevalence of naughty behavior, indicates that in 2013, there were 2,905 property crimes reported for every 100,000 people. Unreported crimes, however, are not reflected in these data, and Santa, of course, knows if you’ve been bad or good. As a means of attempting to capture this unreported bad behavior, assume that 90 percent of crimes go unreported, or that actual bad behavior is 10 times as common as the data suggest. This means that there are approximately 68,895,000 people who have been “good” for the year and are thus eligible for Christmas gifts.

Economist Joel Waldfogel’s groundbreaking analysis estimates that the average person receives $462 worth of Christmas gifts each year (in 1992 dollars), meaning that Santa takes away from us a potential $53 billion (2013 dollars) worth of economic activity. This is enough economic activity to employ another 1,193,000 full-time workers at the median household salary of $44,389. With the economy recently experiencing one of the worst downturns since the Great Depression, these jobs have never been more crucial to a nation’s recovery. But Santa’s economic terrorism does not stop there.

Santa as an anti-competitive monster

Recognizing the serious problems with monopolies, the US government passed a trilogy of bills (the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 and the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914) as a sort of last resort to counter the oppressive behavior of corporations, which tended to grow to an unreasonable size. History is rife with examples, from John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil to Bill Gates and Microsoft, where the government successfully stepped in and corrected obvious market failures and improved the lives of all citizens.

“How does this apply to jolly ol’ Saint Nick?” you ask. His company has successfully integrated both vertically (Santa’s elves do everything in house, from production to distribution) and horizontally (while Santa is best known for making toys, he has expanded his empire into tablets, personal computers, and even automobiles, as recent car commercials attest). What’s more, he is also likely to be the single biggest violator of intellectual property rights in all of human history. Santa has an unfair advantage compared to other businesses, which must purchase their materials and shipping services from other companies.

This unfair business advantage has forced companies in the United States to kick off the holiday shopping season the day after Thanksgiving with a ritual known as “Black Friday.” In an attempt to capture what little of the market they can before Santa and his band of thieves dump toys, electronics, and other consumer goods on the world economy, some stores advertise sales as great as 50 percent off suggested retail price. This business practice is clearly unsustainable.

Illegal labor practices

Santa has managed to grow his empire through perhaps the most nefarious of means: child and slave labor. According to the critically acclaimed 1994 documentary The Santa Clause, starring Tim Allen, Santa has been using child elf labor since the beginning of his operation. Will Farrell’s 2003 documentary, Elf, confirms that once a worker becomes a part of Santa's conglomerate, he or she is bound there for life, as we see when Santa personally comes to New York City to collect the rogue elf, Buddy.

Further, the working conditions of Claus’s cadre of elf labor are unknown. We do, however, know from NASA and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s geothermal imaging of the North Pole that no significant thermal activity exists. This means that elves lack basic necessities like lighting and heat; it also means that their work must be done by hand. Forced to endure six months of night, the elves’ working conditions fail every reasonable standard set by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The United States has historically led the charge of correcting these practices elsewhere, which has had the demonstrable effect of improving people’s lives worldwide. Yet, Mr. President, you and Congress refuse to act in this situation, leaving elves perpetually impoverished.

Bypassing border control

Santa’s ability to penetrate the woefully unmonitored Canadian border highlights the potential threat of other undocumented immigrants’ entry. The US Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security, sharing responsibility with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has proven incapable of securing entry into the country and collecting the duties levied by law on all imported goods. Despite the tracking of Santa’s whereabouts each year by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), nothing has been done to protect our borders from this scoundrel. We must agree, though, that attempting to capture Santa may be a moot point, as he has been estimated to travel in excess of 650 miles per second, which no current military technology can keep up with.


The fact of the matter, Mr. President, is that all foreign producers have a degree of Santa in them from a domestic perspective. Foreign producers sell us goods and services, and while they do not do so at zero price like Santa, they still charge a lower price that our domestic counterparts are either unwilling or unable to match. Unlike Santa Claus, however, these foreign producers send us their “gifts of good cheer” 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. What’s more, they do not restrict their gift giving to any particular religious group, but instead offer their gifts to all the boys and girls regardless of religious affiliation.

We therefore urge you to be logically consistent: either recognize every foreign producer that sends exports to the United States as if they were like Santa Claus, celebrating their efforts at enriching our lives, or recognize that Santa is simply another foreign producer, and condemn his activity as destroying American jobs.

  • David Hebert is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ferris State University. His interests include public finance and property rights.
  • A lifelong resident of Northern Virginia, Austin Middleton is a PhD student of the history of economic thought specializing in Adam Smith's political philosophy at George Mason University.