The Economics of Christmas lights

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A friend posted on his wall that his neighbors are more advanced having put Christmas lights out.

This got me thinking, why bother buying them, putting them up, electrifying them and then taking them down again?

After all, the economist wonders, what is in it for you?

The very same non-economic contribution is going on online, every single day. More and more of the content we consume was made by our peers, for free. My take:

People like the way it feels to live in a community filled with decorated houses. They enjoy the drive or the walk through town, seeing the lights, and they want to be part of it, want to contribute and want to be noticed too.

Peace of mind and self-satisfaction are incredibly valuable to us, and we happily pay for them, sometimes contributing to a community in order to get them.

The internet (blogging, social media etc) is giving more and more people a highly-leveraged, inexpensive way to share and contribute. It does not cost money, it just takes guts, time and kindness.

No wonder most people do not insist on getting paid for their tweets, posts and comments.

Two asides: First, it is interesting to note that no one (zero) gets paid to put up Christmas lights, but some towns are awash in them.

and second:

I think there is a parallel to the broken windows theory here.

Broken Windows theory asserts that in cities with small acts of vandalism and un-repaired facades, crime goes up.

The Christmas Light corollary might be that in towns [or online communities] where there is a higher rate of profit-free community contribution, happiness and productivity go up as well.

Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends.

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