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November 19, 2013

MARCUS: Competing views of giving

(Continued)

“That’s vulgar,” Oliver protests.

“No,” I say softly. “That is liberating the recipient who can avoid the tyranny or ignorance of a giver who does not understand or approve the recipient’s choices.”

“It takes all the meaning out of gift giving,” Oliver says. “A gift should reflect the opinion the giver has of the recipient.”

“People should separate the idea of gifts from the concept of behavior modification or the amelioration of need,” I say. “When I give a gift of music, I am telling the recipient what I think s/he should be listening to. If I choose a band I know the recipient likes, I am endorsing the recipient’s choices.

“When I give warm gloves, I say the recipient does not have the necessities of winter. I am correcting her/his oversight or poverty.”

“What a perverse view you have of giving,” Oliver says. “For you a gift is a criticism, not a statement of affection. You don’t partake of the joy in giving and receiving.”

“I don’t see it that way,” I protest. “My views are just standard conservative economics.”

Morton J. Marcus is an economist, writer and speaker formerly with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. He can be reached at mortonjmarcus@yahoo.com.

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