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Gift culture is a menace!

Let's start with the very concept of gifts: they're always worse than money, because if you gave money instead, your recipient could choose how to spend it. By choosing for them, the only thing you do is reduce the value you're giving them by spending it in a way that might not be what they most want.

This applies not only to relationships and traditions, but also to politics, where it's even more painful: for example, some USA politicians with ostensibly good intentions created the "Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program" aka food stamps, which gives its recipients a card that's like a debit card but can only be used to buy food. You can't use it to pay for rent, utilities, toilet paper, or even things required to consume food, like silverware. (Also, not all food stores accept food stamps.) Obviously this situation is strictly worse for poor people than if they just got money.

This problem may not fully apply to gift traditions like Christmas and birthdays, where it's common to ask people what they want ahead of time. But even if you never buy someone something they didn't ask for, it applies partly, because you might get the wrong variant of the product if you shop without the person who knows about it, or their desires might have changed between asking them and buying it.

Let's move on to the consumerism: gift culture punishes you for not having an endless list of things you want to buy. This was often the case for me in my teens: Christmas or my birthday was soon, I told my parents there weren't any more possessions I wanted, they harassed me to name something anyway, and when I didn't, they just picked something for me, which was usually worth absolutely nothing to me, like some toy I would never use.

Finally, traditions of expecting gifts are toxic, because they create an unnecessary obligation for everyone to remember to buy something for everyone else, which has ambiguous boundaries (for example, how much extended family is included?), an unnecessary mental burden of figuring something out for everyone, and an unnecessary opportunity for disappointment when you get bad gifts.

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