Recycle Circus: The Commerce of a Community

What is it about other peoples’ junk? Last Sunday was Recycle Circus, the day in our town when people clean out their sheds and garages and bring the stuff down to the community center, which is called the Dance Palace.  Volunteers unload the pick-ups and spread the items out on the street.  People have a ball sifting through the old plumbing fixtures, exercise equipment and lengths of gutter.

Some do get a little grabby.  They hover near the trucks as they are unloaded, ready to pounce on cabinet or desk.  It made me think just a little of the wealthy matrons from the suburbs who would throng the entrance of the original Filenes Basement in Boston, and descend like vultures upon the sale bins when the doors opened. But that wasn’t the dominant note.  Recycle Circus isn’t just about stuff, or even mainly. It’s a community event, a kind of festival, when you just enjoy being out with others with the winter finally gone.


Gifts2: Economist Calls Christmas a “Deadweight Loss”

Did you know that Christmas in the U.S. is wasteful?  Not in the way that is numbingly obvious to most of us, but in a narrower and more technical way that suits the strange form of human mentation called “economics.”  According to media reports, an economist by the name of Joel Waldfogel at the University of Pennsylvania has been asking college students to put monetary values on the gifts they receive from others.  Generally these values are less than what the givers actually paid.

The result is what the professor terms, with what one hopes is witting self-parody, the “deadweight loss of Christmas.”   He puts this loss at between ten and eighteen percent of Christmas spending, which means that billions of dollars a year go down the drain as he conceives it. That doesn’t mean energy and raw materials, trash and the rest. It means the difference between the dollar value that recipients put on gifts and the amount the givers paid for them.



A child is born, and its first cry goes right through you.  It changes you; and more it creates you.  Something that was latent and unrealized – a parent – comes into being; and from that moment the child’s urgent, insistent, all-consuming need is something you will do your best to meet.  You made him or her; and at the same time, he is making you.

I wonder if this reciprocal birth, this raising from the latent if not actually dead, is something of what this day is supposed to be about. I know it is what a human economy is about.  Our free market friends regard an economy as an arena where heroic individualists and equally heroic capital do their mighty and self-generating deeds.  But in fact an economy is a co-production – a multiple co-production – up and down the line.