Over the years, Santa Claus has been a controversial figure. Grinches inside the Marxist-Leninist movement in the Soviet Union banned Father Christmas for religious purposes. Critics have decried that Kris Kringle is a symbol of egregious commercialism. The Science (TM) says presenting Old Saint Nick to children as an authentic figure is terrible parenting (but viewing politicians as the legendary figure is not). Racial paranoiacs have lamented that he is an emblem of white supremacy. If families are interested in ditching 2024 election discussions at the dinner table this holiday season, another debate can be started: Is Santa Claus a capitalist or a socialist?
Santa Claus – Tycoon or Authoritarian?
The hallmarks of capitalism are simple: the freedom of association, division of labor, free-market pricing, private property, and, as economist Elaine Sternberg wrote in 2015, the “absence of coercion.” By comparison, socialism possesses one vital attribute that can summarize the ideology: force. Of course, with compulsion comes a trail of death, misery, suffering, and unhappiness. What’s more, a crucial component of the philosophy that inspired murderous dictators worldwide is egalitarianism, meaning that agony and despair must be equally distributed, except to the tyrants.
In today’s world, a tycoon running factories, overseeing an enormous workforce, and not paying taxes would typically be viewed as a capitalist pig exploiting the poor and abusing the tax code. However, a deeper dive into Santa Claus reveals a man who meets the criteria of a capitalist hero. Here is an itemized list of what makes him a successful capitalist as well as an anarcho-capitalist or anti-statist:
- Does not depend on the state for subsidies or infrastructure. Who will build the roads? Santa Claus, it seems.
- Invents, maintains, and employs energy-efficient resources to manufacture products and service his property and sleigh.
- Depends on voluntary cooperation in his relations with the elves, suggesting that his workers are happy to work for their employer.
- Satisfies customers every year with a diverse inventory of presents, even if they are naughty (let’s face it, children are constantly engaged in uncouth behavior throughout the year).
- Shares the wealth without any threat of violence by the state.
Some will contend that the character behind Santa Claus dates back to an impoverished Turkish monk unrelated to Christmas. Others purport that the figure is based on Western folklore. Ultimately, the argument is that capitalism exploited Santa, bastardized the season, and transformed it into a commercialist nightmare. However, even if this were true and Coca-Cola scooped up the character, then this is an example of the economies of scale: Companies increase production and lower costs, resulting in an incredible supply chain at the North Pole. If Hasbro acquired the Santa brand, the industrial merger would lead to greater customer satisfaction across the globe, allowing both sides to trim their input expenditures and expand output at a cheaper price for the customer. Or, in this case, it is free.
Like capitalism, Father Christmas benefits the affluent and the impecunious. There is no discrimination involved. What’s more, this occurs without taxpayer-funded corporate welfare or edicts from the government. He is both a capitalist and a philanthropist, donating his capital and time.
If Santa Were a Socialist
When innocent, uncompromised children – and even the skeptical and corrupted adults – conjure up images of Santa Claus, are these thoughts cynical and gloomy? Hardly. But they would if he were a socialist. Elves and reindeer would starve because there would be no food available. The personnel may even be shipped to the Killing Fields should they fall short of a production quota. The sleigh would be a dilapidated vehicle polluting the environment. Gifts would be the same bland brand of gruel in a dented aluminum can. Santa would be too lazy to even climb through the chimney. Instead, he would burst into the house and freeload off the families, taking most of their food in the refrigerator, “and the one speck of food that he left in the house was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.”
Is Christmas too commercial? Of course. Consumers are drowning in debt to buy stuff for people with the money they do not have. What is the alternative? A season of dread that becomes a December to dismember, a nightmare during Christmas, and a reworking of Mariah Carey’s torturous song, All I Want for Christmas Is Not to Be Thrown Into the Gulags.