Morton J. Marcus is an economist formerly with the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. His column appears in Indiana newspapers, and his views can be followed on a podcast: https://mortonjohn.libsyn.com.
Each year at this time I visit with Elvin Elfenhousen, one of Santa’s skilled workers at the North Pole. Elvin, however, was away and I was, to my surprise, ushered into the office of the Big Man himself.
“Yes,” he said after the niceties were exchanged, “Elvin is out scouting locations, if we decide to move the workshop.”
I don’t know how I retained my composure. Here I was discussing one of the most historic decisions in economic relocation since the Ball Bros. moved from Buffalo or the Dodgers from Brooklyn. “What makes you think you ought to move from these hallowed huts?” I asked.
The Big Man looked down at his boots. “Things. Too many things are changing too quickly and Mrs. Claus wants to spend time visiting places we barely have time to see on our annual rounds.”
“I’m sorry, but which changes do you find so distressing?” I asked.
“Clearly,” he answered, “the environment. Once upon a time, little more than a century ago, the North Pole was the goal of explorers, an icon of eternal fixity upon a distant star. Today our physical base is melting and our mythological foundation is drifting.
“It’s not just climate change,” he continued. “Cultural and technological change erode simple gratitude that was once our greatest reward. In our time, a wish, a dream was transmitted by a hand-written letter. One waited for weeks for the special moment of discovery on Christmas morning. Today, a wish is electronically transferred as an order, to be fulfilled in an hour and revealed at any time without ceremony or significance.”
“Would you stay on with the Workshop or retire?” I asked.
Santa fluffed his beard. “I don’t know,” he said. “Is it time for me to go? Would the world, particularly the children, be better served by new leadership in this chair? Is our one workshop, one delivery system still valid? What’s best for the elves and the reindeer, my colleagues and friends over many, many years?
“Where is Elvin making inquiries?” I enquired. “A relocation of your workshop would have far more significance than the recent Amazon announcement. What subsidies, er, uh, considerations would you be discussing?”
“We’ll avoid that,” Santa asserted. “There will be no bidding war. No special districts. Here at the North Pole we are not subject to taxation by any government. As an institution based on the faith of children, we should be exempt from taxation.
“Most of all,” he continued, “We want to avoid parents, grandparents, and others who think they understand and know what is best for children. Hence, we seek a community with 19th century conveniences and sensibilities.”
“Indiana!” I exclaimed. “That’s the place. Inadequate internet, few enforced environmental or safety regulations. Good grazing for the reindeer.”
“I’ll think about it,” Santa said.