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Toys and the human condition

Why does market failure appear to be endemic in the toy industry? Surely better planning could eradicate the annual Christmas shortage of the cult toy, which drives up prices and causes misery. Paul Ormerod considers the appropriate role for government

By Paul Ormerod   January 1998

The problem is the same almost every year. Whether it is Teletubbies, Buzz Lightyear or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the free market seems congenitally incapable of anticipating the level of demand for the toy which becomes the ne plus ultra of every child’s Christmas stocking.

Such a state of affairs is most unsatisfactory. Market short-termism is spoiling Christmas for many of our poorest and most excluded citizens. Investment in the toy industry, as in so many other British industries, has been far too low for far too long.

Training and education are, of course, essential to enhancing the skills and…

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