For many people the clash of economic theory and home entertaining can trigger a sharp upswing in the Household Anxiety Index. Not that Ben Bernanke seems to care.
But there's no reason to panic. We're here to walk you through it.
If you are like most people, the rekindled debate among competing economic theories has thrown your dinner party planning into disarray.
From the seating arrangements – classical-Keynesian-classical-Keynesian? – to the menu, there is virtually no part of the evening immune from potentially awkward clashes of methodology or ideas.
It goes without saying that the demands of completely unfettered, free-market style entertaining cannot be reconciled with the requirements of etiquette. No one really wants to compete for pie, no matter what their philosophical views.
And while some guests may not approve of overt attempts to orchestrate the course of the evening, a little central planning can greatly reduce the risk to your social currency.
A well-planned cocktail hour will start things off on the right note no matter what the Fed chairman says. Trendy, Depression-era cocktails, however, should be avoided, as these are likely to spark protracted bickering over the wisdom of government intervention in the economy.
Wine is a safer choice. While the trade-offs are subject to debate, a good rule of thumb is to open a Keynesian bottle first. Fans of the champagne loving John Maynard Keynes would rather spend too much than live to regret a lesser vintage.
This can also serve as enough of a distraction to keep them out of the kitchen, where they are prone to bouts of tinkering that may or may not improve the state of the moussaka.
Stick to topics of broad general agreement: the real cost of a thing is what you have to give up to get it, a rising tide will lift at least some boats and nobody looks good with a Greek haircut.
Be sure that your planning includes extra dessert, no matter how many guests have offered to bring one. This will smooth over any embarrassment over the fact that the disciples of Adam Smith and the Austrians, acting on nothing more than individual motivation, have all brought pie. No one knows why this happens, but it is every host’s nightmare.
Does everyone get an equal piece of the pie? Should the pie be larger? Is pie even a good idea? What do you do with all of the leftover pie?
These are questions that can throw the best laid table out of balance. But a quick-thinking host can restore equilibrium by substituting other baked goods for the surplus pie.
As Milton Friedman might have said, it is very hard to fight over cupcakes.
This piece first appeared in Crain's Chicago Business.
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