Thursday, 19 March 2015

Yea Free (Dating) Markets

Just because we can extend the market-as-metaphor to just about every human activity, doesn’t mean that every human activity is “really” a market. It’s one way of looking at an activity, but not the only one, and often, it’s not the best one. However, dating and marriage has always been thought of transactionally and as a market. Men compete for women, women for men: women bring dowries and connections, men bring respectability, prospects, money and the inestimable value of taking a daughter off her father’s payroll (except in Africa, where women are valued workers, and her father has to be compensated in livestock). Romanticism was a reaction to that, but it works better when house prices are below three times average earnings, and rents are lower still.

Markets are a mess when the information isn’t available: when nobody knows how to measure the quality of the goods, or gets a chance to, and the costs are hidden and no-one knows what prices other people are paying. That’s how it was in the old dating and marriage markets. Everyone got married far too young for their weaknesses to show and their flaws to turn into cracks. Tattoo Girl never got a chance to get a tattoo and show her true colours, but that didn’t stop her behaving as a girl who wanted a tattoo, much to the puzzlement of her husband. Shrew Woman just came across as a feisty teenager, and developed into shrew to her husband’s dismay: now she can turn into a visible shrew while she focuses on her career.

Paul Feyerabend memorably stated in a footnote somewhere in the original Minnesota Studies version of Against Method that a world in which a louse was free to be a louse was a better world than one in which she wasn’t, and then added that we needed a strong police force to keep the louses from ruining the lives of regular decent people. I’ve always agreed with both parts of that sentiment. A world in which Tattoo Girl can emblazon herself is a better world than one in which she can’t - and it’s an even better world when everyone gets to see her tattoos and can decide whether they want to wife her up. And it’s a truly wonderful world when it’s possible to see, before marrying the crazy sexy girl, that her behaviour is actually full-fledged bi-polar, or borderline, or alcoholic, or coke fiend, or one of an endless liist of dysfunctions and disorders. Because then you’re not going to marry her.

That list of dysfunctions and disorders is long, and covers about 20% of the female population. Then it turns out that 25% of women don’t really want to live full-time with a man, but need to marry one before they find out, and then they divorce him. Allowing for co-morbidity, that’s at least 1 in 3 women you really needed to know were not suitable for marriage. Sadly, that includes a large proportion of the small number of women who are above the Pretty Line. And it doesn’t mean that the other 2 out of 3 will be wonderful spouses: it just means they aren’t actually crazy or unsuited to partnership.

The previous markets really did encourage girls to deceive: they didn’t need to keep the deception up for long, maybe a Season, maybe two, and then they could just let all the inner demons go. In this market, only the crazies can keep up the deception for long enough, and that’s because they choose targets who can be rushed into a decision: the other girls don’t even bother trying to be deceptive, because they know they can’t keep it going for a year or more. And let’s not forget that a lot of times in the old markets you wound marrying a plain Jane with upper lip hair and think ankles because your Daddy needed to do a deal with Plain Jane’s Daddy, and guess what? you taking Plain Jane off her Daddy’s payroll was part of the deal.

What’s really happening is that the dating and marriage markets are working better than they ever did. Men have much better information, and women aren’t faking as much. That honesty is saving today’s men from the lifetimes of misery that hundreds of generations of men have lived through, and many still do.

Liking the market isn't the same as liking what's on sale there. But then, I'm a bachelor and have absolutely no understanding about why the legions of young men over at RoK and other sites complain about the quality of women available. You're going to have sex with them and move on, for heaven's sake. You're not going to move them in, and you sure as hell aren't going marry them. I have no idea what twisted feelings would make anyone feel otherwise, or pressure thier sons into marriage. To that extent, the feelings and motives of a large chunk of my fellow men are an utter msytery to me. And it's why I like this market: I get the information I need, more or less in an instant, because it's etched into the girls' faces, and shows their body language and choice of clothes. Yea free markets.

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