Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Battle of the Sexes: Bryan Caplan vs. Megan McArdle

Bryan Caplan:

When women see how little housework men do, they interpret it as "shirking" - a willful violation of basic norms of decency. Men, in turn, feel unfairly maligned by the accusation (or, perhaps more often, by the stink eye).

Who is right? Let me just throw away any future career in couples counseling, and say: Usually, men.

The evidence: Look at the typical bachelor's apartment. Even when a man pays the full cost of cleanliness and receives the full benefit, he doesn't do much. Why not? Because the typical man doesn't care very much about cleanliness. When the bachelor gets married, he almost certainly starts doing more housework than he did when he was single. How can you call that shirking?

vs. Megan McArdle:

I'm no neatnik, but this is . . . daft.

1) Men who live alone clean less than men with male roommates. This is because your own mess is much less unbearable than mess generated by other people. I assume that Mr. Caplan covers negative externalities at some point in his classes.

2) Coasean reasoning only holds if you believe that marriage somehow eliminates all transaction costs.

3) Mr Caplan seems not to have heard of the tragedy of the commons.

4) In most relationships, even keeping a two-person apartment at the level of a bachelor pad seems to be done mostly by the woman, which would seem to indicate that the men are, well, shirking.

5) The introduction of kids raises things to an entirely new level of mess, again, usually beaten back mostly by the woman.

6) Does Mr Caplan think that "person with the lowest standards wins" should be a general rule for marriage? Can women unilaterally quit their jobs because they're content with a lower standard of living, or spend the retirement fund on shoes because they don't mind spending their golden years in penury?

I think Megan wins this one...

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I willfully choose to disagree. It's my bias, and I'm sticking to it.