Before the media created the idea of marriage as an emotionally-driven commitment, it was a simple economic transaction. A man exchanged his financial provisioning and physical protection for a female’s chastity and guaranteed paternity of his children.  In modern western culture, however, marriage has become a sham of misaligned values and perverse incentives.  Legal precedent and the feminist court of public opinion have conspired to deprive married men of all power, encouraging women to extract maximum value from them without providing anything in return.

Economists have a term for such actions that facilitate transfer of wealth from one party to another without creating new value: “rent-seeking”. Classic examples include political lobbying and government-mandated membership programs to reduce competition in a private industry (such as issuing taxi medallions in New York). In fact, there is already some economic research on viewing no-fault divorce through the paradigm of rent-seeking. I present to you the following revolutionary observation cited in this groundbreaking study:

“Allen and Brinig (1998) show that differences in sex drives between spouses affect spousal bargaining strengths: the spouse having the lowest sex drive at any given point during marriage has the property right over whether or not sexual intercourse will occur, thus increasing his or her bargaining power.”

Shockingly, this study doesn’t go far enough. Due to various legal and financial incentives, I contend that the entire institution of western marriage has devolved into a rent-seeking arrangement. From Wikipedia:

“Rent-seeking implies extraction of uncompensated value from others without making any contribution to productivity. The origin of the term refers to gaining control of land or other natural resources. Studies of rent-seeking focus on efforts to capture special monopoly privileges such as manipulating government regulation of free enterprise competition.[4]

[As opposed to profit and wages], rent, by contrast with these two, is obtained when a third party deprives one party of access to otherwise accessible transaction opportunities, making nominally “consensual” transactions a rent-collection opportunity for the third party.”

Sound familiar? Western marriage facilitates women capturing monopoly privileges over their husbands. Bolstered by modern divorce law, they no longer have to create value as part of the transaction. Women are entitled to cash and prizes in nearly all divorce scenarios, and even in the worst case they will have significant help from the state with raising their children. Women who choose to remain married continuously extract rents in the form of subservience, financial provisioning, and sexual denial from their husbands, even as their added value approaches zero.

This system remains in place because we punish men for exercising choice in the market, without any such punishment for women. Both law and public opinion deprive men of transaction opportunities that would yield infinitely more value than a fat nagging wife. If a man cheats on his wife, it’s grounds for financially devastating divorce and he is shunned for being a cad. If a woman commits infidelity, she is praised for being “liberated” and breaking free of an otherwise fine man who was not catering to her every emotional and psychological whim.

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This isn’t simply a problem for married men. The rent-seeking nature of marriage snuffs out the social value traditionally created by the institution. It discourages a traditional division of labor allowing each partner to do work that befits their talents and self-actualization. The lack of value-creation in modern marriage also reduces the chance of producing well-adjusted children who will contribute positively to society.

Though we like to point out the frequent incongruence of female behavior with their stated goals, humans at our core are predictable creatures. We behave in response to incentives and act in our own self-interest. The clear economic solution to this problem is to limit the female-dominated monopoly privileges inherent in our marital system. Since this is unlikely to happen anytime soon, as a man you are best served by understanding the cold rationality of this transactional process and taking steps to ensure you are not victimized by it.

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