Monday, October 31, 2005

Marriage as a nexus of contracts

Neil the Ethical Werewolf wonders why
If a man is getting married just so he can have lots of sex with a woman who wouldn't have him otherwise, he's making a mockery of marriage and an awful decision. Do the old sexists who say these things see their marriages as long-term prostitution contracts? Is the emotion of love entirely foreign to them?
This reminds me of the as yet unwritten extension of Oliver Williamson's The Economic Institutions of Capitalism to marriage: marriage as a nexus of contracts. What is marriage but a cleaning lady/handy man, prostitute, cook and therapist? A fruitful analysis could be done of why some tasks are done within the marriage and why some are contracted out. We could examine the role of incomplete contracts (not fully specified pre-nup agreements, anyone?); the role of asset specificity (only some people could love such a person, or...), and the role of bounded rationality (who knew such and such about their spouse? How foolish was I?). Clearly a major void in the New Institutional Economics literature.

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