The $100,000 Spouse

I love reading economics books! I will continue to rave about Charles Wheelan’s Naked Economics because, frankly, it is the best economics book I’ve ever read. In a class entitled “Business Public Policy,” there leaves plenty of room to doubt the excitement of the content. However, a stellar professor and simply captivating reading material has propelled this class to my all-time favorite!

The book ranges from humorous to hilarious, all while covering critical economic topics relating to the Great Recession including various types and measures of GDP, exchange rates, etc. I find it fascinating that despite reading five books on the matter, that there are still polarized opinions about the causes and resolution methods for fixing our broken economy. This blog won’t touch that though…

My favorite laugh out loud moment (and inspiration for the blog title) was a very detailed passage on “happiness” and how it is measured. For some reason, the measure of U.S. citizens who were identified as “very happy” plummeted from 36% down to 29% between 1970 and 1999, despite the monstrous growth of the 1990s. The great thing about economists is that they like to quantify everything, especially when it comes to happiness and well being, which in turn drives decision making. According to a study, a lasting marriage is worth $100,000 a year to a person, meaning that married people are “as happy” as someone raking in six figures a year. I’m not implying that an increase in divorce rates is the cause of the decrease in happiness, but in economics it is very easy to see how correlation can spill into a centralized idea from an array of areas.

The concept of placing a monetary value on something like being married just tickles my funny bone. That point manages to impress upon me that being married for a “happy benefit” to be completely absurd while also making sense. A clump of neurons in my gray matter actually understood what was being discussed and the concept of utilizing things we value. We do shop, socialize, and interact because we reap some benefit, such as being fed, feeling happy, getting paid, enjoying new toys, and so on. Economic decisions are no different. It’s true that it’s nearly impossible to generalize or lump together decisions made across a diverse population, let alone an entire country, but the principles stay the same. We do things because we feel that we get some added benefit from it for less than it “costs” us.

I greatly appreciate the honesty written into this book. He’s not writing to cast blame or defend politic choices; he is simply writing to convey the economy principles that were broken in 2007 leading to the recession. Also, Wheelan does not claim to have all of the answers:

…recessions are like wars: If we could prevent them, we would. Each one is just different enough from the last to make it hard to ward off.”

The other concept that just clung to my business-driven mind was the idea that money may not even be necessary. After all, what’s a dollar really? Why has our American dollar value suddenly decreased? Why do the green bills count for anything? According to Wheelan, wealth is stored in things like houses, cars, and human capital and are what truly provide value. Money, however, is simply an exchange medium for goods or services. We could survive as a barter-based economy, however, his whimsical point that exchanging chickens for books sold from Amazon would be a logistical nightmare. I love it ;-)

I’m not presumptuous enough to assume I know the answer to any of these questions, but I am a proponent of self-education. Education (as I will always argue) holds the key to a world of knowledge and information, so I encourage you all to find resources about topics that just fascinate you and go learn something new! I don’t care that economics isn’t my area of study or something directly related to my work, but I do care that it has a direct impact on me as a citizen because I vote, because I pay taxes, and because I am an active member of my society. Pleading ignorance will only stifle your growth as a human, so why not do some extra digging and begin to glean knowledge on topics you may not have a clue about?

I hope that your weekend presents great opportunity to enjoy the things in life, because as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Think about how you choose to spend your life this weekend and what it actually costs you (not necessarily monetarily). Not everyone on the planet gets the privilege of spending their time how they want…

P.S. As a side note, I would NOT encourage you to tell your spouse that you would leave them for $100,000 a year… I’m safe because I’m not married :-) Happy Friday.

Picture credit 1Picture credit 2.

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3 Comments

  1. Russell,

    I will share one of the best books on economics I have read, It is “Economics on Trial” by Mark Skousen, published by Irwin, and available through Amazon, at least used ones are. This is not a typical book by an economist trying to tell how to understand economics. It is someone who can think both outside the box and also from a US Constitutional framework. Skousen also gives the reasons you have the textbooks you have and why we have the econimic advosors we have. He offers a good reading list for further study. Also I highly recommend that you see the film “Inside Job” which can be obtained through Netflix, for a realistic view of what happened in the 2008 collapse fueled initially by the sub-prime mortgage loans Congress forced on the banks. The film interviews high mucky-mucks around the globe, and is a good means to see how real world events are played out through real people making real decisions that affect the whole world for good or bad. I have an interest in economics too, although not my prime profession, because having an un-biblical view of economics drags lots of people down. In short, Satan’s economic model is a debt-based system (no one can do anything without getting a loan from a bank, not even our own congress (( from the Federal Reserve)) ). God’s system is equity and wealth-based. Everyone is free to grow his own apple or orange tree and trade his excess from tilling the garden. The more one tills and cultivates the more increase one has. The free-er he is to trade his surplusses, the more everyone prospers. Fathers hand down their well-run businesses to their sons so that each successive generation does not have to start a business or wealth-building from scratch, but instead grows and grows from generation to generation. That is the basic God model. Anyone who tries to intervene in the free process of producing or exchanging (which governments and banks do all the time with regulations or baseless paper) subverts the system and degrades it or destroys it. With love, Tim Fichter.

  2. Hey Tim,

    Great hearing from you! And thank you for the book reference, I actually just ordered it on Amazon :-) I am quite interested to hear his thoughts from the Constitutional framework you refer to. Also, thanks for the movie reference. Another great movie that provides insights into corporate greed is the “Smartest Guys in the Room” dealing with Enron. It’s astounding how much thieving and robbery they got away with and that they are still in denial about their actions! The nature of the fallen world… it will be interesting to watch our economy over the next few years and see how that intervention takes its toll!

    1. Russell,

      Great to hear that you will get the book. Yes, our world is greatly fallen and the evil in the world would boggle all our minds if we know it all. Somehow, God puts up with it and moves it all forward, regardless, to achieve a glorious end, eventually. Amazing. Let me know what you think after you read it.

      Skousen also wrote another book I am reading called “The 5,000 Year Leap.” It contains “the 28 principles of Freedom our Founding Fathers said must be understood and perpetuated by every people…” These books are published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies. It sounds like the Skousens are/were LDS, but that takes away nothing from the scholarly approach they have taken to our constitution, government and history.

      Are you familiar with “Nevada Concerned Citizens”? It is run by Janine Hansen, also LDS and she cut her teeth on NCCS teaching. She distributes a monthly newsletter covering pending legislation in Carson City, and a voter’s guide for conservatives at election times. You should sign up if you haven’t already. I think you can Google them and get their website for starters. There are born-again Christians on the board, too, including Richard Ziser, who was going to run against Harry Reid a few years back.

      Love, Tim

      On Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 9:04 AM, Russell Aar

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