I married Mises; or, Adverse selection


In New York magazine, married couple Joseph Stiglitz and Anya Schiffrin talk about reading the book Spousonomics

Joseph Stiglitz: One of the things I disliked was that there was a lot of scorekeeping in the book.

Anya Schiffrin: That’s hilarious, ’cause you’re an economist but you don’t like to look at things in a quantitative way. You’re saying you don’t want to quantify relationships.

JS: It’s unromantic!

AS: And Joe is very romantic.

JS: For instance, one of the principles they use is cost-benefit analysis, and there was an incident in which a woman agreed to make love with her husband and she calculated it was going to take nine minutes.

AS: So she would lose nine minutes of sleep.

JS: Yeah. And then she looked at the benefit, and the benefits were a little bit better than the costs. But it raises the question: If it had taken twelve minutes, would she have decided not to do it? You know, “I’ll do a nine-minute thing but not a ten-minute, but I’ll be more enthusiastic if we do it for four minutes.” It just monetizes it, and that changes the nature of what it’s about, right?

Who said anything about money, Joe? Mises famously claimed that any society attempting economic calculation without prices would find itself ‘groping in the dark.’ But surely even a conservative in Red Vienna would have conceded that direct comparison of physical magnitudes – accounting in material terms – is the way to go in the bedroom.


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