Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Book Review: Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson
No, I am not getting married. But the BF is moving in in a couple of months, so naturally as I clean out closets, I am thinking of division of labor for household chores, that sort of thing. I heard about this book a couple of weeks ago on NPR's Marketplace, and it sounded fantastic. Also my father, the economist is coming to town this week and I find it helpful to brush up on econ terms and concepts in anticipation. But I am trying to be economical and not buy many books (certainly not hardcovers!) but I read the first chapter at the bookstore, and was hooked.
The brilliant thing about this book is that it is hilarious. From the Exhaustive, Ground-Breaking, and Very Expensive Marriage Survey to lines like this: "Molly punished Tim, an incentive we don't recommend lightly but one we do recommend sometimes, like when your spouse is being an annoying dipshit," this book uses humor to make economics accessible and relatable. Each chapter tackles an economic theory such as incentives, trade-offs, or moral hazard, using three concrete examples from the Exhaustive, Ground-Breaking, and Very Expensive Marriage Survey, as well as some mini-examples in sidebars. Sidebars also hold condensed biographies of Great Economists, and some lists and studies. If the sidebars make this sound a bit like a Cosmo article, it does have a hint of that. Not so much to make it silly or insubstantial, but enough to make it fun and easy to read.
I have seen loss-aversion, incentives, and supply and demand at work in my own life. It's terrific to see the concrete examples of them all shown here. Economists are notoriously emotionless, which may sound like harsh people you don't want to be helping with your relationship, but it's quite the opposite (well, the authors aren't actually Economists for one thing.) When emotions are running high and anxiety and hurt feelings come into the mix, it can actually be a huge advantage to have some impartial plans to address situations. Throughout the book, in the examples, the authors don't ever say "A is right and B is wrong." Instead they show how applying economic principles can lead to compromises where both parties will end up mostly happy.
Naturally, I thought this book would teach me some methods to get my BF to do some things I want him to do, however instead, I think I'm going to ask him to try to use more positive reinforcement incentives with the things I'm trying to change, as those work so much better than negative reinforcements. Funny, that is absolutely not the conclusion I was expecting to arrive at when finishing this book. I loved this book and whipped through it in just a couple of days. Unlike most books I read, I will hang onto this one for quite a while. Not only because the end quiz is recommended to be taken every 6 months or so, but because while the problems are very, very few now (apparently because we are still in a state of limerence, hopefully not in a bubble), reality dictates that won't always be the case, and I'd like to have this cold-shower book around for advice and reality-checks. An excellent book for anyone in a relationship!
I bought this book at B&N.