Dear Economist

Is a wife valuable property?

Dear Economist,

I live in a strange European Union country where one of our members of parliament declared his wife, who is a housewife, an economic asset in the wealth statement required by parliament. Was he right to do so? Was he fair towards his wife, who is also a human being?

Miroslaw Wasilewski
Warsaw, Poland

Dear Mr Wasilewski,

You raise two questions: the first is whether a housewife can be an economic asset. The answer, surely, is yes. An economic asset is defined by its ability to produce a valuable flow of services. These could be financial (a portfolio of shares) or physical (a car) or both (a house).

Presumably your man in Warsaw derives both financial and non-financial benefits from his wife. Even if she does not earn monetary income, her unpaid labour reduces his financial outgoings – a financial benefit. If she is nice to have around the house then that is a non-financial benefit too.

But is this definition fair to the wife? There is no contradiction between being valuable and being human. So the question is whether this valuable human being should be regarded as property. I don’t see a problem in that. Property is something to be cherished…

Continued on ft.com

1st of July, 2006Dear Economist • Comments off