How can I break the affection monopoly?

3rd July, 2010

Dear Economist,

I announce the General Theory of Affection Monopoly, and, like Keynes, I place the emphasis on the prefix “general”. Individual producers can collude and earn monopoly profits; Opec is the popular example. On a microeconomic level, individuals can collude to enhance “profits”. The General Theory of Affection Monopoly explains that women collude in an attempt to maximise profits.

In a monopoly, the producer restricts supply to maximise profit. By far, women in aggregate are the largest producers of affection for men. Therefore, women collude and restrict the supply of their affection to extract profit.

Are men hopeless consumers, like the western world with its oil requirement? How do we engage in a productive counter-policy to mitigate this threat?

Mike, New York

Dear Mike,

You may be right. This would certainly help to explain why women who flout this tacit agreement tend to be popular with men and unpopular with women. Some of them even enjoy financial rewards in exchange for their generous supplies of “affection”. Imagine!

However, your general theory is missing a key element: this is a bilateral monopoly. Women may be the largest producers of affection for men but men are also the largest producers of affection for women. You need an explanation for the undeniable fact that men seem to be on the financially disadvantageous end of this market. As an example: economist Lena Edlund has found that young women tend to live disproportionately in areas of Sweden where average male incomes are highest.

As for countering the cartel … Move to Alaska? Drill in protected wetlands? I’m not sure I wish to contemplate any further parallels. I suggest instead that you find a renewable source of affection: buy a tortoise.

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