Not all frames of reference are zero-sum

I am sometimes in environments with large numbers of attractive women. Other times I am in environments where attractive women are rare. In the former case, I do not become desensitized to all the hot young women, (or at least, only a little bit.) I still react differently to the different crowd. Male brains are programmed to react to certain signals of beauty. We are attracted to women who appear fertile…, and [anatomy is] part of that (although perhaps for foolish reasons, ie the equivalent of peacock tails). Having more of those signals does not make the signals meaningless. If what we are attracted to is fertility, then if everyone looks fertile we will be attracted to everyone.

…Is all beauty relative? Hell, no! A man in a crowd of 22 year-olds will do more ogling than a man in a crowd of 60-year olds, even if he is in those crowds long enough to adjust his beauty scale. He may become choosier about which 22-year olds he finds attractive, but he will still find a higher proportion of the women attractive.

Read more here, and yes it is safe for the workplace.

My question: When do we find that purely voluntary games are zero-sum?  If my neighbor resents my excellent music collection my gain still probably exceeds his loss.  Or if I compete more effectively for a spouse, my spouse gains; the net gain is usually positive even if other men lose out.

Since status is almost everywhere, virtually all marketplace transactions have both positive-sum and negative-sum elements.  But the average expected return on these games still has to exceed what is available from purely private pleasures, otherwise drop out from the game.  So few of these games create zero or negative value, all things considered.  Nor do we have a good idea which voluntary games should be taxed at the margin for a relative excess of negative-sum status competition.


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