Knocked Up

This humorous and philosophical film — strongly recommended — also offers an implicit market failure argument: raising children is the main thing that goes on in a marriage, yet few of us choose life partners on that basis.  The film suggests that a random allocation might be better than selecting a partner on the grounds of smarts, common interests, attractiveness, how good he or she makes us feel, and so on.

I can think of a few hypotheses:

1. Common interests in life are correlated with common philosophies of child-rearing, so all is well in the marriage market.

2. High-status men and attractive women are also best at raising children, so seek those sorts of partners in any case.

3. Forget what your utility function seems to be telling you, seek a partner who is willing to do all the dirty work when it comes to kids.  Seek submission.  This is worth way more than you at first think.

4. Common interests hinder effective child-rearing, since it means the partners have more to lose when children take over their lives.  Opt for a low expectations marriage.

5. We should require prospective marriage partners to play sophisticated computer games, mimicking the familial struggles they will later face.  In the limiting case, dating should be replaced by joint kid-raising sessions, using small and unruly robots if necessary (the film in fact portrays this).

6. Judith Harris was right, genes matter but not how you raise your kids.  Marry whomever you want, following nature’s dictates, and neglect the little buggers that result, it doesn’t matter.

None of these hypotheses, in my view, replace the default option of simple market failure.  And yes this is one of the biggest institutional failures in the entire world.


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