Caplan on Finding "The One"

Thursday, March 07, 2024

I sometimes bookmark good advice in anticipation of wanting to be able to factor it in if my kids ask for similar advice later on.

Bryan Caplan's "She's the One," on evaluating romantic partners, is a good example. Caplan wrote the piece in response to a reader's question, and he artfully combines his own life experience with his knowledge of markets to answer the question.

And don't let our culture's hatred of capitalism cause you to dismiss that combination as inhuman or calculating: The piece is spot-on and very enjoyable to read and think about.

He comes up with eighteen points, the last of which was probably my favorite:

Image by Álvaro CvG, via Unsplash, license.
My 11-year-old daughter vocally opposes changing yourself to better please the marriage market. "You've got to be true to yourself," she declares, with poetic wisdom beyond her years. My reply: Sure, you should think twice - nay, thrice - about violating your conscience for romantic rewards. But what if the marriage market rewards changes that you yourself classify as self-improvement? When the marriage market rewards you for working hard, and you agree that you ought to adopt a better work ethic, hard work is "true to yourself." We're all flawed human beings, so you have plenty of room to self-improve with pride. And if women like you better as a result, that speaks well of them, not badly of you. [bold added]
There are minor points I disagree with or have strong reservations about, as is the case with almost any advice I pass along. (At the same time, even those points are still thought-provoking.)

For example, Caplan's assertion that all traits are heritable includes personality traits. This sounds deterministic to me, but still provides food for thought: If someone with an awful personality is raising one's children, that can rub off on them or otherwise cause it to be harder for them to develop in a healthy way.

I highly recommend the piece both for its advice and the thinking it will invite.

-- CAV

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