The paperback edition of Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love by Marina Adshade, a UBC economics professor, comes with a new title but it’s still the same book providing the same insights and the same shortcomings. Overall I recommend the book, including to social conservatives, who would do well to understand the so-called market forces at play in issues many of us too often think are purely moral matters.
Adshade does a good but incomplete job examining the incentives to various behaviours, finding for example that when it comes to promiscuity, there are much lower costs in terms of shame and pregnancy thanks to changing cultural values and birth control, than there once was. She says on back-to-back pages that promiscuous women acted as they do not for “lack of moral fortitude” than a rational calculus of the costs and benefits. She claims once they do this, there is little reason to say no to premarital sex.
To Interim readers, the casual way in which Ashade treats birth control, abortion, and “hooking up” may be off-putting, but it is necessary for those with religious or other moral objections to these practices to understand why people behave as tshey do; it just might lead us to better engage the culture understanding the incentives to immoral behaviour rather than dismissing a huge number of people as cretinous evil-doers.
Yet at the same time it is curious that Ashade does not give any consideration to morality in the cost-benefit calculus. Certainly there should be room in the sexual-pleasure-minus-bad-consequences equation for some consideration of one’s soul.
Oswald Clark writes about economics and U.S. politics for The Interim.