• Sandra Ericson

Traditional Economics - House of Cards

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

Old economics joke: When a man marries his housekeeper, the GDP goes down. She moves from paid to unpaid.

Except that, it's not funny. Half the population of the US cannot laugh at it. But what they can do is to establish a parallel universe in which traditional, market based economics have little application. In many countries this alternative universe has become so established that its repercussions are now placed on top government agendas. Japan, for instance, now has so many women who are not marrying that its aging workforce cannot be replaced, even one for one. Their conundrum is extra problematic since Japan has traditionally not welcomed immigration. In the US, as women now outnumber men in graduation rates, and more are earning salaries that cover independent living, the economic incentive to marry is decreasing and more see a single life as a complete one. As many women are finding out, autonomy is attractive and an equal opportunity source of personal satisfaction. If one were to imagine a society without marriage and its gender hierarchy, then one would imagine all the ways shared living could be negotiated -- this is happening right now. If this were to become the norm, using such negotiating power on the personal level, the very structure of health care, financial management, political power, workforce composition, generational turnover, all society's economic factors that play into national economic health come into question.  Market analysis holds still long enough to make a pronouncement but human analysis is a perpetual moving target. The only way to gain a picture of national economic health, as opposed to that of each state, is to strengthen national commonalities. One example might be a national common education system instead of each state determining different educational priorities and each school board doing the same. As the US is discovering with the pandemic, a commonly held approach to a national necessity is turning out to be much more important than previously believed. The idea of individuality at all costs and all times is the first floor of this house of cards.