Belfast Telegraph

Spousonomics gets to heart of the matter

Who'd have thought it? The 'dismal science' of economics has been manipulated into a publishing phenomenon in recent years, alongside multiple volumes of memoirs from celebrities like Katie Price - and children's books ostensibly written by the same celebrities.

But no other science, dismal or otherwise, has inspired the rash of books which economics has. Freakonomics applied the rules of economics to many human trends, answering questions which hadn't occurred to very many of us anyway, including why drug dealers tend to live with their mothers. The Tipping Point delved into similar subject matter, analysing when unusual things become unstoppable trends.

Now economics has been applied to the field of romantic relationships in Spousonomics, a self-help book by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson, financial journalists from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

They maintain that principles like division of labour can be applied to marriage and can help the institution work. Their advice on the thorny issue of chores is to do what you're "relatively" good at and "trade" the rest. You must also use "incentives" to ensure your spouse does what you want, such as pay the bills on time.

And they also apply the theory of asymmetric information to the question of finding Mr or Mrs Right and not making a decision you come to regret. They consider why many more wives than husbands wish they could go back in time and choose someone else.

They claim that's because women don't do enough research, compared to men, and cite the example of a second-hand car seller, who wants to sell a car which they know has been involved in several accidents to someone who doesn't know the vehicle's chequered past.

Rather than end up with a clapped out old banger - or an unsatisfactory spouse - you must to do your research.

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Our economists haven't yet waded into the field of romantic relationships, being content to confine their wisdom to inflation and interest rates.

But what about apply the rules of relationships to successful economics? Given the galloping rate of inflation and the likelihood of it raising temperatures in the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, some relationship advice there may come in handy.