In the article, “The Real Problem With Monogamy: Asymmetric Information”, Bryan Caplan presents the notion that due to the inherent nature of asymmetric information the revelation of one partner’s views regarding monogamy results in a distinct dissatisfaction of the other in the partner that revealed the information (Caplan, 2009).
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This is not to say that the other partner prefers or rejects the notion of polygamous relationships but rather, as Caplan explains, “people pretend to be more monogamous than they really are ” in that it is the belief of Caplan that despite some people espousing the need to be monogamous only they themselves know whether what they say is what they will actually do (Caplan, 2009).
What must be understood is that the concept of asymmetric information specifically states that in situations where there is a distinct imbalance in power transactions wherein one party has more information than the other the end result is a distinct possibility of the deal not pushing through at all or going sour.
In this particular situation, one partner confessing leads to two distinct possibilities wherein the other partner either agrees with the partners views or wholeheartedly rejects them.
The one problem with Caplan’s views is a distinct fundamental flaw in the way he voices his arguments. For one thing, he states that people either sincerely like or sincerely dislike monogamy which means that when a person confesses two possibilities should occur of two opposite natures, either positive or negative.
Yet, Caplan states that either reaction will be distinctly negative despite the nature of parties either being for or against monogamy. He even goes on to state that people “pretend” to be more monogamous than they really are which implies a view where he believes people tend to stick to preconceived social institutions rather than expose their true views.
For me, a better stratagem would be to view the possible situation of confessing one’s views under the model of game theory and the prisoner’s dilemma. For example, in a high/high situation both parties have the same views about monogamy and would be the best possible situation, it must be noted that this particular outcome would only be possible if both parties cooperated (i.e. knowing before hand the type of person the other is).
In a low/high situation one person is either for/against monogamy while the is predominantly against it, this is similar to the high/low situation where the other partner is predominantly for it.
As it can be seen in this particular situation giving away information results in a distinct advantage for one party and a distinct disadvantage for the other. In a low/low situation both parties don’t confess and don’t even mention the topic at all, in this particular situation the equilibrium is stable.
Based on this model it can be seen that the most advantageous situation where there is a state of equilibrium for both parties is one of either high/high or low/low. In order to attain a high/high state of equilibrium and to avoid the problems with asymmetric information as stated by Caplan is to create a symmetric situation for views to be exchanged.
One economic concept that can be applicable to this situation is the use of “market signaling” wherein certain activities helps to provide information about the other party (Leppämäki, 2009). Based on this it can be said that entering into relationships with people that share the same views would be the best choice.
In order to ascertain a person has the same views it would be best to enter into a relationship with a party that you’ve already had a sufficient level of market signaling with such as a close friend or person that you talk to on a regular basis since through their inherent signals you can already ascertain whether they are either for or against monogamy in a relationship (La Greca & Mackey, 2007).
This would result in a high/high situation based on game theory and would be the most advantageous situation to be in.
Another possible solution is through the low/low situation wherein both parties don’t speak of their preferences. Such a situation is already evident in society today wherein most people tend to give half truths or false statements regarding their orientation on the topic.
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This is of course is due to their adherence to social institutions that continue to state that polygamous relationships outside of marriage are wrong. Thus in this particular solution there is a silent acquiescence between both parties wherein they both choose to not bring up or mention the topic.
What must be understood though is the fact that economic theories and concepts are not wholly applicable to understanding the inherent nature of individuals especially in terms of their societal views, thus when taking into consideration the views of Caplan and his use of asymmetric information it is best to apply them to economics rather than use them to understand the personalities of individuals.
Caplan, Bryan. (2009). The real problem with monogamy: asymmetric information. Retrieved from http://www.econlib.org/archives/2009/09/the_real_proble.html
La Greca, A. M., & Mackey, E. (2007). Adolescents’ Anxiety in Dating Situations: The Potential Role of Friends and Romantic Partners. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 36(4), 522-533.
Leppämäki, M., & Mustonen, M. (2009). Skill Signalling with Product Market Externality. Economic Journal, 119(539), 1130-1142.