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The Economics of Finding a Soul Mate – A Singapore Tale of Love.

Posted by intellisg on August 15, 2007

soulmate.jpgRecently, I lunched with a university mate of mine and half way through, he lamented how it’s almost impossible these days to find a “decent” girl. Usually, I don’t butt in till the rant runs it’s course, but on this occasion. It just came out the way it did. Please don’t press me where it came from. I have absolutely no idea besides I have a good excuse, I fell down a flight of stairs when I was six and hit my head in every conceivable direction to qualify as a “believe-it-or-not” showpiece. I am serious. I even have those grainy X-rays and autographed plaster cast to prove it.

What did I say? Well something like this, “Maybe you’re still single because you don’t understand the economics of getting hitched?” That did it, my friend promptly stood up, flashed a flustered look of frustration and promptly packed off leaving me to pay the bill. Now as I sat there negotiating how I could down the remainder of his tuna sandwich without getting half of it on my trousers.

I wondered to myself why can’t we use economics to make sense of love? I am serious. Hell, we use it from everything to send a man to the moon – designing how wide roads should be even how many families should be pigeon holed into HDB estates. It begs the question: why do so many use economics as a basis for making sense of matters of the heart?

The case for using economic theorems to improve one’s chances of getting a decent rack is compelling. In fact it should be a matter of strategic priority given that Singapore suffers from one of the most dismal baby production rates in the region. Added to that the ranks of singles are growing, threatening to cause a public menace. Judging from the way those erudite ladies in SPH (sister’s of perpetual hesitation) regularly post me charming mail threatening to feed me to Rotweillers – something definitely needs to be done to redress the imbalance on the grounds of national security. So let’s dive into the debate; can we really use economics to improve the odds of stemming singlehood? Where the mantra is, we missed the boat our aim must be improving?

It’s hardly rocket science, not when you consider the nuts and bolts of how economics works, reducing men and women into functional aggregates and making allowances for the odd serial killer and suicide bomber is exactly new, the Soviets did it big time and judging from the way, they rammed up the population after most of them died in WW 2, it worked wonders. Besides what’s so difficult? It’s a simple straight line calculation : if supply is high, demand will be low; if supply is low, demand will be high.

The subject interested me enough to conduct my own feasibility study and as much as I would like to say the findings are encouraging, the whole proposition of using economics to increase one’s chances of falling in love may be more complicated that it seems.

A few issues militate against using economics to increase our chances of reversing the prevailing trend. Firstly the case for “happy” marriages is waning, however we wish to cut it, we’re living in an age when divorces outnumber marriages and the number of hook-ups a person has surpasses the number of days in his longest relationship. Real relationships—committed, meaningful, and lengthy—seem to be few and far between, and the absence of sustainability makes me wonder: what’s operating behind the scenes regularly throwing out spanners and spoons as spoilers in the machine of love?

Before I begin, let me be quite candid about the whole issue of love – it’s not entirely true to say economics hasn’t been brought to bear in the field of increasingly one’s changes of getting hitched. Remember the SDU program? That homily sugary Jerusalem where lonely hearts frequently search for their “soul mate” wail away like the wall? By lying through their teeth how slim, smart and beautiful they are, till of course you see actually see them only to pull the cord on the ejection seat. More like the consortium of deluded compulsive liars association. OK maybe I am too hard on the SDU, I know what you are going to say, SDU failed because the whole idea of stimulating head of heels, infatuations and fatal attractions was probably so flawed because it failed to take stock of our innate characteristics as humans. We all know economics aren’t supposed to be directed to emotions don’t we?

Yes well spotted. Besides “man is a hunter” not that you will ever realize it in Urbana Singapore, where the only thing, I have hunted in the last 3 years is a rat in my neighbors apartment a handful of cockroaches and of course my socks which regularly go missing. Hardly the stuff that makes the hair at the back of my head stand up. But yes, I hear you, the primal urge to hunt is indeed too strong to deny along with the whole idea of sport – the thrill of chase and the agony defeat rapidly followed by the car re-possessor staking you for when you default on your car loan because you’ve been trying to impress her and what did you get for it? A big fat nothing – by that time you’re probably joined the “go and die la” singles crowd – back to square one again.

Never you mind, better to throw the cusps into the air, risk everything than never to have tried before. Besides what decent man goes to a zoo like SDU to hunt? There’s no sport might as well shoot fish in a bucket, pick bar brawls with a midget or something. Feel better now. OK, there it goes into the poop chute.

The other problem with using economics to make sense of matters of the heart is it fails to take stock of chemistry. You know what I mean don’t you. No I am not referring to the fight you had with that dodgy kebab raging somewhere in your intestinal tract. You know what I mean don’t you by le magical spark that same one that sets you on fire and gives you the shakes like dengue fever every time you see her. Where would we really be without that hint of some great expectations that speaks of a happy life together? There are of course the minor issues which economics don’t really tell you about like: how long can you stare into the eyes of your partner without coming across as a suicide bomber? Or how long you should hold your smile without coming across as a serial killer –these I am sure are just minor details in the surreal footage of trying to find a mate in Singapore. Sorry you’re on your own there economics doesn’t show the way – out it goes!

One of the biggest problems about using economics to improve one’s odds of getting a decent girl lies in understanding that the weaker sex isn’t really suited to fit the economic model. Economics after all remains a cold science that depends largely on huge chunks of immovable assumptions. One of them being: humans will always maximize on an opportunity to realize a utility or advantage. Anyone who has ever dated a girl will testify for one, they have lousy sense of trade off –driving through town, paying the ERP and parking in a premium spot makes sense, if they can save $1 on a blouse. You try explaining this to them using a decision tree? Try it I bet you, you will end up strangling her.

The other thing about women is they have absolutely no notion of time – and we all know when you have no sense of time, it simply means strategic planning goes right out of the window.

Neither do they have even the basic framework which allows economic theorem to work through their lives. Don’t believe me? How many of you have heard this: you don’t spend enough time with me? Yeah sure, I am with you and all I am doing is typing on my computer and trying to synch my iPod along with down loading some illegal tunes and you say, I don’t have time for you! No I am just a hologram, I am not here, don’t mind me! So again the whole economic calculus of return on investments turns to mud.

Let’s see what are we really left with now? Not very much except to throw out the book of on economics. As much as I hate to admit it, my beetroot friend who walked out on me could be right after all. The verdict is clear: it’s pointless to use hard nosed economics to improve your chances of getting hitched.

Happy Hunting!

(This has been brought to you by your friend Brotherhood Controller, Aurora / Written by Astroboy, Scholarboy & Harphoon / Musings / Economics/ Sociology – ES 9908209 – The Brotherhood Press 2007)


3 Responses to “The Economics of Finding a Soul Mate – A Singapore Tale of Love.”

  1. Taking forward your theory of supply and demand, lets look at a few pointers.

    Why does a man/woman want to get married? Whether you want to admit it or not, its for sex. Any other reason is plain bull.

    Since S’pore is not a closed society, the opportunity for a girl/guy to have sex is plenty. Think of all the innumerable MMS videos floating around starring school/college going kids.

    When they get what they want so easily, there is no incentive to get married. Plain and Simple. Supply and Demand working here.

    Btw, iam not advocating that the authorities clamp down on the sexual interaction between kids 😉 When the novelty wears off, people will graduate to other things in life.

  2. hircus said

    we’re living in an age when divorces outnumber marriages

    Happily, that at least is unsustainable; over the long run the number of divorces cannot exceed that of marriages 🙂

    As for the economics of paying for ERP, I’ve not been in Singapore for a while, and didn’t drive while I was there, but in other regional cities (KL, Jakarta) paying to use toll roads does tend to result in saved time and petrol (and since time is money..). Though why would you drive to go shopping in Singapore? (ok, I know the whole thing is an exaggerated rant anyway)

    There is a place to use economics in dating, though. Not within individual dates (romance should not be, at least on the surface, about cold calculations, after all), but in not putting one’s eggs in one basket (forgive the pun). Do you date one girl (or one boy) at a time, or do you simultaneously date several people to maximize your chances? (until you go steady with one of them, that is. One is not suggesting polyamory here, unless it floats both sides´ boats. Or every side’s boats as it might be).

    In my (humble?) observation, though, it’s hard to pull off the multiple-date strategy without appearing to be a b****rd/b***h. YMMV.

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