Friday, December 21, 2007

What women want

Via the Freakonomics blog:
Richard Gray at the U.K. Telegraph reports that Sir David King, a University of Cambridge chemist, staunch global warming activist, and one of Britain’s top government scientists, gave the following advice to a woman who asked him what she could do to curb global warming:
“Stop admiring young men in Ferraris.”

A general point here is that I don't think women fully realise the massive collective influence they have on (heterosexual) men via their sexual decisions. Men are very powerfully motivated by the desire to impress women, I think even more than they generally, half-jokingly admit. David King touches on one male behaviour pattern he'd like to see changed, I'm sure you can think of many more. Advantaged men playing fast and loose with the rules, dodging taxes, ripping people off? Disadvantaged young men showing no interest in learning things and instead wreaking havoc on the streets? Men being generally violent, whether outside the pub or with their own families? How different would the motivations to engage in these kinds of behaviours be if within the relevant social groups women treated such men with complete sexual indifference? That is, in each case, if the behaviour led to the man being treated as though he were short, fat and profoundly ugly. Note that in all three cases, if the anti-social behaviour were pointed out, many women would disapprove, but what matters is what they do - revealed preference in econ jargon - and in all three cases I'd argue that it's not the case that such men are shunned. You could even make a case that (perversely) some aspects of these kinds of behaviours are rewarded by women.

Of course, even if it were true that women could exert some influence in this fashion, it would not follow that they ought to. It is the men in these cases who are at fault. But it's an interesting thought that women collectively have a powerful policy lever available.

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