In Chapter eight of Cowen’s Discover Your Inner Economist he provides examples of how markets exist for the seven deadly sins. Just to put them in common terms, the sins are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.
One thing that gets me about this chapter is the inherent flaw present in it (the flaw being one of value judgments). In the beginning of the chapter Cowen states “not everything we want is good for us” (163). Later on, he says “This chapter doesn’t have a major or startling recipe for self-improvement. It is instead a cautionary tale of how the learned still can go astray. It is a warning not to get too smug” (163).
It is my guess that many of you have seen the movie, The 40 Year Old Virgin. After reading about Imaginarygirlfriends.com, I could not help but draw a comparison to the part of the movie when Andy tries to make his friends think he is not a virgin. It is common knowledge that TONS of guys say things about their escapades with various women in order to make people think they are cool. Men like this are the reason why markets for imaginary girlfriends exist. The market for imaginary girlfriends enables these “men” to actually purchase evidence to prove that their girls actually exist.
After Cowen describes Imaginarygirlfriends.com he states “Markets without values-or markets based on bad values-can misfire, with ugly results” (166). The problem here is he never defines no or bad values. What is a bad value? Maybe a bad value to Cowen is, actually, not-so-bad in someone else’s eyes. I think that it is absolutely hilarious that a guy would go as far as to pay for a girlfriend that isn’t real. In terms of ugly results, if the man caught purchasing the fake girlfriend is caught, people will point and laugh. This creates an ugly misfire for the fake girlfriend-purchaser, yet creates a moment of happiness for others, especially those who had to listen to the stories, as they watch the “man” bask in shame. Maybe the joy created by this market actually outweighs the harm done to the consumer of the fake girlfriend.
What I simply don’t understand is why this market is so bad. Obviously, it is sad for a man to purchase a fake girlfriend. However, you must admit, that creating a business in the fake-girlfriend career field is an interesting idea. After all it is a market which, most likely, possesses great demand and little supply. Selling fake girlfriends is about as creative a business idea as one can come up with. What makes this so bad? In order for Cowen to make a strong argument as to why this market is bad, he would have needed to say what his value judgments were. By not revealing his value judgments, we have nothing to base his statements on, making it much harder to deduce their validity.