Joseph Stiglitz and Anya Schiffrin on Spousonomics

Power econ couple Joseph Stiglitz and Anya Schiffrin weigh in on Spousonomics, the new book on the economic side of marriage by journalists?Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson. Here’s Schiffrin, who describes Stiglitz as “very romantic,” explaining one of his comparative advantages: “One of the concepts they devote a lot of time to is comparative advantage, which basically means ‘What are you better at doing?’ Because they point out that one of the tensions in couples is who’s going to do what. So, for example, Joe is phenomenal at making travel arrangements. He’s actually better than all the travel agents; he knows every bizarre schedule. Ask him when the last flight from Frankfurt to New York is, he’ll know. So he does that, which sounds trivial, but we travel a lot.” Stiglitz, for his part, cautions couples against “scorekeeping,” and says? “It’s true that all these concepts really are relevant-but don’t take them?too seriously.”

Nate Vellekoop

I might be wrong, but Joe versus the travel agents is not an example of comparative advantage, but of absolute advantage. The idea of comparative advantage is that even if Joe is actually better than all travel agents, he still should not book travels, but do the things he is better in compared to travel agents (e.g. doing economics). Even in the extreme case that he is actually the best travel agent in the world, he should not book any trip himself, but do research and let the travel agents specialize in booking trips. That's the place where there is room for trade that is beneficial to Joe and the travel agent, even if it happens to be that Joe outperforms travel agents on all dimensions.