Essay talk:Polygyny

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I decided not to add this paragraph because my thinking on it is still a bit muddled:

It is hard to say what sort of economic relationship the family might best be likened to. A participant who pays money into it in exchange for benefits could be regarded as a consumer. However, the benefits may largely accrue to other people (e.g. children), so it might be viewed as similar to a donation. A participant who contributes work to the family and receives economic benefits in return (e.g. food, daycare) could be regarded as an employee. A participant who invests money in it could be regarded as an investor. It is not clear whether it is more like a capitalistic company, a nonprofit organization, or a cooperative.

Anyone have any ideas about what type of organization the family, especially a polygynous family, is most akin to? Nathan Larson (talk) 01:30, 19 July 2012 (MSD)

It might be a mistake to translate a family into the usual company/cooperation forms (in particular in the 'narrow', economic sense) - since it is a form of organization of its own (and preceding most if not all forms of organization in use today). But if it should be likened to something, it could be a non-profit/cooperative set up for a specific purpose, typically to take care of children, to produce happiness in the members of the family, etc. The "capitalistic company" in the vulgar sense may not be a good fit, in that families don't tend to evaluate their success (emotional profit?) with money - at least most families do not seem to. Of course, all families by necessity have to economize their means to achieve their goals. Most members of a family can be considered employees and consumers simultaneously, some possibly even investors. Pestergaines 02:04, 19 July 2012 (MSD)
It can be a fine line between the three groups, employees, consumers and investors. Even in companies, there's often an overlap. For example, I worked at McDonald's and also ate at McDonald's, and I worked at Corporate Executive Board and also bought the company stock. But usually there's a primary role that one plays and the others are secondary. E.g. in those cases I was primarily an employee.
Sometimes people do things that they know have a high likelihood of making them more unhappy, just because they feel driven to. For example, this article points out, "No matter how you control the sample, if you have two identical people—one with a child and one without—the parent will be 5.6 percentage points less happy. . . The best argument for children isn't that they will make you happy or your life fun but that parenthood provides purpose for a well-lived life." And Mises wrote that from some points of view, "all human striving appears vain and futile," that it is "inane," "can never bring full satisfaction" and so on. And yet the elan vital, or the inexplicable and nonanalyzable Id, impel man onward anyway.
It would seem that people find useful purpose, but not happiness, in the results of certain activities. Which is strange, because isn't happiness supposedly the object of all activities? "There is however no valid objection to a usage that defines human action as the striving for happiness" Mises writes. Maybe in some cases it is the striving itself, and not the goal, that brings happiness! An example Mises gives of this is hunting for sport. But that's really just leisure, I think.
Mises might have a point when he says that the activity of the creative genius is a third praxeological category. Some support may be offered by this article, which stresses the "well-being that comes from engaging in meaningful activity," although I wonder if that is just the joy of labor. Maybe the family is an organization in which people find enjoyment not so much in the result but in the process of striving for the result. Or in any case, they feel happier striving after it than they would if they forwent striving after it, much as the creative genius often finds much anguish in his work, but would feel even worse if he couldn't do it. It's like labor in that it feels like work to change diapers and so on, and there's the joy of labor; but it's also kind of like leisure in that the final result may not be what people care all that much about, except to the extent the actor is, as Mises described, "intent upon prolonging the period of provision beyond the expected duration of his own life." Hmm, there are a lot of phenomena going on here to try to wrap one's head around the implications of, and analyze them and put in their proper praxeological categories. Nathan Larson (talk) 10:42, 19 July 2012 (MSD)
This is why I prefer "removal of uneasiness" as a motivation for human action to "happiness" - we all can cite numerous instances when acting doesn't make us more "happy" in the sense we usually understand it, but it still leads (or attempts to lead) to a more 'content'(?) existence - or at least one where some uneasiness is removed... which of course can lead to yet another source of uneasiness, but such is life. That, and subjectivity of wants makes any easy explanation for the reasons people do the things they do so complicated.
Some people work for the sheer joy of it, some people do because it is meaningful to them, some want to achieve a great final result, some are in it simply for the money, most probably for several of those reasons. Hence "removal of uneasiness", however it applies for a given human being. Pestergaines 14:35, 24 July 2012 (MSD)
Interesting concept! It's tempting to want to resort to terms like "happiness" that people are more familiar with, but Mises evidently picked the "removal of uneasiness" terminology for purposes of precision and accuracy. Then again, I've had people claim that they don't act to remove uneasiness. E.g., I had a friend who went to meet his friends to play Dungeons & Dragons every day. I told him that he did it because he felt uneasy about the boredom he would feel otherwise. He said he didn't feel uneasy about it at all. Hmm, I'm guessing this falls in the category of what Mises talked about when he said, "Most of a man's daily behavior is simple routine. He performs certain acts without paying special attention to them." Probably this guy figured out a long time ago what would be the optimal means for him of removing uneasiness, and now he no longer feels much emotion about it because the matter is already settled. Nathan Larson (talk) 15:21, 24 July 2012 (MSD)

Famous polygynists who weren't motivated by religion

  • Erwin Schrödinger