How to bring back the economic component of the women’s sphere?

To a large extent, the retreat of women from their own discrete sphere is driven by the stripping of its economic components due to various technological factors.  The question for conservatives is how to seriously and meaningfully deal with this aspect of the traditional women’s sphere instead of declaring that it either doesn’t matter or is a solved problem since an individual woman can “work from home” for her family’s financial benefit in limited, specific, idiosyncratic instances.

It’s a tough nut to crack, not least because certain economic things women did that were compatible with the domestic sphere as they lost their traditional trades were themselves only viable options due to mass media that evolved from technological advances.  I’m speaking of the numerous housewives and stay-at-home daughters who wrote to support or supplement their families’ incomes, of course.  But the markets they sold into would not have existed without the very technological forces that led us to the atomized, isolated housewives of the latter 20th and now 21st century.  And it’s so hard to communicate the loss, and the sheer amount of income they were responsible for.

Anyway this is an open sticky post for suggestions and discussion.  Will probably update occasionally with relevant links or posts as I run into them.

Advertisements

77 thoughts on “How to bring back the economic component of the women’s sphere?

  1. I find it interesting how people have forgotten how women contributed economically to the home. Based on what I’ve read about women from the Middle Ages to the modern era, women contributed financially and it was easier to have female relatives in a family business. Of course, a woman’s independent economic power was limited, but there were ways she contributed nonetheless.

    What is unfortunate is the domestic sphere has been hijacked by the trendy marketing and economic sphere. Martha Stewart is famous for that.

    I’m going to say it– I dislike reading the blog linked for various reasons. One is the fact the author and the blog commenters fail to realize life isn’t in a vacuum, where one should “easily” be able to live out what the Bible says. Women have the desire to earn money for various reasons. Not all grown women can depend on their parents for economic assistance, or wait until they’re married for provision. A lot of women leave their parents’ home because they have to, and the lifestyle of earning money to pay for one’s way doesn’t magically disappear upon marriage and motherhood. The desire to contribute financially doesn’t mean a woman is defying God’s plan, either.

    There are so many reasons why I’m not a trad.

    Like

    • Couldn’t agree more. In addition, the author of this blog is absolutely intolerant of any viewpoint other than her own. I was reading an interesting book called “An Illustrated History of the Housewife, 1650-1950” and it was just chock-full of surprises and discoveries. Found it at the library; I hope I can purchase a copy one of these days. The amount of work that women did traditionally would have staggered anybody. What they didn’t use (soap, candles, clothing, you name it) they often sold. They worked sunup to sundown, and into the wee hours of the night with only candlelight, and it didn’t leave much time for much else.

      While she has many valid points, overall her picture of life is typical of the sugary-sweet coating over bitter reality….and, like Debi Pearl whom she loves so much, she loves to browbeat the choir she’s preaching to. It gets to you after a while, after you’ve put in a day’s work and then come to read yet another scolding…..after a while, you simply can’t take it anymore. There is nothing positive or uplifting about her blog, just a lot of scolding.

      Like

      • My grandmother is from a 3rd-world country and was widowed with several children in her 20’s. She had to contribute economically for her own survival, because contrary to what many Christians believe, there was no provision for her. Her siblings did help out, but my grandma is also a very stubborn woman, who put her sweat, tears, and sometimes blood into keeping all of my relatives together. No one jumped and fought over offering provision. All people did was try to take her children away.

        She raised animals and went to the market to sell the meat, and then owned a small parcel of land to grow rice. Whatever she still had left over, she used to cook for the family. She passed on this work ethic to her children, and none of my aunts or my mom placed “career” over family. They all remembered what life could be like, and worked to get ahead. Whenever I read posts like that, I just get this impression a lot of people are clueless about how complex life is.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Right, and my husband’s grandmother who washed coal miners’ clothing to get just a little ahead, and planted a huge garden so they could save every cent they had to get out of the coal mines in West Virginia. And she did it as a practically illiterate immigrant woman, and they all knew how hard she worked to get them out of the slavery to U.S. Steel (they were mostly paid in scrip and your salary went up or down depending on how much rent you paid for your house and what your grocery bill was at the company store….almost zero opportunity for saving even a penny).

        This nonsensical idea that all women who earn money are just selfish career-chasing women is an insult to women everywhere who worked their fingers to the bone to keep body and soul, family and house together. Unfortunately, nobody can tell her this because she refuses to listen. I’m glad she has a husband to provide everything temporal that she ever needed, because a lot of women didn’t and don’t. Especially considering the days before life insurance came to be…..how do you think the widows survived, hmm?

        Like

  2. “This nonsensical idea that all women who earn money are just selfish career-chasing women is an insult to women everywhere who worked their fingers to the bone to keep body and soul, family and house together.”

    This gets back to something I have said in the past about do the ends justify the means. Isn’t the end goal that we all have intact, healthy, thriving families and does it matter so much how we get there? If a woman has to work to achieve those things, should we diss her? I think not, but I was once in that extreme traditionalist camp that thought otherwise. Form over substance is often emphasized in traditionalist circles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you LGR. An important point– if a woman’s husband directly asks her to do those things, we shouldn’t diss her. Do the extreme traditionalist camps think about the husband’s directives?

      Like

      • No, they don’t. If a husband needs his wife to contribute income to make ends meet ( or even to help him reach goals he’s set for the family), who am I to tell a wife that by submitting to her husband she’s disobeying God? Or worse than that, who am I to tell her that even though she’s to submit to him, he’s providing poor, ungodly leadership.

        How is a wife supposed to be content with and respect her husband if she is internalizing as “truth” that his leadership of her is inherently sinful?

        They also fail to think outside of 1950’s Mayberry, USA. If something is not true or possible for all women in all times in all places then it isn’t a black and white Scriptural directive.

        You will find Scriptures about a woman tending to her home as her primary focus, but you will not find it written anywhere, “Thou shalt be a housewife”. The very idea of the housewife as we know it just came into being last week, in relative historical terms. You will also never in Scripture find the words, “Thou shalt not earn any money”.

        “Traditionalists” seem to thrive on the image of the Victorian “angel of the home” as the epitome of womanhood, when she is in fact a caricature that very few women (even in the Bible) ever lived.

        Sidebar: What are we to do with the women in the Bible who followed him and financially supported his ministry? Not a lot of mention of husbands in those passages either. Where did they get this money? Why didn’t Jesus chastise them for following him and send them home?

        Like

      • I don’t think so, because that would be too easy of an answer and of course there are books to write, blogs to host, and lines to tow. The traditionalist sphere is an industry and platform no different than feminism. If feminists and traditionalist both told women listen to your husband, they’d be out of a job or at least the fuzzy feeling of being on a mission or hosting a ministry.They both want you to rather listen to them.
        I have no doubt that there are many liberal/agnostic/secular/atheist families that are thriving and healthy yet they don’t follow the proper form that traditionalists are insistent that must be done or all is going to hell.

        Like

      • LGROBINS said:

        “I have no doubt that there are many liberal/agnostic/secular/atheist families that are thriving and healthy yet they don’t follow the proper form that traditionalists are insistent that must be done or all is going to hell.”

        Also, interestingly, there are a lot of MMC/UMC liberal families that are very traditional in form–dad brings home the bacon, mom has primary responsibility for the home, 2+ well-groomed and well-cared for children, etc. There are a lot of liberal housewives (at least in the early years, and also when there are children with special needs).

        Sometimes people do stuff because it works or because it’s what they want to do, not because of ideological commitments.

        Like

    • This is the second time I’ve heard about people trying to take a widow’s children away — you and Elspeth. I’m all ears. Would either or both of you be willing to give a synopsis as to the circumstances (unless of course it is private business). I guess there are people who fail to heed another Bible passage that says something about caring for widows and orphans in their tribulation, huh? Boy, what hypocrites.

      Like

  3. Can I get all ornery here? I’m not really a submissionista. I think that in the real world most couples have a vision for what they want their family structure to be life (I say couples because I’m not of the Husband-as-center-of-the-universe-with-satelites-whirling-around-for-good-measure camp and actually believe in the concept of “married couple”), so, I think that most people understand that you do what needs to be done to keep the food on the table, clothes on the body, roof over the head, etc. Even if that means (GASP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) that wifemommyperson takes a job outside the home (because sometimes that’s what has to happen). Like wives haven’t contributed to their household support since, like, the beginning of breathing. (I daresay even cavewives gathered firewood and other sundry items as needed to stay alive).

    TPC – my apologies for grouchiness. I think I’m coming down with some sort of flu-like-crud and it’s making me cranky. Plus it doesn’t matter how sick I get – I still have to work my little PT Job. Le Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL Maeve. Your idea of a married couple is sound and doesn’t clash with submission. From what I know of you, you certainly were a more submissive wife than many.

      It really comes down to whether the man is a practical patriarch who respects his wife, her thoughts, feelings and opinions, or a” patriarch” who is all insecure, control grasping, bluster.

      You gotta get over that word sister. We use it because it’s what the bible uses, but think deference if it makes you feel better

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Your idea of a married couple is sound and doesn’t clash with submission. From what I know of you, you certainly were a more submissive wife than many.”

        I’ve recently noticed that a lot of self-described “submissive wives” seem to fight with their husbands every bit as often or more than other women. It’s just that they also get to feel bad about it…

        Like

      • “I’ve recently noticed that a lot of self-described “submissive wives” seem to fight with their husbands every bit as often or more than other women. It’s just that they also get to feel bad about it…”

        LOLOLOL!!!!!! Love it. 🙂

        Like

      • “It really comes down to whether the man is a practical patriarch who respects his wife, her thoughts, feelings and opinions, or a” patriarch” who is all insecure, control grasping, bluster.”

        A practical patriarch acknowledges women as having legitimate feelings and a “patriarch” acknowledges no such legitimate feelings, only “feeeeeeelings”, which are abstract emotions women just make up and therein lies the difference for sure.

        Imagine the outcry if women talked about a mans need for sex as just his neeeeeeeeds, he doesn’t really need or feel it, its just in his head. Ignore him and he will get over it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s the Fetishyness of it, Els, LOL.

        Seriously, though, here’s the thing – is your spouse your beloved?
        Yes?
        Well, how does one treat one’s beloved?

        That’s really the word we should all be pushing. Are you a beloved wife? Is he your beloved husband? Yes? Great – act like for cryin’ out loud (not you, Els – you know I’m just ranting rhetorically). After all, who treats the beloved like s**t? Who doesn’t care about the needs and wants and dreams and desires and well-being and (Le Gasp) feelings of the beloved?

        And isn’t that how He referred to His Son? Is there any greater way we can regard a spouse?

        I’ll stop ranting now and go take some advil or something.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, you gals are cracking me up. I’ve been going through today feeling like I’m mostly sleepwalking, and the belly laugh you all gave me has finally woken me up — and here it is 6 pm and the end of the day, darn it. 🙂 I especially liked the analogy of equating “feeeeelings” and “neeeeeeds”……oh, boy, did I like it. Yep. Because, of course, women haven’t legitimate needs, they only have “feeeeelings” and we’re just not “haaaaapppy”, right? (Please understand that’s coming from my perspective, not trying to lay it over anybody else’s experience or suggesting that anybody else’s situation mirrors another, but once you finally understand the futility of expressing *your* “needs” — oh, forgot, I’m a woman, so I really don’t have any “needs” — I just am “unhaaaaaaappy” — you finally deal with them yourself — I do have to say in the whole big picture of things, though, it’s not so terribly bad….)

        I don’t know if any of you may enjoy this, but there is a really neat book entitled “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised Ten Kids on 25 Words or Less” by Terry Ryan. Really neat book.

        Thanks for the humor for today. I really needed it and you made my day a lighter and more enjoyable one. 🙂

        Like

      • LGROBINS said:

        “A practical patriarch acknowledges women as having legitimate feelings and a “patriarch” acknowledges no such legitimate feelings, only “feeeeeeelings”, which are abstract emotions women just make up and therein lies the difference for sure.
        Imagine the outcry if women talked about a mans need for sex as just his neeeeeeeeds, he doesn’t really need or feel it, its just in his head. Ignore him and he will get over it.”

        There’s a parallel case with the talk of female “tingles.” Female tingles are totally frivolous and it’s wicked to go chasing them or expecting them to be provided by one’s husband.

        However, providing the male equivalent of “tingles” is simply woman’s God-given female duty.

        There are a lot of one-way streets in the manosphere.

        Like

  4. Regarding being beloved—there is a reason “to cherish” is often in wedding vows. Men vow to cherish, the problem though is that unlike the promise to be faithful which has a very objective measure, cherishing is subjective along with all the other vows like love. A woman may say ” I don’t feel cherished” and the manospherian would say “hogwash toots…I cherish you everyday…you just don’t feeeeeeel cherished, nothing I can do about that. I swear I am cherishing you, I SWEAR, the problem is rather with you for not picking up on my clearly very cherishing acts.” and that is that! So, when women claim they don’t feel loved or cherished it is so easy to dismiss them because there is not an objective standard to measure by. It can quickly become a cop-out method for men to avoid dealing with their wives and scary things like emotions. Strong men can handle female emotions and have the communications skills to determine if there is really a problem. I use to think it was the woman’s burden to stifle and bury her emotions, to shield men from such scary territory, but what BS.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Amy,
    Oh yes the tingles! Since its the holiday season shouldn’t there be a post right now called “tingle bell rock” or something…..or “oh what fun it is to ride on a one horse (read alpha) open sleigh, tingling all the way”. Really, they could have so much fun with it.

    To be serious now, the double standard is real. There is still a very Victorian stigma that women don’t have a sex drive and if her husband is rejecting sex with her, well then she just must not be doing something right, not submitting, not respecting, not HAWT enough, and unlike women who don’t want sex where they can be told just lay there like a starfish and take it, I am not so sure what women are suppose to do–hold his penis up with a stick?

    Like

  6. People tried to remove widows’ children in the past in the West for the same reason they do it now in the developing world. They mostly thought it was for the best – in orphanages, children would be fed regularly and get something of an education, and get job placements. Of course some people wanted child labor, and a minority of predators wanted unprotected children to prey on.

    And just like today in the developing world, it wasn’t that uncommon for poor children with families to be placed in orphanages.

    A very important development of recent times is the realization that children need families and supporting families is better than institutional care. This is a very new realization though. A hundred years ago, even fifty years ago, people thought institutions could care for their poor better than their own mothers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. While we are on the subject of fallacies, I am reminded of one that ties back in to the OP. I am still as opposed to feminism as I ever was, but I have come ’round to understanding that their toxic prescription doesn’t negate the fact that the “problem with no name” really does have a name. It’s name is lack of purpose.

    When women were adept at sewing, when they made money laundering, when they helped farm and mending clothes was more efficient and economical than buying mass produced replacements, there was a real sense that they were helping their husbands shoulder the financial responsibility for the family.

    Today’s uber-traditionalists point out that schooling the children, tending the home, growing a few vegetables, and loving the man are all real contributions. That they are enough. That wives should be content with it. And it’s true that we should be content in whatever state we find ourselves.

    The problem is that there are many men who genuinely need their wives to contribute to the bottom line in a substantial way and there are scant few ways for a wife to do that from home in the current economic system. She can babysit other people’s kids, she can sew or sell bake goods, etc. But all of those things are limited in scope, demand, and ability to produce enough to really produce consistent financial reward.

    Better to let the husband work it out with his wife.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree Elspeth. It’s all in the “why” a woman works outside the home. If it’s intent is to serve the family then there’s nothing unBiblical about it. If the intent is to be able to have the best of the best in luxuries to the detriment that the work outside the home has on the family by focusing on material things in excess, then the couple needs to get their priorities straight.

      It’s the difference between having liberty to take care of the needs of the family without being stuck in a rigid role and exaggerated liberty where the intent is to serve self or prioritize things over people.

      Like

      • I think there’s a problem in analyzing this, due to the huge gulf in lifestyle that two decent incomes can generate. Compare two family situations:

        Family A has one income of $50k and bad health insurance and lives in a neighborhood with so-so public schools. Mom A is around a lot.

        Family B has two incomes of $50k (for a total of $100k) and excellent health insurance and excellent public schools. Mom B isn’t around a lot.

        On the one hand, Family B is able to afford a lot of things that are genuinely luxuries. However, at the same time, Family A is unable to afford some fairly basic things. Unfortunately, depending on what work Wife B is doing, there may not be any middle ground–they may have to either do A or B, neither of which is ideal.

        There’s also the complicating factor that as children get older, they often start needing (or wanting) more and more things that can’t be acquired via home production. So as children get older, Family A is going to more and more feel the pinch.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Good insight Amy. There are so many variables that only the couple themselves can make that decision. My family falls more in line with family A but even there, there are differences. We have ok health insurance and a great public school because we are in a small conservative community rather than a city. I babysat for 10 years so I could simultaneously be here for my family and help with income. I stopped babysitting for various reasons and it’s nice but now that my oldest is 16, I can see that in another year or two, we are going to feel the pinch more if my husband isn’t able to up his income by promotion or job hopping. So I may have to consider babysitting again or looking for outside work.

    If the wife working, because of the type of work she does allows the family to have a few luxuries then that’s not a bad thing. That’s more of a side benefit of the type of work she is able to do that doubles her husbands income. If you’re working for the sake of luxuries, that’s one thing. If you are stuck between A and B and B gives you luxuries as opposed to not making ends meet or meeting the needs of your family, then that’s ok. It’s the reason for working that’s most important rather than what “extra” benefits may come from that work.

    Like

  9. For the record, I am not (AT ALL) a proponent of women dropping off their young kids to be cared for by others while they go off to work, even as I understand that some families truly feel they have no other choice.

    Let us not forget that the whole point of this post was how to restore the economic to the women’s sphere, which is the home. As a general rule, married mothers of minor children do not belong in the market place. Compassionate understanding for others’ hardships do not negate this basic truth.

    TPC has done a good thing in reminding us that there was a time when a woman was able to contribute financially and tend to her home as her primary vocation. This new line of thought that it is (and always has been) that women either focused on home or focused on money- whether for self-actualization or making ends meet- is a false argument from both the feminists and the new traditionalists.

    Like

  10. I agree about being home when kids are young. That’s why I chose to babysit because that was the only thing I could think of to help with finances and yet be here. IF I had had grandma or an aunt nearby that would have been willing to babysit, I may have considered doing something away from home part-time but that wasn’t an option. I know I’ll never regret being here for my girls when they were small. My youngest is six and I hope I can still stay home a few more years. However, both our vehicles are on their last legs being more than ten years old and since the cost of everything has gone up so much in the last few years, we are making ends meet without those payments. If one of vehicles goes, as silly as it sounds, I’ll have to work enough to at least make the payments….or as I said above, my husband has a jump in income.

    As far as what women can do to bring the economic back into the home, I don’t see how that will ever happen again barring some collapse of the infrastructure where people have to rely on the land again. I don’t know what the solution would be honestly. The few solutions like babysitting has it’s own problems as well, which TPC has addressed before.

    Like

  11. IMO, working as a means to an end. Period. The workplace sucks, but I don’t know what other ways to make a min. of 40K a year…unless I worked from home, but the fact is I’d still be working full-time.

    I actually don’t care if a couple has to drop their kids off at daycare so they can work. Many church daycares have a good infant-caregiver ratio. My sister got lucky, as an in law runs a babysitting service and can have a family member care for her baby when she’s back to work. Our parents have offered to help with childcare (enthusiastically). Other people are not so lucky.

    This topic brings up a great irony to me…a lot of couples wouldn’t be able to have children if they both didn’t work. They wouldn’t be able to have a decent home to live in, or be able to live in a safe neighborhood if they didn’t do that. There is a rise in stay-at-home fathers, due to the cuts or shortages in jobs held by men. It’s more ideal for a parent to care for a child, than a stranger.

    Unless the labor market changes drastically, married mothers will continue to work outside the home. Short of an economic collapse or the neutralization of physics (“Revolution”-style), I don’t see bringing back economy to the women’s sphere. How will women compete with pricing and supply? There are tens of thousands of people on etsy, all thinking they’ve got the next unique concept/design/product. How do you compete?

    Like

    • Well, you don’t compete via etsy in the first place. Textiles are coming back to the women’s sphere in a small way, as small piecework operations are returning to the States, mostly run by women and of course primarily employing women at tolerable wages. I think part of what has to be done is to look at what you really want to see your children and grandchildren living like and start arranging your own social circles around that. One of the reasons there’s little economic value left in the women’s sphere is not just commodity goods, but a refusal by many conservatives to let wives specialize at the neighborhood level and be part of an incidental rather than intentional community.

      Why does the taco truck even exist in 90% not-Hispanic towns? Because women who are good cooks aren’t considered a viable option for the locals to pay, even though the food quality is fine, and possibly better than the taco truck. Whites in particular have accepted a weird world of classlessness and flattening that means a lot of still-viable economic relationships are off the table because you might be paying your actual neighbor for something they’re good at.

      Like

      • Okay, but the hubs is so not down with buying food from strangers. (We have a lady who sells tamales from her car randomly – she’ll knock and ask if we want food in a very irritated tone, no business card, just a lady with a car and tamales).

        Like

  12. Our youngest is turning 11 and we are on the shady side of 50. Retirement is looming, only 15-20 years away. Two kids have finished college and 2 still to go. Being at home has been great for the family and we have been fortunate to make ends meet – but sometimes just barely.

    What we have been able to save for retirement isn’t enough. Stock market crashes and poor returns on conventional savings have not helped. We are poised to outlive our money rather quickly. The prospect of eating cat food by candlelight in a subsidized apartment is haunting me. I have to get a job, but doing what? Working from home would be ideal but the butter & egg market no longer exists.

    The neo-trads sell a version of a one-income utopia that doesn’t take into consideration inevitable aging, or the expenses of teenagers and young adults, or even the costs of caring for aging parents. Our expenses have gone up as we’ve aged, not down.

    It isn’t about “feeling a need to earn money” it is about using my brain to do some simply math and realizing that my husband’s earning years have an expiration date, and if we want to enjoy our golden years we need to stash more cash now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • the costs of caring for aging parents

      Why isn’t the tradosphere discussing this issue? Current financial data and outlook is bleak for the older demographic. It’s a moral issue, too, as no one should end up with elderly and destitute parents. How are we going to provide for them?

      Liked by 2 people

    • “The neo-trads sell a version of a one-income utopia that doesn’t take into consideration inevitable aging, or the expenses of teenagers and young adults, or even the costs of caring for aging parents. Our expenses have gone up as we’ve aged, not down.”

      Everything I’ve heard from people with older teen kids and young adult kids suggests that it’s now taking a very long time to properly launch young adults, even under the best possible circumstances. It’s very unwise nowadays to assume that adult children will be self-supporting as of 22.

      Liked by 1 person

      • One solution could be to encourage young women to marry. She could forgo college expenses and live at home. The need to work won’t be as dire, but it doesn’t leave out the question for the men. How are parents going to afford the daughter’s wedding? Do we bar young people from marrying because the parents can’t afford a big wedding? I don’t care if a big wedding is “traditional,” if it causes people to spend beyond their means.

        It’s a cascading effect. Solutions aren’t always simple, and bringing back the economic component to the women’s sphere will be a lot harder.

        Like

        • Encouraging young women to marry only works if they’re encouraged to marry young men with already-good incomes. This is the Mormon approach in modern society, and with them it only still works because they are happy to strongly socially insist on birth control (though not abortion of course) if the young couple doesn’t have a pretty close to “median” income starting out. There’s also been more encouraging both to work until the wife is about 25-26 if the income isn’t there for the guy and then she quits to have 3-4 kids as a SAHM.

          Mormon men still have a LOT of pressure to be providers, even as they adopt the mainstream norm of the double-income-parents. I don’t see as strong a provision drive in other conservative groups, overall, unless we’re talking about already-high income MMC and UMC subcultures.

          Like

      • Encouraging young women to marry only works if they’re encouraged to marry young men with already-good incomes.

        That being said, the jobs need to exist. Unless, we encourage women to marry several years older (within a 5-7 year age range), allowing men more time. Of course, that too opens up a problem because a young man with an “okay” income, but not enough to provide for 3+ children in the next couple years shouldn’t be barred from marriage for years and years. Unless men deal with celibacy with a treatment of cold showers (I’m being tongue in cheek). What’s more important, then? Ensuring men fully take up the role as provider, allowing a wife to stay home? Or making the best of the circumstances and couples can remain chaste? Yeah, I know I’ve sort of set up a false dichotomy there but it’s what I witness in reality.

        Isn’t the Mormon culture slowly eroding? I know they’ve been adopting more from mainstream culture…which is what the Catholics did, and now look at us. Birth control is a big no-no with Catholics, and I have no idea how to resolve that conundrum. I’ve met people with large families, and the husband was always a high-income earner. I’ve yet to meet a family where the husband is the sole income-earner and has a blue-collar job. IME, a lot of devout Christian couples had 2-3 children, where the husband told the wife to work and said “no more kids.”

        Like

        • Yes, it is eroding as it takes on more of the mainstream culture, and gives up the social practices that kept their numbers up through decades of modernity. But as Zippy would put it, their social practices were about optimizing liberalism for a specific end, and it was inevitable that they’d arrive in an anti-natal place, just a couple decades after everyone else.

          Like

      • Maea said:

        “She could forgo college expenses and live at home.”

        The problem is, a single young woman with only a high school diploma and low earning potential may find it very difficult to find a husband these days. It’s like being a dowerless young woman in the good old days–maybe even worse, actually.

        Here’s my current plan (which I’m afraid is probably out of reach for a lot of families):

        –get kids through college debt-free
        –ideally have kids live at home for college (we have a big college, a solid community college, and a technical college all within easy commuting range)
        –if at all feasible, encourage kids to work in college and save $200 a month throughout–that would produce a total of nearly $10k at graduation, which would be a nice young adult starter fund
        –if children live at home after college and work, bump the mandatory savings up, perhaps an extra $100 a month every year. (So, $300 a month the first post-graduate year, $400 the second, $500 the third, etc.)

        This is all years away from execution, highly theoretical, and I realize that the first item is kind of a killer, but I think some version of this plan could put young adults on a much better footing than they are today. Even kids from fairly well-heeled families just about never graduate from college with any substantial savings. Also, I think the last item on the last is actually within reach for a lot of families–I’m sure we all know of a lot of families with grown children at home where the grown children aren’t contributing substantially to household expenses, but fritter away their earnings. That means that 1) adulthood and family formation are delayed 2) when they finally move out and marry, the new expenses of an independent household and parenthood are a real shock to the system as they’ve previously had enormous amounts of disposable income 3) they have no economic cushion. So, pretty much a recipe for disaster.

        Like

  13. To the OP: Well, women could buy from other women again – that would help. My neighbor quilts professionally – has a quilting machine that takes up her entire front room. So, she’s working from home.

    I’m hoping to sell my services professionally to other women in a year or two, when the kids are less of a full-time duty. When you stop having kids in your mid-thirties, menopause seems to coordinate with having teenagers, and you still have a couple of decades to produce income for those expensive older children… and retirement… etc. I’m finding that my services as a volunteer are quite sought after at this point in life. Decisions there, and balance to be sought.

    Like

  14. Touching on something Elspeth mentioned upstream about a “lack of purpose”–I find it curious how as much as traditionalists can go on and on about how being a mom and wife is %110 satisfying and its all they need, yet there also seems to be a hole that is not filled–that things such as volunteering, starting a ministry, starting a blog (which are often billed as ministries) is still a very real desire. its seems women still need something to fulfill either the intellectual, creative or spiritual side and that simply being a mom and a wife isn’t enough. Career women are poo-pooed because they can’t simply find the joy and contentment in just being a wife and mom, yet traditionalists aren’t entirely content on that front either. Its a subtle difference and one could say taking on a career is a whole different thing than starting a blog for intellectual debate, but nonetheless I feel its there.

    On another topic, I am always surprised how much everyone cares about sending their kids to college. If I had 100K saved up for college, I would rather buy them a house/condo in cash, so that they could then focus on school if they want or a family without having a large payment looming over then. It takes a lot of pressure off to know no matter what you will have a roof over you head. Plus it fosters and pushes independence earlier and the responsibility of home ownership. A free and clear house for a daughter could almost act as a sort of dowry as once she met the right man, they could live there and her husband would not have the burden of worrying about a mortgage or they can sell the place and get something larger at a much cheaper price to raise the family. I can see that as being a huge plus for a man to know that rather than her being 100K in debt for a college degree she will probably never use (once kids) she rather can provide him with a mortgage free start to their young life or equity that can be transferred to another endeavor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some thoughts:

      1. It’s OK to do volunteering…but as soon as you get paid for doing the same thing, it’s quite wicked. (kidding)

      2. I would never give an 18-year-old a free house.

      3. What if they immediately sell the free house? You really might as well give them the $100k.

      4. There’s the property tax/condo association tax issue–condos often get huge assessments for repairs.

      5. I could easily imagine a scenario where a late teenager/early 20-something loses the house to fecklessness or irregular income, plus a person that age needs mobility, training, and liquid savings more than they need a house. My husband and I were into our 30s before we were settled anywhere long enough to make a home purchase reasonable.

      Not ideal, but normal.

      6. “I can see that as being a huge plus for a man to know that rather than her being 100K in debt for a college degree she will probably never use (once kids) she rather can provide him with a mortgage free start to their young life or equity that can be transferred to another endeavor.”

      Wait–why would she be $100k in debt if you used the $100k for her college education?

      The average 2015 graduate who has student loans has a total of $35k in debt–not $100k.

      http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/05/08/congratulations-class-of-2015-youre-the-most-indebted-ever-for-now/

      Also, if 71% of graduates have student loans, that means that 29% don’t. That’s a minority, but it’s a large minority.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The house deal is of course assuming you have a responsible son/daughter. A rent or house payment is generally the biggest reoccurring expense anyone has and you take that off the table, its a lot easier to get by.

        The 100k can still be wasted if you spend that then she ends up staying home with kids for the next 20 years or even if no kids and she gets some useless liberal arts major. At the end of the day, a house is practical. Everyone needs a roof, not everyone needs a psychology degree or even a more useful degree that might not be used anyway.

        Anyway, I know this can be a touchy topic. There are some die-hard go to college no matter what people, I just am not one of them.

        Liked by 2 people

      • LGROBINS said:

        “The 100k can still be wasted if you spend that then she ends up staying home with kids for the next 20 years or even if no kids and she gets some useless liberal arts major. At the end of the day, a house is practical. Everyone needs a roof, not everyone needs a psychology degree or even a more useful degree that might not be used anyway.”

        Educated mothers do tend to use their degrees, one way or another.

        Everybody needs a place to live, but the location might change from year to year. Also, people without substantial savings and a reasonable amount of life experience shouldn’t be homeowners. Most of us are barely equipped to be good renters at 18, let alone homeowners.

        We became homeowners only very recently (my husband had just turned 40) and my husband is actually very handy, but I cringe at the thought of us being homeowners before our mid-30s. There are a lot of things that it’s better to figure out while living in somebody else’s house.

        I haven’t done this myself yet, but It is (hopefully) possible to negotiate with college-age children to make tuition support contingent on reasonable academic choices and performance. You don’t have to just write a blank check.

        I am kind of a die-hard about college (especially for girls), but I wouldn’t insist if a child was obviously going to crash and burn at college.

        Like

    • College is pushed because it happens to be one of the ways young women find their husbands. The “I got my Mrs. in college” had a purpose. Parents are concerned about their daughters not marrying men of the same caliper. They want to know the potential son-in-law is from a similar cohort. College is kind of a “meet market” for assortative mating.

      Another point is, men are going to ask what this woman did. If she wasn’t working, what was she doing? A lot of educated men aren’t going to immediate single out the non-college woman as a mate. The majority of highly-educated women aren’t stay at home mothers based on Pew research. Historically, 70% of them plan on returning to work after the children are older. There are SAHMs who remain out of the workforce, but they aren’t as common.

      People go to college because they see what can happen when you don’t. Sure, lots of college-educated people are struggling to find jobs, but the people without one have it even harder. Most parents with a daughter don’t want to see her left out in the dust.

      How many 18-year olds can handle the responsibility of a house?

      Liked by 1 person

      • College is also pushed because the infrastructure is already there. There’s no functioning apprenticeship system that people can just randomly plug into for their daughters or sons. Yes, apprenticeships exist, but they are very local and limited in practical terms. College, though, has achieved a general “acceptable to work” status. Even “some college” ranks higher to employers than none at all, outside of the hothouse world of small and medium sized IT shops (where you find much of the argument that college is a waste).

        Like

      • An important point– not all women come from intact, devout Christian families. Less than half of all children have heterosexual married parents. There are young people without the luxury of knowing after they’re 18, 19, or 20 they can remain at their parent’s home. A lot of parents are waiting until their children reach 18 to point them to the door. For a lot of young inexperienced people, college is a valid step. This makes a difference in some communities.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’d prefer apprenticeship programs over college, but few employers seem to care for them. Employers have to be willing to pay for apprenticeships, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “How many 18-year olds can handle the responsibility of a house?”

        Well, don’t we want women to be happy homemakers, no better time to learn than now. If you can handle college you can handle a house, plus what does that say in how parents raised them..did they not do any chores growing up. Or lets say a condo then, which is basically an apartment. There is not much maintenance and assuming a reasonable HOA, why is this so challenging for an 18 year old? Do we expect so little for young people. I wonder if it is seen as too masculine or feminist “you go girl” for a single woman to own a house. She will certainly learn things, maybe the hard way, that will come in handy when she has a family or when her husband is out of town.

        I don’t know why women think its going to be easy breezy to just return to work 10-20 years after kids. Employers are biased.

        Liked by 1 person

        • This is a good point, if you want young girls to be marriageable at 18-19 to men with strong prospects or good incomes at youngish ages, you have to aim for raising girls who have done stuff like run a small business as teenagers. I have been able to hire some young girls for farm-related business stuff (weirdly no young teenage boys are this vigorous where we live) and they’re going to be 18yos who would make good wives at 18. (And a couple of them are on track to marry before 20, so I guess rural living isn’t always so bad.)

          Like

      • why is this so challenging for an 18 year old?… I wonder if it is seen as too masculine or feminist “you go girl” for a single woman to own a house.

        Because believe it or not, a lot of parents still want to keep tabs on their young adult children…especially daughters. I’m just gonna spit it out– they don’t trust men! It’s kind of like the analogy of driving…my mom would tell me “I know you’ll drive carefully, but it’s other people I worry about.”

        But yes, for a lot of parents, it isseen as too masculine or feminist. I’ve read it all over the Christian blogs, and talked to Christian parents. It makes no sense to them. At that rate, they’d rather have their daughters get married and then she can have the house.

        I can’t think of a lot of parents who involved their children in the payment and maintenance of household expenditures and if they did, the children were boys. Young women aren’t normally the ones you teach about electrical repairs, getting a hot water boiler replaced, or fixing a furnace. Or about property taxes. Women typically know about the “domestic” side of it, such as groceries, furniture and decor expenses, meal/pantry planning, cutting costs to complete chores, etc. Wives learned about the rest after marriage.

        Like

      • you have to aim for raising girls who have done stuff like run a small business as teenagers.

        Without living in a rural area where the local economy and infrastructure is set up for that, how does this happen?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, you could go back to the family business model that was dropped because it’s not going to make most people rich and can be a lot of drudgework in the teen years.

          Interestingly, a lot of homeschool products work on this model, but of course that’s basically a pyramid scheme since they never did figure out how to get all the hundreds of thousands of homeschoolers who bought from the (still!) handful of families selling that stuff to develop networks with each other for alternative economies.

          Like

      • Maea said:

        “Because believe it or not, a lot of parents still want to keep tabs on their young adult children…especially daughters.”

        Yeah.

        The thing about paying for college is you can do it incrementally and stop paying for it if the child isn’t making good use of the opportunity.

        “But yes, for a lot of parents, it isseen as too masculine or feminist. I’ve read it all over the Christian blogs, and talked to Christian parents. It makes no sense to them. At that rate, they’d rather have their daughters get married and then she can have the house.”

        It’s also a nice experience to have with your future spouse and by buying together you avoid the awkwardness of the future spouse having to move into an alien space.

        “I can’t think of a lot of parents who involved their children in the payment and maintenance of household expenditures and if they did, the children were boys. Young women aren’t normally the ones you teach about electrical repairs, getting a hot water boiler replaced, or fixing a furnace. Or about property taxes. Women typically know about the “domestic” side of it, such as groceries, furniture and decor expenses, meal/pantry planning, cutting costs to complete chores, etc. Wives learned about the rest after marriage.”

        Right.

        My husband did have a couple goes at dishwasher repair when he was a teen, but he shocked himself.

        Neither of us were very knowledgeable about house-management when we got married. He learned a lot of stuff just as a renter, though.

        Frankly, a lot of people aren’t up to home ownership.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TPC said:

        “Well, you could go back to the family business model that was dropped because it’s not going to make most people rich and can be a lot of drudgework in the teen years.”

        Family farms come under that umbrella.

        I have some thoughts on the family business model and why it can be problematic.

        My mom’s family ranches and farms (or used to). Several of her siblings and their families farmed and ranched on the various family properties and my parents might easily have joined them but didn’t (thank goodness!). The adult kids were promised the land, but well into their 40s, they had both a pretty basic existence and no actual legal right to the property. (There was some sort of super-complicated trust.) It got very dicey once my grandfather started to ail, acquired a second wife, and dementia hit (he would write a check to pretty much anybody who called before the kids managed to take away the checkbook). I don’t know how the financial situation worked out in the end, but I know that at least one adult child had to take up truck driving late in life. The kids that struck out on their own immediately have done much better than the ones who stuck with the farm.

        I grew up on a smaller scale ranch and my sister and I worked a lot in the family store. It was a great experience seeing the store come to life from the ground up, I learned a lot, and I made fine wages for my age, but I was off to do my own thing in a different state by the time I was 22 and had married my future husband by the time I turned 23 and I have never since lived in my home state. It was OK working for my parents as a teen and very early 20-something, but I never would have lasted working for them much longer than that. Likewise, my sister has actually gone into a similar line of business in the same area and the two families do occasional projects together, but my sister and her husband enjoy having their own deal.

        There are a couple issues that I see with family businesses. Especially given current longevity, “the kids” could easily be deep into middle age before they get any sort of financial independence, despite pouring their whole lives into the business. It can be hard to get the family patriarch to let go enough for “the kids” to have a dignified middle age.

        Liked by 1 person

      • @AmyP: Your experience reminds me many of these solutions aren’t a one-size-fits-all because they can be tied to family structures and locale. What may work for one family probably won’t work for another. What did work for a few years stops working after some time. People want to leave, or they meet people from elsewhere and leave.

        What young people and their parents are ready look very different across the board.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. [Disclosure: I will read the comments after posting since I am trying to reply directly]
    I have a few thoughts on this.
    One, stay at home wives contribute tremendously to the economic well-being of their family. The American Department of Labor Statistics and Salary.com demonstrate that a mother of 3+ children generates enough efficiency that she would have to earn more than $104,000 per year to make working outside the home make economic sense. From efficient shopping to not spending money on commuting to caring for children SAHWs are inherently valuable.
    Two, as Queen Jennifer is fond of pointing out, reducing anyone to their wage earning is wrong three ways: it is materialist, consequentialist, and modernist. The idea that something that cannot be quantified (the value of a woman building a home for her family) cannot be valued is incoherent.

    Like

    • Your response is really weirdly modern. I especially sadlol at stuff like “efficient shopping” for a mother of 3+ kids with no household help (paid or unpaid).

      And I have a number of posts and comments from readers regarding the whole SAHM childcare thing.

      Homemaking has intrinsic worth, the hestia is, properly understood, very much part of the true lived world and not just a place to stash stuff. But I think you’re just really steeped in modern thinking about it even taking that as a given. It’s ok, everyone is.

      Like

      • “I especially sadlol at stuff like “efficient shopping” for a mother of 3+ kids with no household help (paid or unpaid).”

        Funny! Yes, it is theoretically feasible if one stashes all of the kids with daddy when daddy is home, but when shopping with little children, there tends to be a lot of haphazard grabbing and running (not to mention a lot of editorial input from the small fry). It’s a win to leave the store without the child getting a concussion by falling out of the cart.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, Amazon is starting grocery delivery in certain large cities, and one can certainly mail order cleaning supplies and dry goods from them… So I suppose that would be one way to efficientize (totally a word, shut up ^_^ ) one’s shopping when one has small children.

        Like

        • If the small children let you do the ordering online and you have the higher-average income to afford to do it that way. And of course for delivery if you happen to live in a major metro area, which the average conservative with a housewife and more than 2 children does not.

          Like

  16. I’ve wanted to comment on this for awhile, because it’s a question I’ve given a lot of thought to. Forgive me if I run a little long…

    –For starters, I think the only way you’ll ever disentangle this thing is to remember that just because cash isn’t involved doesn’t mean there’s no economic aspect to it — or that there’s no income derived from it. You’ve got to remember that there’s a huge component of non-monetary economics going on inside a household. The two ‘worlds’ of the non-monetary and the monetary do ‘connect’ and touch on eachother, (for proof, have SAHM stop cooking etc. for awhile and see what happens to the bank balance) and are each equally real and valid. The trick is trying to harmonize the two to work together.

    –Having the SAH aspect almost exclusively non-monetary makes it really hard to economize it. It is almost the same problem as socialist economics — no price signals, no money flows, etc. Except of course it is worse, because as in the first point, we are almost ignorant that the problem even exists, while socialists are acutely aware of it. So, nobody economizes on it, and it gets really out of whack, i.e., inefficient. I think this is why things have drifted towards what we have now — if mom works and sends the kids to daycare/school, you now have money flows and price signals, and can start making more intelligent decisions. When you don’t have this, it’s hard to know when you’re being wasteful, and hard to rearrange things to make a more efficient arrangement.

    –One way to solve (or at least help make decisions!) it is the way many large corporations do, to create a fake internal price structure, fake budgets, etc, that’s as realistic as you can make it, and start deciding things that way. (They do this because many of their departments work for one another within the company. So there can be no bidding process, rational allocation of resources, etc., because one department is not going to pay a different department of the same company for services. Kind of like a household — wives and husbands and kids don’t pay eachother, they just work together on the things they need to get done.) For starters, I would assign mom something like $20 per hour, and go from there. If it ain’t worth $20 per hour, don’t bother. Pay someone else for it. The flipside of this is that mom (and dad!) should try as much as possible seeking out household work at >$20 hour. (Yes. Even when dad is ‘off.’) If you can’t find something at >$20, well, you at least ought to do something at some value. But having that idea in mind, at least, will help you to avoid low-return time-wasters & encourage spending money on things the ‘outside world’ can do much more efficiently than you can, while looking for high value things to do yourself. Don’t go into competition with people making the equivalent of $3 an hour. That’s dumb. Making your own bread is really stupid if economics is a priority for you. It eats up too much time. If you’re going to do that, invest in a bread-machine. (Or just acknowledge that you’re doing it because it’s important to you — i.e., your subjective valuation of this activity is far higher than the market would express as a price. But don’t go into it with your head in the sand about it.) With the time you save, do repairs and maintenance on your car, house, refinish furniture instead of buying new stuff, etc. — high-value activities.

    –Hopefully, this will help to show that a SAHM is actually doing something super, super valuable and productive — raising kids and doing a whole bunch of other things that, if you paid someone else to do it, would cost you a fortune. Not getting paid is not the same as being unproductive. I read an article once trying to criticize the ‘waste’ of ‘car culture’ by telling about a wealthy old man who paid $20K a year for a personal driver. It tried to make the point “see how much we’re wasting as a culture,” but to me the point was that, even though the guy hated writing that check, at the end of the day he still did it, and the moral of the story is it was worth that much to him, and it is a wonderful thing that every single middle-class family has the opportunity to serve itself in this way. By driving themselves, cooking for themselves, caring for eachother, they provide services that on the market would run them far and away more than they could possibly afford. This is real income, and it is not small potatoes, it just does not show up as monetary dollars and cents. My wife once remarked to me in anger “You’d have to pay somebody, like, $250K a year to do what I do!” Which, if it is an exaggeration, is probably only very slight. To which I replied “Then why would you ever want a job? Who is going to pay you that?” We talk about economics a lot, so she really understood the depth of this & the way I meant it. I think it really helped her.

    –That being said, a lot of the value SAHMs create is in an inconvenient form — it is ‘unspendable’. You spend all this time homeschooling your kids, which no doubt is an extremely valuable investment and a massive production of value, but you never really get to ‘see’ it monetarily, so it is easy to discount its existence. An analogy would be something like investing in renthouses (which I do, and if you are looking for ‘practical’ things a SAHM can do for income, this is one I could recommend under some circumstances). You might put down 20-25% on the house, and you get to collect rent off of it, some of which goes in your pocket for you to spend. But a lot of your gains come in the form of equity. If the house goes up 2-3% in value in a year, that’s a 10% gain for you, but you never really see it and can’t use it for anything without selling your house or refinancing or something. Likewise, SAHMs are building up their kids, but the benefit of this investment is unlikely to be realized to a large degree by the SAHM herself, especially not at the moment. Society at large and some lucky, future spouse get the most of it. This can make it look and feel like you are barely treading water/drowning/just spinning your wheels, but in reality you are producing great value and enriching the world. It is an important, good, and necessary thing. We sort of realize this in non-economic terms (which is why we’re all doing it!), but it is no less a real economic thing.

    –Returning back to the value of your time — in Ye Olden Days, most middle-class type families were self-employed or owned their own businesses. They had to acquire and employ business sense, which the more modern bureaucrat/clerical/technical type positions don’t really inculcate. So, modern families generally wind up poor managers of resources, and tend to waste a lot of money and time in the way they do things. They would do very well to learn how to do things like inter-convert cash flows and asset values, apply discounting, and calculate net present values (NPV). I can’t stress that last one enough. At first I was doing this for our rent houses, but now I use it to decide everything. For example, think about how much it costs you to make a meal. People talk about “saving money” by not going out to eat, but actually, if you think about it, restaurants must be very efficient enterprises. If they were not, somewhere along the line you would find waste or enormous earnings. But you don’t. For example, I don’t know too many cooks, wait-staff, etc, who make much money, and I hear it is an extremely difficult market for owners and managers. Restaurant food is insanely cheap, actually. Do you really think you are operating your home kitchen more efficiently? Think about it — it takes mom ~ 1 hr to cook (~$20) and dad/somebody ~45 min to clean up (~$20). On top of that, your kitchen comprises maybe 20% of your house. At $100K for your house, that’s $20K. Applying a 5% discount to turn it into a cash flow, that’s ~$1000 per year you spend for that kitchen. Add that to the cost of your meal. Kitchen appliances? Energy? Oh yeah — food?!? Add it all up, it’s expensive. Restaurants keep their kitchen employed ~8 hours a day or more. Yours is probably idle much more than that. I can almost guarantee your home-cooked meal is more expensive *in real terms* than restaurant food. You’d almost be better off without it and buying all your meals — but that assumes you could take the time you saved and use it to generate some sort of income. Maybe you can’t. Anyway, point is, you should think about your household as capital, and your time as money spent. Most people don’t, they just operate on habit. If that was your employee in the kitchen, you would not waste a minute of his time, because you would be paying for it. You don’t want to see him struggling with cheap knives that don’t cut, pots that are hard to clean, etc. You need to treat yourself that way, too — because you are your own employee. But for some reason, people do that to themselves to ‘save money.’ Don’t put up with crumby tools that waste your time. If you’re going to do it, do it right. You need to think about your household as a business, and not just in the sense you see on personal finance-type literature, i.e., being ‘cheap.’ Actually, being ‘cheap’ can be very expensive. You need to do cost accounting and know how to do NPV calculations to get a better idea of what the real costs are like.

    –OK, an example which happened recently. We wore out yet another non-stick frying pan (~$30). This happens about once a year. Converting a cash flow of $30/year to an asset value (8% discount rate) gives ~$360. So, if I can find a frying pan that will last indefinitely for <$360, I'm better off buying it than what I'm doing now. Yes, I did find one (I know — big surprise). I discovered 'non-non stick' (don't really know what to call it — stainless steel). They can be had quite cheaply. Yes, I realize this makes me look stupid. But I wouldn't have looked if I hadn't thought about it — and I wouldn't understand how valuable the discovery was, and how stupid my previous pattern had been. I was doing the equivalent of using a $360 frying pan, and working my rear-end off cleaning the stupid thing when the non-stick wore off. Granted, there's a learning curve with the new type of pan. But it's worth it.

    –That being said, if you do spring for better capital, you actually have to use it! Some people are stuck in a consumerist habit, and buying better stuff will only result in them replacing more expensive things all that time. If you're going to do that, might as well stick with 'cheap.'

    Other random relevant points —

    –In the past when I was working wage, I found that my wife was able to help me supplement my own income, basically by allowing me to work more overtime. Yes, the check came to me, but in reality she helped earn it. It is wrong to allocate the whole gain to me. This also goes for times she is watching the kids, and I'm doing things like unclogging a drain, refinishing furniture, working in the yard, etc. We are talking about real earnings here, dollars and cents. We're a team.

    –When you're SAHMing, you are getting way, way more use out of your house. I think this is wonderful. Most people pay a small fortune for their home, then spend most of their time somewhere else. This is a tremendous waste. The flipside of this, though, is that your home gets more wear and tear. I have learned to just deal with a messy house. I simply don't think it's worth it to clean it as well as it might look if we had a 'normal' lifestyle. It would eat up time I would spend doing higher-value things. But my house is messy, and rather hard-used…

    — I don't think I need to point out that SAHMers/homeschoolers are double-paying for things, as in the above — they are wearing out their houses, but still paying for the assets that other people's kids are wearing out (schools) through taxes. Not really fair, but what are you going to do? I think we all understand that the value we are creating is worth it or we wouldn't do it. But I do think we need to be mindful of things like this when we get depressed because maybe we are not where we would like to be financially. We are operating under a burden that others don't have. Just part of the inefficiency of operating outside the mainstream. When you withdraw from the division of labor, efficiency goes down. Being mindful of that and doing your best to mitigate and have some perspective helps.

    That's all for now….

    Like

    • Scott,

      That was amazing!

      I do have to quibble a little about the kitchen. Even a family that literally never ate dinner at home might still have to use their kitchen heavily for breakfasts and lunches and snacks. (That’s our family most of the time, actually.)

      Like

    • This misses the point completely. The economic component of housewiving involved OTHER WOMEN. Whether it was doing work collectively to swapping serving roles (some women hired their neighbors or their neighbors’ kids out) and so forth, reducing the whole of domestic labor down to an individual wife’s efforts is very much the core of the problem. You shouldn’t do it all, and neither should your wife. And if it’s worth 20/hr, why are other people worth less to delegate the work out to?

      I run into that all the time, people don’t want to pay for household services at “what they’re worth”, but they sure want to do what you just did and make a list about how it’s ultra-important to do it all yourself (or make your wife Do It All Herself). Buying nearly all our meals is CHEAPER than home cooking, and we get to have nearly all the same buying from organic hippies benefits too. That’s just one example.

      Driving themselves has been one of the ways in which women’s sphere was crippled by forcing them into a piece of labor that was draining and unproductive at net compared to simply being able to let the kids take themselves places at fairly young ages.

      Civic activity isn’t actually possible when you require housewives to drive everywhere, cook at home all the time and do all their own cleaning and even yard maintenance. There’s literally nothing left in the tank to maintain an actual community and certainly very little left to maintain one private household for decades.

      Like

  17. Well… I thought about continuing… and then about not continuing…and now I think I will continue…

    AmyP —

    Everybody’s answer is going to be different & there’s lots of complications to think about. For example — is it realistic to think of a house without a kitchen? What is the marginal cost of producing a house with a kitchen vs a house without? My educated guess is — very small. After all, a bunch of guys are going to have to show up at a worksite every day for many months, it’s gonna take a bunch of concrete and bricks, etc, and how much is not having a kitchen going to change any of that? Not much. So, houses are going to have kitchens, and rightly so. People like them, and including them will increase the value of the house far beyond the marginal expense of including them versus excluding them, even if maybe they don’t get used to the hilt. Which is fine.

    The point is a bit more abstract — that you are surrounded by an economic world of capital, labor, production goods, etc, that cooking meals *is actually quite expensive* and it is absolutely not at all a no-brainer that cooking instead of going out (or making some other arrangement, etc) “saves money.” But if you implicitly value your time at $0, and take the capital in your house for granted, etc, because you have not learned how to think economically or as a businessman (or in some other way to see the world through a lens that lets you make wise decisions about resource allocations) it can look that way, and people wind up wasting their time, spinning their wheels, making themselves poorer and poorer, and more and more miserable. And then, people throw up their hands, get angry, get divorced and swallowed up by the Borg. In the absence of much reflection (or maybe a helpful pointer or two) people have a tendency to operate according to habit and to think in the concrete. They see money ‘going out’ when they buy dinner, and they don’t see it when they cook, and then draw the ‘obvious’ conclusion. Most people aren’t going to think about things like opportunity cost unless they have gotten in the habit of doing so.

    Anyway, people have to come up with their own answers. This wasn’t a discussion on The One Right Way to Skin a Cat. There are a million ways to do that, some better, some worse, all dependent on circumstance. This was a discussion of cat-anatomy, with some (hopefully) helpful examples and pointers.

    PC —

    I think I will leave it to others to decide for themselves whether I commented intelligently and/or in a relevant fashion and/or whether I missed the point and/or whether your objections showed any/all/none of the above qualities in their own right. I will only make two general (hopefully useful) comments —

    — As I remarked to AmyP above, the discussion was meant to be general, with some real-life examples to show application. However, they apply just as much whether you are talking about an individual family, or even an individual person, or the Local Organization of SAHM’s Dedicated to Improving Everything. Extending the division of labor in a more ‘social’ fashion will also generate perfectly acceptable answers, but will still be subject to the same basic laws. For example, I gave the example of using a bread machine instead of cooking my own bread. Actually, in doing so I employed the division of labor (I didn’t make the machine myself). Probably hundreds of people were involved in that transaction, but not in an obvious way. I saw a problem of low productivity, and chose to employ capital to goose it to a more economic level. Now it takes me about 5 minutes to do it. But I could have done something else.

    Different example — I never mow my yard. I learned very quickly that to do so is very, very ‘expensive.’ The first couple of times it took me upwards of 3 hours to do it, and another hour or so to recuperate. At $20/hour, about an $80 job. Plus I’m pretty well shot for the rest of the day. Again, a problem of abysmal productivity. There are multiple ways I could have responded — for example, as in the previous example, a better lawnmower. Instead, we hire it out, and there is simply no way I could compete with the guys who do it. They take a whopping 15 minutes to get it done, and in far better form than my pathetic attempt. $30. They knock out about 6 houses in our neighborhood in less than 2 hours. Not bad.

    (Looked at another way, if the cost of mowing a yard is $30, I’m valuing my time in the single digits per hour. Clearly, a no-brainer. I’m not going to mow my own yard unless I’m really, really, hurting. If I were a knucklehead, I might interpret my continued mowing of my own yard as some kind of thrift and manliness, and respond by celebrating my ‘sacrifice,’ etc, driving myself to misery in the process. But I’m not (quite) that much of a knucklehead.)

    Anyway, there are multiple ways to skin a cat, but some are dumb, and will have you digging your hole deeper and deeper. I was just trying to help people sort smart from dumb a little bit better. The tools and economic principles are agnostic as to anything social.

    — The basic thesis of your blog is that SAHMing and homeschooling and being traditional and such are cool and people should do it, but in their present form they tend to be dysfunctional and make people poor and miserable and therefore they also suck. And we should do something about it. Mostly they make people poor and miserable because the people who do them hew to unrealistic ideals, so we should maybe question the realism of all this and try to substitute in something better that actually gets things to work.

    This is a perfectly legit, reasonable and important thing to say.

    However, it is my observation that you are susceptible to a bit of the same thing — you are here swatting down ideas that can potentially improve people’s situations because they don’t include The Final Blueprint for the Local Organization of SAHM’s Dedicated to Improving Everything. Or, really, much in the way of social things, even though they are general things that don’t exclude them. Sorry, I just didn’t have any such examples on-hand at the moment. I’m also not saying these kinds of things are The Final Solution. I just find them helpful, and I voiced them. Nevertheless, for me to do so violates your ideal of an answer, so even though it might help people, you don’t like it.

    You tend to focus on the social in the immiseration process. Which is fine. However, I’m suggesting to you that these ideas are necessary and important and useful for helping to construct any sorts of organizations you see as being “good” answers. Which is another way of saying that if whatever you come up with gets crossways of them, your plan will blow up in your face, however nice it sounds in the ideal. Your activities must increase value for people, which is to say, they must operate efficiently, or they won’t last. More — they must increase value *at least as much* as competing institutions among the Borg. And the Borg, with their formal economies, well established corporate structures, well proved and established norms, habits, and prices and cash flows and everything else at their disposal, have a number of advantages over the present scattered informal and local structures that make up traditionalism.

    As you well put it, a tough nut to crack.

    Nevertheless, despite the difficulties and disadvantages, no small number of families are doing it anyway. Which means — economically! — that they value this alternative over others/joining the Borg. Hey, it’s a start! No doubt, for some other fraction, they sit on the fence, undecided, as the relative valuations are too close to call. Which is to say, in economic terms, they sit on the margin. A marginal improvement in traditionalist life, say, through the dissemination of ideas like these, and presto! — the margin moves — more families join! Hey, it’s progress! More ideas spin off! The geographic density of traditionalists increases! Little, functional, self-propagating organizations sprout up! The margin moves further! And further!

    This is how improvements are made here in the real world — marginal, incremental, sloooowwwwly. You won’t beat the Borg in a day. Then again, Borgdom wasn’t built in a day, either.

    Sounds to me like a battle plan. A practical one, even…

    And now, to continue with some more hopefully useful thoughts (or better yet, patterns of thoughts…) —

    –As I alluded above, I find that one really useful way to think about new solutions to problems of production is to break them down into the three factors of production used by the Classical Economists — land, labor, and capital. If you want more productivity, it can usually be seen as taking the form of using more of/and/or a different combination of these factors. I’ve already given a couple of examples you could think of this way, but how about one more? When my kids finally started to get out of the sippy-cup stage, we would use some small plastic cups for them that were given us as presents, of which we had, I think four. And I found myself washing them, by hand, after every meal, because we could not wait for the dishwasher as the next meal would come along long before it would be full. Not only that, I was almost always also washing them *before* each meal, since kids being kids, they were pretty much always dirty between meals, too.

    And then one day I looked at the situation and thought to myself “I’m under-capitalised.” Yes — I thought that. Literally. Don’t laugh. I suggested we get some more, wife said no, clutter up the kitchen or something, won’t use them for long, waste of money, blah blah blah, she went on a trip, I got some more anyway. Much easier. I did the same with forks and spoons when her parents visited for a longish spell, and I noticed it again. A very few dollars, a whole lot of time and irritation. Excellent, excellent investment.

    By and large, basic capital is very cheap in our economy. Make use of it. But more generally, breaking down a problem this way can cause ideas to jump to mind — if you are frustrated and wasting your time, maybe you could find another way to do it (labor) or get some help (more labor), maybe there’s a gadget, a better tool, a higher quality tool, whatever. Maybe you can think of a land example — sometimes what you need is a little more real-estate (actually, now I think of one maybe I’ll get to later…)

    If you’ve thought of a more elaborate, expensive idea, evaluate it with an NPV calculation, etc, the way I said earlier, to see which one is best. $20/hr for labor, upfront and recurring expenses, etc. I do this in a spreadsheet all the time.

    –Another breakdown — the London School (I believe) came up with a useful division of capital between ‘circulating’ and ‘fixed,’ fixed being something like the breadmaker I talked about before, and circulating like the cups — something which gets processed along (in this case, dirty, washed, reused, though usually it terminates, as with wheat, to flour, to bread.) Anyway, sometimes more fixed capital helps, sometimes you just need more circulating. Usually insufficient fixed capital cases are pretty obvious (but not always). However, insufficient circulating capital cases can be more subtle. Having too little circulating capital will have you needing to monitor it all the time in case you run out (extra labor expenditure). I think this is an under-rated expense. If you are worrying all the time, that’s work. Consider it wasting time, and therefore money. Do something about it — especially if the solution is cheap.

    — I commonly see what I consider a number of ‘middle-class mistakes,’ mostly borne out of unhealthy habits and attitudes. One is something the PC talks about all the time — eschewing servant labor and such as somehow grotesque, or uppity, or something. This is seriously dumb. Do the calculation — it isn’t hard. Follow the numbers, and think about alternative uses of your time. Don’t give a rip what the family/neighbors/in-laws whatever think. If it’s a good deal, and you don’t use it, well, don’t complain about the hole you’re in.

    Another mistake is having ‘the good stuff’ in reserve for special occasions (usually stuff like plates, pots and pans, expensive clothes, etc, not really talking about things like food that get used up) and using lower end stuff every day. Now, this is very romantic, and if it is important and valuable to you, then by all means keep doing it. This goes for everything — I can’t, and shouldn’t, determine your values for you. Just trying to help with ideas for sorting out and solving what to do with the values you have and thinking about them better.

    But if it isn’t really a question of some sort of ‘special value,’ but plain old economics, this probably has it backwards. This is usually not efficient, even though it looks ‘cheap.’ (Actually, this could be a case of the frying pan like I related earlier.) Something you never/rarely use can be low end and it won’t impact your life much (use common sense here! Don’t go to a job interview in a stained t-shirt!). But something you use all the time and is very durable will provide you with value more the more that you use it and the better it is for it’s use. Warning! — as I’ve said, this is a grand generalization! It doesn’t always work. But it is something to look out for. I’ve gotten in the habit of buying good shoes and a few of my common clothes and taking care of them so they last a long time (much longer than normal!) But my suits are pretty cheap, especially since next time I need it I might be too fat to fit into it…

    (I hereby reserve the right to use ‘middle-class mistakes’ as a category again in the future…There really are a lot of them.)

    –One more and I’m calling it a day for now. Inheritance is an economic issue that is way, way, underthought and poorly done these days, especially by the middle-class (hmmm… well, I’ve already started writing….) Most people doing the inheriting are already middle-age, with complete, established, intact households and good finances, not really too much in need, and most of what they are receiving is household items, etc, i.e., stuff they already have in abundance and can’t really use. So, they do a particularly inefficient thing, and sell perfectly good stuff to a swarm of estate-sale vultures in a macabre attempt to get ‘something’ for what used to be their loved-ones life. It is for the most part terrible, tragic, wasteful, and a whole lot of other bad stuff.

    Well, it is what it is. That’s the system that is out there, people are doing it and I would just encourage people to think before doing this stuff where their possessions (or possessions they receive as inheritance) might do a bit more good. Maybe the grandkids just starting out could use the furniture. Maybe you could consider an ‘early, partial inheritance’ for your own kids. Maybe you could remember that a basket of things intact (i.e., a household) often has more value than it would broken up and sold in pieces (or sometimes the reverse, but not often). Maybe you could find an alternative to this.

    And maybe, if you really need it, (like when you’re first starting out, and have almost nothing), it can pay to be one of those estate-sale vulture. But I wouldn’t make a habit of it…

    Like

    • Here’s the deal. Fewer and fewer people are doing any of this stuff. There’s no critical mass forming, if anything it’s going right in the other direction. There are no organic whatsits popping up. We passed that point a generation ago. Formalization has to be part of a change or shift or whatever you want to call it, instead of continuing to insist it’s not necessary.

      Like

  18. Scott said:

    “The point is a bit more abstract — that you are surrounded by an economic world of capital, labor, production goods, etc, that cooking meals *is actually quite expensive* and it is absolutely not at all a no-brainer that cooking instead of going out (or making some other arrangement, etc) “saves money.””

    I wouldn’t call what I do with my kitchen most of the time “cooking meals” but there’s a lot of food storage and basic preparation going on even without full-on cooking. For instance, every time I pull out some carrots and hummus from the fridge, set out some Cheerios and yogurt for the 3-year-old, or microwave popcorn, I’m using the kitchen.

    At our house, our food costs normally run between $10-$16 for dinner for 5 ($10 for vegetarian). We are able to all eat at an all-you-can-eat college cafeteria for around $15-$16 for all five of us. When it’s open, we’re usually there for dinner. A basic “American” restaurant meal (say IHOP) tends to run around $50+ for our family. A back of the envelope calculation suggests that that’s actually a good deal for the hours of labor involved.

    The problem is that our family does not have $50+ available to spend 30 days a month just on dinner, so we can’t do it, no matter how economically sensible it is.

    “Different example — I never mow my yard. I learned very quickly that to do so is very, very ‘expensive.’ The first couple of times it took me upwards of 3 hours to do it, and another hour or so to recuperate. At $20/hour, about an $80 job. Plus I’m pretty well shot for the rest of the day.”

    We’ve done exactly the same math and my husband hasn’t mowed a lawn in several years. It used to take him hours and hours and he’d be totally exhausted afterward.

    I’m over-capitalized–too many sippies, baby dishes and utensils. It leads to too many lengthy “discussions” with the youngest about which sippy, melamine bowl, or baby spoon is the ideal one for this particular meal.

    Like

    • I’m over-capitalized

      Ha, ha! That’s funny! I suppose that is also a danger…

      It sounds like you’ve really got a lot of this stuff worked out pretty well, actually. You must have a good instinct for it. Ahhh, wisdom is wasted on the wise… wish I knew this stuff a long time ago. I pretty well needed it beaten in over the head. A lot of it I only notice after I stumble in…

      Like

  19. I find Scott’s contribution refreshing because in so many discussions I’ve seen, the SAHM’s labor is treated as if it were free (i.e. had no value).

    For example, I’ve seen discussions where homeschooling was described as free. Aside from the materials involved, that makes no allowance for the extra years of not being able to work outside the home. If we assume the SAHM can make $30k a year (I’ll be conservative here) and stays home an extra 10 years (again, being conservative), that’s $300k. That figure would cover an awful lot of private school outside the coastal US.

    Like

      • One conservative homeschooling blogger did come out and say that she either homeschooled or stayed home (I can’t remember which one she was discussing in her post) because she was in fact totally unable to hold down a job that would pay even minimum wage. She thought this was a great rebuttal to the lost wages argument. At the time I was blinded by sympathy for her, but now I wonder why she didn’t see that it’s not that great a rebuttal.

        Like

  20. TPC said:

    “One conservative homeschooling blogger did come out and say that she either homeschooled or stayed home (I can’t remember which one she was discussing in her post) because she was in fact totally unable to hold down a job that would pay even minimum wage. She thought this was a great rebuttal to the lost wages argument. At the time I was blinded by sympathy for her, but now I wonder why she didn’t see that it’s not that great a rebuttal.”

    Yeah.

    Like

  21. Alright, let’s see if I can’t wrap this thing up with one more monster comment…

    First, just wanted to very much second AmyP’s assessment — homeschooling absolutely isn’t ‘free,’ it is very ‘expensive’ and that is an extremely important point. It’s gonna cost you, and worse, a lot of the value you create by doing it can never be ‘accounted,’ and so as we have seen, the ‘accounted’ world of the formal economy has a tendency to simply displace the economies which are informal. Unfortunately, as you two point out, I wonder how many homeschoolers would quit if they understood how ‘expensive’ it is? Oh well — not a good reason to propagate ignorance.

    The PC’s concerns — I suppose that you are correct if you take a 5 century (or even a 2 or 1 century) time horizon view of things. And maybe even correct generally. However, at least from my point of view, I am elated that I can actually bring about an improvement for my kids over what I had, and as I understand it, this kind of thing just really wasn’t much done prior to about the early 80’s (unless you go pretty far back). Also, we should probably see that a lot of the reason this is happening is that Borgdom has really started to fail people in clear(er) and (more) obvious ways, and the whole movement is a sort of rebellion. I guess there’s a bad take on that (i.e., people aren’t doing it because they suddenly see how great it is, they are running away from a negative rather than running towards a positive), but nevertheless, the cracks are starting to really show.

    But to take it a bit further, I would like to speculate that Borgdom in general is probably coming to a slow end. A lot of what drove traditional life into the shadows was this displacement brought about by the massive improvement in living standards that could be had by abandoning it. What happened in the 19th century (and still happens in places like China today) is people leaving their families, their homes, their way of life and undertaking a completely different, modern way of things for the promise of massive, massive material improvements (better/more food, better/more pay, etc.) One set of values displacing another, because of the basic poverty of the time. Well, I think we see that whole driver coming to an end, for example, with the recent turn downwards of % total employment. People are basically saying, “eh, not worth showing up for work for on Monday morning. I can have an ok life without all that; I think I’ll stay home with the folks today.” More or less exactly the opposite of what they were saying 150 years ago. Choosing a SAHM life is much the same thing. I know a lot of people are really upset over this turn of events, but I’ve got to say — I’m not. As advances in production make it easier and easier to get together the basics of living, which is to say, the value and benefits of participating in the rat race wind down, expect other values to rise up and displace these in people’s priorities. 600 years ago, nobody talked about economics, my guess is not because they were stupid and economics hadn’t been ‘invented’ yet, but because nobody much cared. There would not have been much you could do about it anyway. It would not surprise me if 150 years from now looked a lot like that.

    So, a few more ideas…I’ll try to be more succinct because this is wearing me out & eating up a lot of time…

    — One of the guys who I have learned the most from about this stuff (and put the whole idea of homeschooling in my head in the first place) was Gary North. And one of the ideas he has put out there as far as why these organizations fail is what he has called something like ‘povertism’ (and it’s practitioners ‘poverts.’) Poverts basically fetishize being poor and going hat-in-hand, and as an unintended result, self-sabotage everything. So, for example they will take a perfectly good Christian school that could turn a reasonable profit by charging tuition, pay everybody a reasonable going wage etc., and decide that to be somehow even more Christian, they should ask for donations, subsidize tuition for everybody, make it a virtual vow of poverty to work for the place, and make the whole outfit dependent on charity, with all the chaos and toxic effects that entails.

    Now, obviously, there is a time and place for charity, and if people need it they just need it. Not everything is going to be a profitable business venture, and some people just need the help. But if you can do it *why would you not?* Why invite in all those problems??? There’s plenty of pain and suffering going around, why create more? No, it doesn’t make it holier or whatever.

    I was going to speculate on the motives of this kind of stuff, but does it matter? Anyway, you can see the same kinds of things in people valuing their time at $0, wasting capital held personally and this kind of stuff. And maybe this is what PC meant about ‘formalization’ — as much as possible, it helps to have real, reasonable price tags on things so it becomes an easier task to make things work effectively and smoothly. Povertism is the antithesis of that.

    It is to be avoided like the plague.

    — More Gary North — he likes to talk about Pareto’s law, which more of a semi-obscure rule of thumb that 20% of the population will have 80% of the wealth, etc. Basically, it is a short-hand description of how things seem to naturally pile up and spread out in economic distributions. One popular way this has been applied is in the difficulty and cost of doing a project — usually, the first 80% takes 20% of the effort, and the last 20% (the final polish, etc) take up 80% of the effort. Example — people who make bread know that the rising of the bread is the critical part that determines the flavor. 80% of your time and effort will go into this one step in getting it right. Now, long ago, all bread was sourdough, but sourdough takes something like 16 hours to rise. Nowadays, we have industrial yeast that cut the time by a third. Cutting the time cut the amount of climate-controlled real-estate needed to hold all that bread while it rose — and made a huge dent in the cost of production.
    Application wise, I have found that at least in several cases, there is good value to be had in substituting your own work in ‘fit and finish’ phases of goods production. Most companies in trying to cut costs will wind up targeting these kinds of stages of production for short-cutting. So, finishing furniture well requires multiple stages that take a long time to dry and tie up real-estate in the process, and furniture winds up with poor finishing — which usually gives out first & leads people to toss it way before the end of its useful life. OTOH, you’ve probably got some ‘free’ real estate in your garage you could put to good use by refinishing furniture. Usually, you can do it in a week or so in about 30 minutes or an hour each night.

    Likewise, repairs, maintenance, and upgrades often take just a bit here and there — not much of your time, but it would be expensive to hire out to do a last bit of finish. I try to keep an eye out for things like that.

    — I do not know many very wealthy people, but I do know a few, and one thing they all have in common is that they work almost all of the time, and they just pay for everything they need (housekeeping, meals, etc.) This is a good bargain for them, because they spend all their time doing what they are best (or at least, very, very good) at, and being as productive as they possibly could be, and trading for things that other people do much better than they would and would be a literal waste of time and money for them to do. Unfortunately, most middle-class people are not in such a position — they usually have 9-5 type jobs with little possibility of overtime, and this is why, if they are having money problems or would just like to improve their finances a bit, I would suggest for most people these kinds of things I have mentioned. For most people, their best bet for making more money is working more, plain and simple. You can think of things like re-finishing furniture as investments in terms of materials you bought etc, but most of the value on most of them came out of your work. (Which, again, is why it is really, really important to place a substantial value on your time *and not waste it.*)

    On the other hand, if you are blue-collar and paid pretty well (>$20/hour), and overtime is available, you are almost certainly better off doing that than any of this stuff, and just paying for whatever kinds of things you need to make that work (within reason…). If you’re too busy to cook because you’ve got so much going on, then don’t. For awhile, I was doing this and making out like a bandit. I had that opportunity taken away, however, and having to readjust to all of this has had me thinking quite a bit about where I might find other sorts of opportunities.

    — Speaking of wealthy people, there’s a really important reason I think any middle-class type family should max out doing these kinds of things before they invest in things like the stock market — basically, because there is a swamp-out effect in markets as a result of a few very, very wealthy people that pushes returns down far below what you can get by restructuring your own household. When you invest in the market, you are going up against the likes of George Soros, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates, who have gazillions of dollars, know lots more about it than you, and in the main are perfectly happy making modest returns simply because they have so much to invest (OK, so those guys I’ve just mentioned tend to do better than that. But there’s lots more who don’t and don’t really care because they’re made men already, anyway). So, corrected for inflation, you will be lucky to get 4% in the stock market, and lately, just to break even.

    However, Warren Buffet & Co are more or less unable to invest in restructuring your household. They are excluded from this market, so you have a more or less complete and total competitive advantage. Odds are you can find all sorts of ‘investments’ that pay way more than 4% (for example, look back at my frying pan discussion — about a $50 frying pan would have saved me from paying $30/year). I do not want to go into a discussion about time-preferences, discount rates, interest, etc, but basically, to continue on with that old way of doing things and also to invest in the stock market is a sort of bizarre economic schizophrenia. One suggests I have an extremely high preference for immediate consumption (of frying pans) and the other that I am willing to wait 25 years to make my money back. What the heck?

    My suggestion — max out household investments (and community-type if you can think of them) before you bother with the stock market, because when you invest there, you are stuck with the market rate of return. OTOH, as I’ve said several times, you actually have to stick with the plan! If you’re just going to buy a bunch of expensive stuff, then trash it and go back to your old habits, don’t bother to start. Screwed up as it is, you’d be better off maxing out your 401K and making your measly 4%, because at least then you’ll have some sort of savings.

    — I had a couple more, but I’m not sure how interesting they’d be & probably people are already smart enough to know them intuitively. The first is to think of the money you need as like the forex a country needs to buy from other countries. America only needs as much renminbi as it takes to buy the things America needs from China, and therefore only needs to supply China with as much stuff as it takes to get those renminbi. But I think anybody doing the SAHM thing gets the basic idea — if you feel short of money, there are really two solutions — make more, or spend less (by producing more for yourself). Yeah, easier said than done, but once you’ve put it in the right terms & see that ‘spending less’ can really mean discovering ways to work for your own family, you have flexibility, and more answers open up.

    The second was the observation that working for the Borg has a tendency to reduce your ability to do these kinds of things — think economically, discover new ways of organizing things, etc. Basically, a lot of people are outsourcing their sense of responsibility to the Borg, who basically do all the value calculations for them and tell them what to do when they are working. Then, when they are home, they don’t bother to try to solve these things for themselves and the entire affair is one of pure consumption. Any productive activities tend to be extremely inefficient, and people give out quickly. You can ‘resist’ this tendency, but it’s a lot of work.

    But one thing the Borg will almost always do to you — and you should consider — is that they will optimize the productivity of capital over that of labor, simply because as acting as agents for shareholders, executives for the most part only care about the productivity of the capital entrusted to them. That’s how their bread gets buttered. Labor is generally expected to fend for itself, and all things considered, usually does so poorly. If the Borg have their way, you will be stepping and fetching so they can avoid investments they don’t want to make that any normal person would make for himself. Corporate structures tend to be capital-centric and therefore undercapitalized; private structures tend to be worker-centric (or even better — project-centric) and overcapitalized. Neither is optimal, but since, as I said, most sorts of capital are getting ever cheaper, the Borg have a rather glaring weak spot in the long run. In the interim, if you are working for them, you should remember the basic situation — when you are starting out, you will probably get a lot better pay than working for a smaller private firm or on your own, but unless you actively manage your career pretty aggressively — which means resisting the tendencies that surround you pretty strongly — you will wind up with a languishing salary in the long run. Just something to be aware of.

    If I had to give the view from 10,000 feet summary for somebody who didn’t want to read the whole thing — if you want to economize your life, attach realistic values to things, especially your time, and weigh things appropriately. A lot of people could substantially reduce how much they have to struggle just by thinking about the efficiency of the things they do.

    That’s all for now; if I think of anything else that seems pretty useful, I’ll try to remember to add it here.

    Thanks! It’s been fun!

    Like

    • Scott said:

      “Poverts basically fetishize being poor and going hat-in-hand, and as an unintended result, self-sabotage everything. So, for example they will take a perfectly good Christian school that could turn a reasonable profit by charging tuition, pay everybody a reasonable going wage etc., and decide that to be somehow even more Christian, they should ask for donations, subsidize tuition for everybody, make it a virtual vow of poverty to work for the place, and make the whole outfit dependent on charity, with all the chaos and toxic effects that entails.”

      Our kids’ school is relatively new and they’ve transitioned from 1) being pretty inexpensive, small class sizes, paying terrible wages, and having high teacher turnover to 2) being more expensive, having larger class sizes, paying OK wages and having less turnover. But, at the same time, we’ve also had issues with it morphing into a rich kid school and the class sizes are getting pretty big. That makes me uncomfortable, but it is more sustainable this way.

      Meanwhile, there’s an even newer school in town that (to my eye) appears to be wanting to be the budget version of our school and to be committing some of the errors you describe. Time will tell–especially as they are adding a junior high and high school….I suspect they will either fail or get more expensive–you can’t make people work for free forever.

      Like

Comments are closed.