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Monday, February 23, 2015

Regulate the Dating Market

A modest proposal for romantic justice

This year’s Valentine’s Day was disastrous — not just for me, but for many ex-couples. But as I sat there on Sunday nursing my broken heart, I realized what’s wrong with romance today: not enough regulation.

The United States government has wisely chosen to regulate most other aspects of life, from what wage you are allowed to work for to what medicines a patient is allowed to buy over the counter. Voluntary interactions are all well and good, but the bottom line is that people have to be protected from themselves. The trade-off between liberty and security exists not only in privacy and foreign policy: we must strike a similar balance in the arena of love.

I propose the creation of a new government organization, the Committee to Assure Romantic Equity (CARE), to bring an end to the current Wild West of romance. Three powerful sets of regulations would bring much-needed stability to the chaos of dating.

1. Who’s allowed to date?

Just as professionals — from hair-braiders to interior decorators — must be licensed, so too the government must step in to license daters.

Right now, the dating market is overrun with shoddy specimens. Sleazy men buy women drinks and sleep with them on the first date. Immoral women cheat on their loving boyfriends. Many people lack the discretion to choose good partners for themselves, and their poor decisions can bring out the worst in people. Never mind that they sometimes have children.

To remedy this situation, any dating hopeful should have to submit an application to CARE. A licensing system should be set up whereby applicants pay for classes in order to certify both their good-heartedness and their ability to treat a partner well. In order to enforce this system, CARE agents would inspect couples, fining or jailing any individual engaged in dating without a CARE permit.

This wise step will remove the riff-raff from the dating market and ensure that good, kind individuals are never lured into romances they’ll regret. And if a few people find themselves forcibly removed from the dating pool, so what? They probably weren’t great partners to begin with.

2. Dating tickets

It is self-evident by now that free markets aren’t qualified to distribute scarce natural resources. Unregulated capitalism causes intense inequality.

Today, some men and women have four or five dates per week. Others may suffer dry spells lasting months. Further, those individuals who go on many dates have an opportunity to hone their skills, making them more attractive and ensuring even more dates in the future, while those who haven’t had a date in months simply languish. Their skills deteriorate, making them less and less attractive.

Such a situation is unequal and unfair. It highlights how unfettered markets create a rich-get-richer environment in which a lucky few rise to the top while the majority suffers. It proves that returns to love capital happen only at the top of the distribution, or as Thomas Piketty might summarize this theory: “r > l” where “r” is the rate of return on love capital and “l” is the rate of love growth for the rest of us. 

To remedy this situation, every man and woman should be forced to submit to CARE the number of dates he or she has planned each week. If someone has more than four, one of those dates should be randomly reassigned to a person who hasn’t been on a date in a month or more. This system will ensure a more even distribution of dates, in which each man and woman gets a fair share. (Apps like Tinder and OKCupid will have to be replaced by a single-payer CARE app.)

3. Breakups

Some people — not to name names — plan a beautiful weekend getaway for Valentine’s Day, only to be dumped without warning because we’re “too political.” This situation isn’t just immoral; it ought to be illegal!

The government already regulates who can be fired from a job and under what circumstances. We realize, for example, the tragic consequences of a woman losing her sole means of income, so we take steps to protect employees.

But is losing love any less traumatic? Heartbreak can lead to pain, misery, and even death. With this fact in mind, I propose a few common-sense restrictions on breaking up with a significant other.

Each man or woman preparing to let a partner go should have to fill out several forms showing due cause. No one should have to fear being dumped for trifling reasons such as “too much” political activism. With the guidance of CARE, relationships will be sustained that should be sustained — even as those that have a justifiable reason to end will be allowed to do so.

Similarly, we as a society should no longer tolerate breakups that give no warning. A person seeking to break up with a significant other should have to fill out a written complaint, notify his or her partner, and wait two weeks before the breakup. This notice will give the injured party time to adjust to the new status quo.

What about freedom?

Some naysayers complain that this new CARE will limit our freedom. But freedom is not the only value. We have to consider the greater good.

Freedom is tolerable when exercised in ways that serve society, but its excesses must be curbed to prevent its exercise in antisocial ways. Good, decent people need some security in the romance market. If that means a little less independence for everyone else, so be it. Those who demand unfettered freedom are simply apologists for the heartbreak status quo.

  • Julian is a former political op-ed writer and current nonprofit marketer. His work has been featured in FEE, National Review, Playboy, and Lawrence Reed's economics anthology Excuse Me, Professor.