Wednesday 22 January 2020

The tender years

I go into a bit more depth, over at Newsroom ($), on our tendering system for the household chores. I wonder whether it will catch on among econ-minded parents. A snippet:
Back in 1968, economist Friedrich Hayek wrote that competition is a discovery procedure. Some information about the world simply would not exist without the process of market competition that discovers it.

Parenting is a discovery procedure too – some information about it is difficult to acquire without going through the process. Applying a few economic insights can make some bits of parenting just a little less painful – like sorting out the household chores.

Every household has some chores that the kids are just expected to do as part of the general terms and conditions of family membership. But other chores are more onerous, both for the kids and for the parent, and love and empathy within the family can only get you so far. Managing some tasks can too easily be more painful than just doing them yourself.

If cleaning the cats’ litter box is a particularly objectionable task, which kid gets the job? If they take it in turn, whose turn is it this time? Is dealing with the cat box really worse than sweeping the floors? How much worse? And what happens if one of the chores doesn’t get done?
But back to the tendering system. As parents, we really didn’t know what allocation of chores would result in the least amount of grief. We needed information that the kids could not really credibly deliver to us. They might not even know it themselves without being put to the choice. We needed a procedure to elicit that information. And, at least as importantly, we needed a procedure that reduced the hassle in getting the allocated chores done.

And sealed bid tenders seemed just the thing.
I'll link to the ungated version on our site when it's up. [Update - it's ungated at their site now.]

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