Economists in Love: Jeff Ely

Jeff Ely is an economist and game theorist at Northwestern University. When he’s not teaching, or being elected a fellow, or editing Econometrica, or studying sunk costs, he’s blogging at Cheap Talk, where he’s got some good advice on managing in-laws and winning the Newlywed Game. Here, a peek into his married life with Jennie Ely, pictured above. God bless you, Jennie.

1. Is your marriage a repeated game? And if so, what kinds of things have you learned with each iteration?

It started out as a repeated game. Now its a game of repeating. My wife repeats the same thing over and over and I always give the same response: “take-out.” (alternatives: “your hair looks great as it is,” “it wasn’t me,” etc.)

2. Why are you an economist?

A) Couldn’t make it as a day-laborer.

B) In a classic episode of The Brady Bunch, Mrs. Brady counseled Jan to “find the thing you are best at and do your best at it.”  So I am faking it.

C) The best way to answer this question is in the form of a Platonic dialog:

Socrates:  You do not believe in free will?

Lookathese:  How can there be free will? I will always draw another breath.

Socrates:  Only if it chooses to be drawn.

Lookathese:  Dude.

3. What’s the biggest tradeoff you’ve faced by being married?

Is that a proposition?

4. Who’s better at using incentives to get the other one to do something he/she doesn’t want to do? You or your wife?

Obviously me, the PhD-trained economic theorist. For example, just the other day I used my expertise in the area of bonus compensation to get out of washing the dishes. I convinced my wife to let me use the dishwasher just this one time and all I had to do was give her a massage.

5. Does being an economist make you better or worse at resolving conflict with your wife?

As an economist and game theorist I have a unique understanding of the secrets of conflict resolution. And my marriage will be peaceful and harmonious once my wife accepts that.

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