This is an intriguing idea on the academic level, but it ends in folly rather than purpose. As I read along, I kept expecting at any moment that you would turn the corner from symbolism to some socially beneficial application, but it never happened.

Marriage has become more a spectator sport than a participatory one. Today, a couple goes it alone, while friends and family do nothing to ensure its success. In that aspect, we agree that the participation of the community is the key to success.

I would submit to you that a parallel of this idea is already taking place in some marriages, and that the model can be applied to countless others not merely for short-term material benefit but for long-term societal health.

Wise friends and family would go beyond discussing the matter among themselves to encouraging – even expecting – the couple to seek pre-marriage counseling. A pre-marriage inventory tool often brings out the very concerns that the friends and family might have felt or even expressed, but this time from an objective professional. The professional can then lead the couple to examine and address these potential weaknesses (as well as the potential strengths) revealed through the inventory.

Should the couple choose to marry, they should plan their ceremony with purpose. It requires a paradigm shift that considers invitees to the ceremony not merely as guests to be fed at a reception, but as investors in their marriage. Some savvy couples are choosing to include in their ceremony a voluntary covenant signing, giving all those in attendance the opportunity to sign on as witnesses and as those who hold them accountable to their vows.

There will always be pressure on a marriage from both inside and out that will contribute to its strengthening or weakening. The goal is to maximize the positive forces (again, both inside and out) and minimize the negative. While the outcome might not be as tangible as market prices, the benefits of a good marriage far outweigh any material tag that can be placed on it.

But I have to admit that this reality never seemed so clear as it is now after your market analogy. Thank you.

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I agree with Susan; this is a bad idea. Has there ever been a case of a couple calling off a wedding because family or friends disapproved? Placing wagers against the marriage is only likely to cause bad feelings and suspicion, but it would not be likely to dissuade them from tying the knot. In fact, I think such a market might isolate the couple, who rightly would wonder which of their friends had bet against them. Would you ask a friend for advice if you suspected that he had wagered actual cash on the prospect that your marriage would collapse? Dealing with friends and family requires trust, and the market would undermine that, weakening the support structure that the new couple will need if the marriage is to succeed.

Also, I doubt there would be enough public information available for the market to work efficiently. Marriages are fairly private affairs, that can work (or fail) on many different levels. Given the complexity of the issue, and the relatively small pool of people who would have any knowledge of the couple, I think a market is the wrong approach.

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J, you have not taken to heart my comment that you need to learn more of the basics here. You are struggling with issue that have been well worked out.

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G, you're talking about an options market. If you don't think a marriage will last 3 years, you sell a promise to pay, say, $5000 in 3 years if the marriage is still going then. Someone who is absolutely certain the marriage will last that long will buy that at a discount -- say $4300, to account for the interest he could make on the money in 3 years if he kept it. Someone who thinks the marriage Someone who isn't sure would pay less because he might lose his money. Of course, that isn't the only concern. What if you go bankrupt in the meantime? What if you can't pay when the note comes due? You might die. You might flee the country. The bet is safe if you put the money in escrow, but then you're out your money for 3 years.

The fair way would be that you put your money in escrow and the person who bets against you puts their money in escrow too, and then the whole sum is available to whoever wins in 3 years. And either of you could sell your side of the bet to whoever wants to buy it, for whatever price you can agree on. Then someone who's sure the marriage will last could pay up to the whole sum discounted for inflation and such, while those who are less sure would pay less.

And the original wagers might be at whatever odds they could agree on. If the people who put up the money agree to 3:2 odds for 3 years, one of them might put up $6000 while the other puts up only $4000.

So there could be a series of official bets for different lengths of time. And I think it's interesting that in a thinly-traded market there could be large inconsistencies in the prices. If the prices for a particular yes versus no trade combine to less than $10,000 discounted, one person could buy both of them and have a sure win. And that could happen with nobody noticing for a long time. More likely both sides would sell high, because the two gamblers disagree on the odds. A bet that the marriage would fail early might cost more than a bet that it would fail late, even though the odds are worse and the payout is the same, simply because nobody wanted to spend the money to make a better bet.

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Rachel,why do you say "reverse"? It sounds like standard life insurance to me.

jeff gray,wow! I've never heard of a system that had both doweries and bride-prices. I do hear stories in which systems seem to have trouble switching from one to the other (eg, India today). I imagine the sign of the transaction has a large cost and so the market is not liquid near zero, but not so large a cost as being the only one in town with the wrong sign.

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and before someone sics Plutarch on me, it is only supposed ancient Babylonian custom, according to Herodotus

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Marriage futures? Psshaw! How about marriage markets?Herodotus (1.196)on ancient Babylonian custom.

Once a year in each village the maidens of age to marry were collected all together into one place; while the men stood round... Then a herald offered [the girls] one by one for sale. He began with the most beautiful. When she was sold for no small sum of money, he offered for sale the...next...in beauty. All of them were sold to be wives. The richest of the Babylonians who wished to wed bid against each other for the loveliest maidens, while the humbler wife-seekers, who were indifferent about beauty, took the more homely [girls] with marriage-portions [a subsidy].

The custom was that when the herald had [sold all of] the beautiful damsels, he should then call up the ugliest [ones] -a cripple, if there [was] one- and offer her...asking who would agree to take her [for] the smallest marriage-portion. And the man who offered to take the smallest sum had her assigned to him. The marriage-portions were furnished by the money paid for the beautiful damsels, and thus the fairer maidens portioned out the uglier. No one was allowed to give his daughter in marriage to the man of his choice...if, however, it turned out that they [man & wife] did not agree, [his] money might be paid back.

Herodotus, The History, George Rawlinson, trans., (New York: Dutton & Co., 1862)

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Silas, the couple might place a limit on how much negative their position could be, to reduce concerns that they might "throw" their marriage to win bets.

Mobile, yes derivatives created by bundling marriage assets could be interesting to trade.

Shaun, don't let the best be the enemy of the good.

Eliezer, yes, if it were cheap enough to create these markets they could be used to explore possible partners.

Rachel, interesting historical analogy.

John, good relevant quote.

Susan, these markets could as easily send good vibes as bad.

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What absolute rubbish! I've never heard of anything so utterly ridiculous. If a marriage is doomed from the beginning anyway, betting on how long it will last is a waste of time. Think of all the bad vibes you're sending out to the couple in qiestion.A good example is tabloid magazines who tell us all that a celebrity marriage is in trouble. For all we know the stories in the magazines have probably contributed to the ending of the relationship.Concentrate on your own life rather than betting on the cessation of someone else's relationship.

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"Prediction is one of the pleasures of life. Conversation would wither without it. “It won’t last. She’ll dump him in a month.” If you’re wrong, no one will call you on it, because being right or wrong isn’t really the point. The point is that you think he’s not worthy of her, and the prediction is just a way of enhancing your judgment with a pleasant prevision of doom. Unless you’re putting money on it, nothing is at stake except your reputation for wisdom in matters of the heart. If a month goes by and they’re still together, the deadline can be extended without penalty. “She’ll leave him, trust me. It’s only a matter of time.” They get married: “Funny things happen. You never know.” You still weren’t wrong. Either the marriage is a bad one—you erred in the right direction—or you got beaten by a low-probability outcome(...)"


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I wouldn't consider staying married to win a bet - in whole or in part - a good contribution to a healthy marriage. The customary wisdom that "any reason is a good reason to stay married" simply doesn't hold. I can only imagine the complications that would result from spouses having to second guess the //real// reasons their spouses are staying in a difficult relationship.

Furthermore, marriages are capable of having more value than as permanent relationships. Just because a marriage ends in divorce doesn't mean it was a waste of time. Why reinforce that value?

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This isn't actually a new idea. Under Jewish law a man must promises his wife a set amount if he dies or divorces her. This is normally called the Ketubah. If she pleases the wife can sell her rights to a third party for money upfront. I don't know if there was ever a well-functioning market in Ketubahs, but there were definitely occasional trades. Of course, 2000 years ago divorce was a lot less common than death. So it wasn't really a marriage future so much as reverse life insurance.

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I have been married a long time. Suppose someone with a wager on my marriage came to me and offered money for me to get a divorce.Would that mean I could continue living with my wife out of wedlock (as we did before we got married)? The marginal utility of having the legal document- not so great.But if it means I can't see her again (or something like that)--OUCH, I'm not sure the money would be interesting.This could be instuctive for the market makers.

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Another use of these markets would be to buy instruments suggesting marriages to people who might not otherwise consider them. For example, a rock star, instead of having to look all over the place for a good marriage partner, might simply establish a general market in conditional instruments and wait for contracts indicating a fifty-year marriage with some person X to rise above a certain value.

Incidentally, this comes under the heading of things I would not ask an AI for predictions about, if I had one.

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Unusual futures markets

Marriage Futures by www.overcomingbias.com discusses the value of creating betting markets in couples successfully making it to marriage....

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An interesting idea. I think this would be useful to test the proposition that people can tell when a marriage will not work. However, as an idea for someone thinking of getting married it's a bit of a stinker - you're much better asking your close friends for candid advice several months before you pop the question, not after you're already engaged.

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