Megan McArdle’s not happy with my defense of men against the charge of shirking on housework. If I held the view she ascribes to me – “that the partner in a marriage who cares less about something should always win” – she’d be right to call me “daft.”

But that’s not my view at all. My point was that men who do little housework are very frequently misjudged by their spouses. What women see as male shirking is usually something much more benign: lower standards.

What difference does it make? Well, if your spouse shirks, you have a decent reason to get angry. But if your spouse merely has lower standards, the wise path is amicable bargaining. The end result of amicable bargaining is certainly not going to be that “whoever cares less wins.” But it will often mean that whoever cares less does less work.

Megan is quick to object that “Coasean reasoning only holds if you believe that marriage somehow eliminates all transaction costs.” This is way too strong. Coasean reasoning only holds perfectly with zero transactions costs. But the Coasean insight that creative bargaining is a very good way to resolve conflict holds even when transactions costs are substantial.

Peace, Megan. 🙂