Darwin on Wall Street

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Did you read
the one about the 25-year-old woman and the investment banker? It
is a bit of a New York morality tale, but Howard Stern made it a
national one by reading it on his program. Though it has been cited
around a number of places, you
can find the whole story online
, from which the following excerpts
come.

THIS
APPEARED ON CRAIG'S LIST… I'm a beautiful (spectacularly
beautiful) 25 year old girl. I'm articulate and classy… I'm looking
to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year.
I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year
is middle class in New York City… Are there any guys who make
500K or more on this board?… I dated a business man who makes
average around 200–250. But that's where I seem to hit a roadblock.
250,000 won't get me to central park west. I know a woman in my
yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in
Tribeca, and she's not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius.
So what is she doing right?… Here are my questions specifically:…
What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won't
hurt my feelings… Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles
on the upper east side so plain? I've seen really u2018plain jane'
boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy
guys. I've seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the
east village… How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I
am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY. Please hold your insults — I'm putting
myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial;
at least I'm being up front about it. I wouldn't be searching
for these kind of guys if I wasn't able to match them — in looks,
culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

Well, she got
an answer:

I read your
posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about
your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament.

Firstly,
I'm not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill;
that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how
I see it.

Your offer,
from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy
business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what
you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party
and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks
will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity…in
fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an
absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!

So, in economic
terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset.
Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates!
Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot
for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins
in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

So in Wall
Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy
and hold…hence the rub…marriage. It doesn't make good business
sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so
I'd rather lease. In case you think I'm being cruel, I would say
the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when
your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a
deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage… I hope this is
helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let
me know.

Unstated but
assumed in all of this is what philosopher D.
C. Stove
, in his book of the same name, would call a Darwinian
Fairy Tale
, the fairy tale here being that because there
is a theoretical evolutionary basis for rich men to pursue beautiful
women, they must in fact follow this course. Stove, an Australian
who died in 1993, had an eclectic collection of traits: he was an
atheist with respect for if not belief in religious writing, a believer
in evolution but not the Darwinian explanation of it, a rationalist
who was opposed to ages of what he called Enlightenment, and apparently
took aim at a number of other topics, including post-structuralist
criticism and other ills of the modern age. One imagines him a loud-mouthed,
know-it-all, in-your-face, take-on-the-whole-world-in-a-second kind
of fellow; in other words, an honorary New Yorker.

Stove traces
the intellectual history of Darwin's Origin
of Species
, showing how critically it relies upon that Anglican
parson's
argument in the Essay
on the Principle of Population
. Stove shows that Darwin,
having not learned not to use broad statements, claimed that Malthus'
principle applied to all species that had undergone evolution, including
Homo sapiens sapiensis, and that under the pressure to compete
and reproduce, each member of a species will always have the maximum
number of offspring that available food supplies would bear.

Using an almost
praxeological
approach (anathema to strict believers in quantifiable Science),
Stove reasons from first principles that this simply is not so.
(Not surprisingly, he is not
a fan of Karl Popper
.) Even royalty, with practically unlimited
resources, would still limit the size of their families, often leading
to the extinction of their lines. Stove recounts that this was part
of the reason that what he calls Darwinists were so opposed to religions:
their moral codes interfered with what would happen in a state of
nature, which led mankind to not follow the precepts of evolution,
meaning that there was one species that did not follow the theory.
(Stove has a little fun with Richard Dawkins [although not as much
as these guys],
following Mary
Midgely
's criticism of Evolution
as a Religion
, by claiming that Sociobiology is merely a
religion following in the footsteps of its founding father, British
theologian William
Paley
.)

Stove also
traces not just a hostility to religion amongst Darwinists, but
also an active support for Darwinism among socialists, communists
and national socialists. He implies but does not state that Darwinism
might be incompatible with free-market capitalism, though the iconoclastic
Stove gives little indication of whether he favors the latter.

This tale from
New York would seem to back Stove up on that point. Here, the institution
of property rights interferes with what should be the Darwinian
tale. Indeed, if the banker expected that his wealth would be quickly
seized, he might be more prone to using his position to secure favors,
as politicians
are
known
to do;
this echoes Hans-Hermann Hoppe's argument in Democracy,
The God That Failed
. The same behavior would obtain in a
society where monogamy was not the norm, as seen amongst chimpanzees,
lions and kangaroos, to choose three examples at random; males compete
to gather the largest group of females, and there is no way to preserve
wealth beyond the stage of physical primacy. In this way, property
rights work against the natural aggression seen in societies where
"alpha males" dominate. That New York is not yet such
a place is only one pleasing conclusion to draw from this amusing
exchange.

October
27, 2007

Thomas Schmidt
[send him mail], a
native of Brooklyn, still gets a laugh when he thinks about a bumper
sticker he once saw: “Freud, Marx, Darwin. Two down, one to go.”

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