Money Can’t Buy Me Parental Approval

Help! I need somebody

Help! Not just anybody

Help! You know I need Spivonomist

In an earlier post the good Spivonomist answered a question I had about Transaction versus Exchange. Transaction, he explained,* is the umbrella term for all human interaction (I generalize). Since then, the stew pot has been simmering, and another gristly question has bubbled upward for skimming: might some interactions preclude material transaction? Let’s take an age-old melodrama: son cannot win father’s approval and lives his life to do so, angry at father and self.

In some cases, Father feels pangs of guilt, even from the very beginning acknowledging his shortcomings as parent (say, absenteeism at war or in business), whence he thus showers his son with material goods, even cash. Nevertheless, there is no sale in this particular attempt at exchange. The only valid currency is presence, warmth, and affection.

The same melodrama works in reverse: a dutiful child desires presence, warmth, and affection from a demanding parent, but none is forthcoming. Therefore, the child showers the parent with material goods, even cash. Nevertheless, the material goods do not purchase the desired goods.

If this were a Hallmark holiday movie, the snow would then begin to fall, “Silent Night” to chime, and the hearts to melt, and we would witness, just before the credits roll, the exchange.

I would imagine that the first two cases are actually one: there is no exchange, only transaction. Perhaps there is an exchange, but the desired product is not given in exchange for the money, only an undesired product. The Hallmark transaction is an exchange, but devoid of material goods.

Is there an economics vocabulary for furthering understanding the nature of these material-free transactions and exchanges? I mean, we are trying to achieve eudaimonia here.

Won’t Spivonomist please, please help me?


*To thank me for forgoing “Samsplained,” send money.

6 thoughts on “Money Can’t Buy Me Parental Approval

    1. David Duke

      Nice link, but I wonder if “incomplete markets” is an accurate descriptor for a market that has exchanges in the emotional world.

  1. A finance term might work: you’re seeking “intangible” assets. Sam probably has a better explanation*.

    *To thank me for forgoing “Samsplained,” send money.

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