Undercover Economist

April 3, 2010 1:53 am

Dear Economist: If I reduce ‘supply’, will my ‘price’ go up?

I was in a long-distance relationship with my ex-girlfriend for six months. She broke up with me after I decided to move for her. What do I do?

I was in a long-distance relationship with my ex-girlfriend for six months, I in Bangladesh and she in England. At first, everything was perfect, but then her demand curve for me seemed to be slowly shifting to the left. Paranoid, I started giving her a lot more attention, thereby increasing my supply. My price and marginal utility fell. We broke up once, but I convinced her to come back.
We went back to normal and we talked for hours everyday. I decided I would move for her and managed to get offers to study economics in the UK. She started acting very oddly, and a few days ago, she said she doesn’t love me any more and completely broke up with me.
We’re still friends and she’s started making excuses that don’t seem too rational. I think she’s confused and that she’ll come back if I play my cards right. Should I sharply reduce supply and hope that my price goes up? I love her more than anything. My demand curve for her is perfectly inelastic.
Anon, Bangladesh

Dear Anon,

I would put away the supply and demand curves and treat this as a problem of imperfect information. Before you cross continents, you must figure out what your ex-girlfriend thinks.

You blame your needy desperation for her change of behaviour – and it probably hasn’t helped. Even if you rescue this relationship you’ve basically conceded that you’ll be washing the dishes from now on.

But remember that she reduced demand before you increased supply. Why? Two hypotheses: she was bothered by the long-distance nature of the relationship, or she found someone she preferred to you. Test each against the fact that when you announced you’d be arriving on her doorstep, she dumped you. It’s pretty clear where the truth lies: it’s over. Yes, “sharply reduce supply” to this girl, but not because you hope to win her back.

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