How Microwave Ovens Paved the Way for Same Sex Marriage

How Microwave Ovens Paved the Way for Same Sex Marriage

When I was five my family got its first microwave oven. The department store sent a nice lady over to teach my mother how she could use it to roast a chicken while we four children looked on in amazement. Little did I know then that this device was about to revolutionize marriage in an entirely unexpected way.

An interesting piece on Bloomberg this morning argues that the same economic factors that brought an end to “traditional” marriage are paving the way for the legalization of equal marriage rights for homosexual couples – home production technologies and the higher earning ability of women.

The beginning of the last century brought with it a whole new technology that revolutionized housework  – electrification. Almost immediately the market was flooded with new consumer durable goods, such as washing machines and electric irons, designed to make women more productive.

Economists like Jeremy Greenwood have argued that these early technologies decreased the opportunity cost of having wives working outside of the home and created an economic incentive that pushed women out of the home and into the workforce.

At the same time, electrification in manufacturing was creating new jobs that required more brains than brawn. This second economic incentive increased the earning abilities of women pulling women out of their homes and into the waged workforce.

Fifty years later, homes across North America began to fit themselves out with a new technology that saved women more time than any technology that came before it – the microwave oven. Food producers responded quickly with prepackaged foods that were easily prepared in a microwave oven in a matter of minutes.

Before we knew it family dinners were appearing on the dining room table without having a mom at home cooking all afternoon.

The authors of the Bloomberg piece, University of Pennsylvania professors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, are absolutely right when they argue that marriage changed as a result of these economic influences.  

The traditional economic arrangement where women exercised their comparative advantage in home production while men exercised their comparative advantage in the labor force production has gone the way of the dinosaur, taking with it our view of what it means to work together as a couple.

Once society started to shift way from the “male bread winner” model of the family it was natural to start thinking about new ways to arrange families. Couples in which both partners are the same gender, after all, are not really so different from modern day heterosexual partnerships, at least not in terms of economic organization.

Stevenson and Wolfers, themselves the epitome of the modern day couple, write:


It is no coincidence that many of the opponents of same-sex marriage are also opponents of the ongoing shift to marriages of equality. Theirs is a futile battle.

Indeed, you can fight a war of public opinion if you like but economic influences have been shaping marriage for thousands of years (the bread-winner model of the family didn’t even exist 200 years ago) and they will continue to wield their influence long past the point at which anyone thinks that a loving relationship between two committed adults is unnatural.

Many thanks to Peter Jarrett for sending me the Bloomberg article this morning.

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Volcanoes to power bitcoin mining in El Salvador

The first nation to make bitcoin legal tender will use geothermal energy to mine it.

Credit: Aaron Thomas via Unsplash
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

In June 2021, El Salvador became the first nation in the world to make bitcoin legal tender. Soon after, President Nayib Bukele instructed a state-owned power company to provide bitcoin mining facilities with cheap, clean energy — harnessed from the country's volcanoes.

The challenge: Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, a digital form of money and a payment system. Crypto has several advantages over physical dollars and cents — it's incredibly difficult to counterfeit, and transactions are more secure — but it also has a major downside.

Crypto transactions are recorded and new coins are added into circulation through a process called mining.

Crypto mining involves computers solving incredibly difficult mathematical puzzles. It is also incredibly energy-intensive — Cambridge University researchers estimate that bitcoin mining alone consumes more electricity every year than Argentina.

Most of that electricity is generated by carbon-emitting fossil fuels. As it stands, bitcoin mining produces an estimated 36.95 megatons of CO2 annually.

A world first: On June 9, El Salvador became the first nation to make bitcoin legal tender, meaning businesses have to accept it as payment and citizens can use it to pay taxes.

Less than a day later, Bukele tweeted that he'd instructed a state-owned geothermal electric company to put together a plan to provide bitcoin mining facilities with "very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable, 0 emissions energy."

Geothermal electricity is produced by capturing heat from the Earth itself. In El Salvador, that heat comes from volcanoes, and an estimated two-thirds of their energy potential is currently untapped.

Why it matters: El Salvador's decision to make bitcoin legal tender could be a win for both the crypto and the nation itself.

"(W)hat it does for bitcoin is further legitimizes its status as a potential reserve asset for sovereign and super sovereign entities," Greg King, CEO of crypto asset management firm Osprey Funds, told CBS News of the legislation.

Meanwhile, El Salvador is one of the poorest nations in North America, and bitcoin miners — the people who own and operate the computers doing the mining — receive bitcoins as a reward for their efforts.

"This is going to evolve fast!"
NAYIB BUKELE

If El Salvador begins operating bitcoin mining facilities powered by clean, cheap geothermal energy, it could become a global hub for mining — and receive a much-needed economic boost in the process.

The next steps: It remains to be seen whether Salvadorans will fully embrace bitcoin — which is notoriously volatile — or continue business-as-usual with the nation's other legal tender, the U.S. dollar.

Only time will tell if Bukele's plan for volcano-powered bitcoin mining facilities comes to fruition, too — but based on the speed of things so far, we won't have to wait long to find out.

Less than three hours after tweeting about the idea, Bukele followed up with another tweet claiming that the nation's geothermal energy company had already dug a new well and was designing a "mining hub" around it.

"This is going to evolve fast!" the president promised.

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