The knell of laissez-faire is being sounded in the Caucasus. Government interference has stepped in to establish among the Caucasian tribesmen a fair value for wives. The maximum price for brides as indicated by the interplay of scarcity and utility, or in short by the ratio of supply to demand, is now fixed at $25 (half-price for a widow). In the future, the paternal monopolist will be forbidden to set an exorbitant value on the commodity he controls.
Economists have proven the iniquities of the laissez faire system by reference to former conditions in English factories and American railways but they forget to mention former marriage conditions in the Caucasus. To buy a wife was then a costly proposition, for besides paying a heavy sum to the bride's father, the groom was obliged to entertain the whole village lavishly on the day of his betrothal. To the poorer tribesman, therefore, stealing or kidnapping brides became almost obligatory, a practice which often led to blood feuds between the families of bride and kidnapper. So much for the evils of laissez faire; government regulation has now put an end to all of them.
In this respect, the Caucasian is indeed more fortunate than the American. The worst of his matrimonial evils was the fluctuation of market value due to monopoly control, but the American has to contend with a greater evil, one that defies government interference. This iniquity, the Economist calls cutthroat competition. Surely, the American Romeo, who engages in this sort of financial competition with his rivals when the supply of Romeos is great and that of Juliets small, would prefer to hand over 25, 30, or even 50 dollars to the bride's father as a cheap way out.
After all, an old skinflint is much easier to satisfy than a young gold-digger.