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MARGARET WENTE

Men want more testosterone, the world needs less Add to ...

Hey, fellas! Are you feeling listless and out of sorts? Are your vital fluids sluggish? Have you lost interest in manly pursuits? No worries. Modern medicine is here to help. You just need a dose of AndroGel or one of the other new heavily marketed elixirs that’ll put a tiger back in your tank.

In case you haven’t noticed, testosterone ads are all over talk radio these days. Talk radio offers the perfect target market – anxious middle-aged guys. Now they know how women feel. Normal middle age has been medicalized. If you’re growing older, there must be something wrong with you.

I really hope men ignore those ads. Of course they won’t, because testosterone is the core of their identity. But society has too much of it. Less testosterone is good for family life and good for the entire world. Men with lower levels of testosterone are nicer, more social and less aggressive. They’re a lot less likely to go out, get drunk and wrap their car around a tree.

New research has found that men’s testosterone levels plummet as soon as they become fathers. (Not all fathers welcome this news, as you can imagine.) This explains why even the wildest and most reckless guys are tamed by fatherhood. According to the research, men who are involved in child care have testosterone levels that are lower still. No one knows exactly why this happens, but it makes evolutionary sense. “The real take-home message is that male parental care is important,” Peter Ellison, a professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard, told The New York Times. “It’s important enough that it’s actually shaped the physiology of men.”

On the dark side, testosterone is implicated in the world’s financial woes. Perhaps you’ve noticed that not a single woman was involved with the reckless speculation that led to the debacle of 2008, and to the European banking crisis of today. This is not an accident. Countless studies have shown that women are far more financially risk-averse than men. When it comes to taking chances, women are modest about what they don’t know, and they dislike uncertainty. Men, by contrast, think they know it all.

“There’s been a lot of academic research suggesting that men think they know what they’re doing, even when they really don’t know what they’re doing,” says John Ameriks, the co-author of one of many studies that found that women make smarter investing decisions than men.

“Testosterone is the molecule that explains irrational exuberance,” says John Coates, a former investment banker who now conducts research in the new field of neuroeconomics. Mr. Coates believes he’s found the links between testosterone, trading behaviour and market bubbles. “On Wall Street, we have one slice of the population – young men – running our trading floors. That leads to extreme behaviour: They go wilding.” Success tends to make these men euphoric and delusional, and disaster inevitably ensues. He thinks the stock market would be a lot more stable if more traders were women and older men.

Women have only 10 per cent of the testosterone that men have. But they probably have 210 per cent of the judgment. Michael Lewis, author of the indispensable book The Big Short, was recently asked what single thing he’d do to prevent another financial catastrophe. “I would take steps to have 50 per cent of women in risk positions in banks.”

And that’s the argument for lowering your testosterone. So what if you’re a little sluggish? You’ll be a loving dad and a better investor. Plus, you probably won’t wreck the world.

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