Personally, I'm in favor of marriage. The public declaration of fealty steers the focus of any marital problems onto resolution rather than dissolution. However, I don't think the question should be, "Should gay couples be allowed to marry?". It should be, "Why is the government involved, AT ALL, in how people wish to structure their households?".

We should be relying on government for assistance in enforcing contracts. But how these contracts are structured should be entirely up to the people involved. This, of course, includes people who wish to structure their households around participation by more than two individuals.

I guess there needs to be a set of default contracts (to protect children and establish ownership of chattels, etc.) which are deemed to be in effect when people share a household; but, other than that, the government should have no role. 

I know that polygamy facilitates some injustices that never occur in "traditional" marriages <joke>, but is polygamy sufficiently evil by its nature to require the government to ban it?

Tags: marriage, polygamy

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There are some number of seriously bad consequences of allowing it.

Firstly, it is a predominantly male activity. There is a roughly equal amount of men and women, and most who would be successful in building harems are male with excess resources (money). This would mean a lot of single men without satisfied relationship and reproductive desires floating around. Both of these are clearly markers of violent male criminal behavior. Polygamy would therefore increase violent crime.

Secondly, since much of the reproductive success is founded on resources, those who do not possess resources would be effectively eliminated from the gene pool due to human causes. It would imply that humans would leave sexual selection up to a fairly arbitrary human invention - wealth.

The current system of only one partner at a time (at least officially) is a much better system. Serial monogamy is socially acceptable already and having multiple sexual partners simultaneously is drifting into acceptability in many places.

Even though I rarely preach for morality through legislation, the optimal size for the family unit remains that of two parents in a monogamous relationship.

The male portion is likely a social construct, not an innate issue. There were matrilineal peoples where the women took multiple husbands. Decent was traced via the female lineage, so there was no stigma attached to not knowing which man was your father. Cheating also did not result in "bastards" in these societies.

I also would like to note that serial monogamy with the current male-oriented society produces the same legal and social issues as polygamy would, and thus is not a good reason to ban it (inheritance, "unclaimed" children, odd family dynamics). People can and do work around these issues; people can and would work around polygamy issues. One look at daytime talk shows will show you how bad any kind of relationship can get. That's just inherent to complex society.

Beyond that, wealth already plays a role in relationships. That means we need to address wealth distribution directly, not put odd restrictions on marriage. Women are now much more likely to have their own source of income, so as long as you're not looking at baseline poverty this is almost a non-issue in the U.S.

Any *stable* family is the optimal environment for raising children. It's instability that causes issues. Extreme poverty, moving too much, or having a violent home life are far more disrupting to children's development than polygamy ever could be.
I agree with a number of your statements, but I don't think allowing polygamy would solve any of them. Moreover, solving issues between two parties is enough - adding a third, fourth, fifth etc just serve to complicate issues in non-functioning families exponentially. The religion link is especially worrying as most religions condone child abuse.

well stated Kirsten!

we need to understand community as being those involved in our lives, not just those around us. kids need to feel a part of something.. i offer that today most traditional monogamous families don't really have time for their kids and that pressure compounds any communication issues in the relationship. with more people directly involved in the family, the kids learn they are part of a greater unit and grow from the impact that provides.

It doesn't have to be a predominantly male activity.  That's the historical bias, but that's mostly caused by a theistic patriarchal system.  I actually doubt you're supporting that.  Additionally, I don't think your violent male behavior idea is supported very well.  Polygamy isn't allowed and there seems to be plenty of violent behavior, shouldn't it be the opposite?  (to be fair, I doubt whether a single factor like legal family size would have an overwhelming effect on violence.  Other social factors would have a much greater impact.)  Anyway, if polygamy were legal, who's to say that powerful women wouldn't have several husbands?  Historically this hasn't even been possible due to the religious subjugation of women.


Reproduction success is founding on resources?  I don't know where you live, but plenty of poor people and teens reproduce where I'm from.  I wish reproduction would be only attempted by those with sufficient means.

"theistic patriarchal system"

Do you have an example of a non-theistic patriarchal system in which polygamy is normal? It is part of that very system and rightly considered deviance from the norm. It's not an uncommon social system among other primates, but that doesn't immediately need we need to take it up in ours.

As for historical bias you are absolutely correct. Is there any other way of judging its most likely impact than looking at what it has done to societies in the past?

Physical violence is anti-social behavior and most often committed by men. Usual markers include a vast number of things including social position, religion, upbringing, brain chemistry - and being single. Married men usually beat their wife, single men beat other men. There are more victims of the second category because they don't always beat the same guy twice. If 1 guy has 10 wifes, 9 other guys don't have a partner. If 1 in 10 is violent and each violent man beats on average 9 other men, then you have essentially created a system with more victims of violence.  Count it however you like, but the only place the model breaks down if is no men are violent.

The vast number of families which are not counted among the poor will not expand outside their ability to provide. I only know the stats from my own country, but some trends which has stood out is that women who had 2 children in their late teens/early twenties, quite often had a third child in their forties an with another man. They essentially calculated that they could afford 2 children "back then" and suddenly after the children became financially independent, that they could afford another one. Resource access is a natural modifier of number of children. Time is one of them - most women don't have time for children until long after they probably should.

Today things are completely different, most women now get kids first in their mid- and late thirties. Avg. age for a first birth has actually crossed from around 20 to around 30 in a bit more than 30 years.


Polygamy affects more than the people directly involved, and this is therefore what must be the starting point for analysis. Not the rights of the polygamist.

"I agree with a number of your statements, but I don't think allowing polygamy would solve any of them. Moreover, solving issues between two parties is enough - adding a third, fourth, fifth etc just serve to complicate issues in non-functioning families exponentially. The religion link is especially worrying as most religions condone child abuse."


  Polygamy isn't meant to solve any issues outside the desire to commit to more than one person at once, for whatever reasons, and to give those "extra" spouses legal rights and discourses should something go wrong. 


   I also don't see any religious link here, unless you're talking about religious practice of polygamy as with Mormon Fundies. I don't see how it would even matter. There are laws against abuse of people, especially children. Marriage and those laws are separate for a damn good reason. Religious peoples are not excused from these laws and many kids get removed from such abusive situations. Enforcement isn't 100%, but that's not the point here and not important to this discussion.


"Count it however you like, but the only place the model breaks down if is no men are violent."


   Violence here is more based on poverty than anything else. The violence in other areas with weird sex-ratios also tend to be impoverished, which ups the level of violence considerably. They also tend to be uneducated and have little access to things like healthcare, basic food and clean water.


Correlation is NOT causation. Keep that in mind.

"Correlation is NOT causation."

That's just absurd. It would imply that the study of science is inherently incorrect. Correlation does not automatically prove causation, that's the point of the surrounding logic. I acknowledged clearly that I was not creating a perfect model and was focusing of a subset of a subset of a subset etc. The only possibility to claim I am dishonest is if there is absolutely no empirical evidence to support the assumptions.

I doubt any of us have the expertize to look at anything than small bits of a major issue. There are thousands of factors with varying degree of importance, I've tried to pick some which should be so immediately obvious to anyone that having to go through the hassle of sourcing everything shouldn't be required.

Scientists will tell you this. This is the first rule of study. One does not use things like poling as the primary source of evidence as they do not filter out informational bias. Correlation really doesn't equal causation. You can correlate all you want, but without additional evidence your findings will not pass muster within the scientific community.


This is fact. I love science, and I plan on cramming my life as full of it as I can. Spotting bad science is just as important as doing good science!

Scientists have actually taught me personally to use statistics to find correlation and logic to find causation. All statistical evidence is based on correlation, and all science is based on statistical evidence.

What you really want to comment upon is the perceived lack of R^2 or that I am not correcting the model for bias. The bias is based upon perception, but within the behavioral sciences perception is usually reality.


You've got to be kidding me.


Polygamy is gender-neutral.  IF the system is actually gender-neutral, and not polygyny or polyandry, which is a mandated (traditionally by religious edict) gender-imbalance, then there IS NO SURPLUS OF MEN.  If 1 guy has 10 wives, those 10 wives ALSO have 10 husbands, leaving no man "single" unless he's just an asshole who nobody wants to date.  Sorry, but dictating 1 man + 1 woman doesn't automatically mean every guy gets a girl either if he's too big of a jerk to attract one.


You are also assuming 100% heterosexuality, which is not the case.  


In a system where 1 guy has 10 wives, and he beats each of those wives, and each of those wives ALSO has 10 husbands of her own, that's 100 other guys who are going to beat the wife-beater's ass (assuming one of the wives doesn't get to him first - I'm certainly scarier than any of my male partners and my boyfriend's wife is scarier than me).  


Within the poly community, THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN because of the interconnectivity of the community.  This only happens in insulated, patriarchal societies that have built up a system to protect the abuser.  But when the society is egalitarian, as the poly community is, each person has too much accountability to too many other people to get away with shit like that.  This is not a function of polygamy.  This is a function of abuse, of poverty, of patriarchy, and of authoritarian-based religion, and it is equally a problem in monogamy.  What makes it *less* of a problem in monogamy is a society that is increasingly growing more egalitarian and less poverty-stricken.


As we like to say, when you develop a reputation for not playing well with others, eventually no one will play with you.  Abusers, in our communities, quickly find themselves without anyone to abuse because there are too many other eyes looking out for each other.

"Polygamy is gender-neutral."

As a term: yes. As a concept: no.

The vast majority of polygamists, defined in the context of this debate as those who would like a legally and socially accepted standing for the act of polygamy, are men. In places it is legal it is a male dominated activity.

The good thing with starting off with an erroneous conclusion is that it makes the rest of your arguments inconsequential. :)



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