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April 7, 2006

Big Love?

In One Man, Many Wives, Big Problems, Jonathan Rauch tries to establish that because the social consequences of polygamy are serious and very different from homosexuality, we should not allow it. Essentially he argues that it won't take much polygamy to lead to massive social unrest. Nevertheless, I'm not sure what an article like this is doing in Reason.

If everyone involved is of a consenting age and enters into it willingly, I'm not sure why anyone else should care. Even if it leads to a bit more crime, it hardly seems like anyone else's business, especially if they don't use it as an excuse to grab for new state subsidies. If all these people want it the right to leave some stuff to their several spouses and not have to worry about the police kicking down the door, than we should be leaving these guys alone.

The issue leaves me with the same general feeling I have about homosexual unions, that I'm fine having them be legally recognized, but as long as we are going to involve the state in each other's business generally, also I do not have a problem with special privileges being accorded to long-term monogamous heterosexual relationships, especially those involved in procreation.

But some people do find the social unrest issue a plausible threat. Roaming bands of unmarried men harassing and destroying doesn't sound too nice, so it makes for a good scare tactic. The reality would be unlikely to be as dangerous.

Why? Three reasons, jail, homosexuality, and women.

First let's deal with jail. There are over 2 million incarcerated Americans between US prisons and jails. There are about 9 (actually more) men in prison for every women. That makes
a net reduction of 1.6 million men. So right off the bat, we know that There are about 98 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 40, the key child bearing years. Half of those are men, there are 3% more women than men as a baseline to actively compete for mates. Yes, I know that some people in jail are married, but in many respects they are taken out of the marriage pool. They certainly are much less likely to be married.

Next, on to homosexuality. Trendy female bisexuality non-withstanding, male homosexuality is usually measured as at least twice as common as that of female homosexuality. On the high end this estimate that makes another 2 million net men vanish from the heterosexual pool.

Plus, women like to marry more than men do. Among single English-speaking, heterosexual men ages 25 to 34, fifty-three percent agree that they are "not interested in getting married anytime soon. In contrast, 63% of college going women hoped to meet their future husbands there. Eighty three percent of those women thought that, "being married is a very important goal to me"

So, all in all we have millions more women than men in the heterosexual marriage pool, and of those the women feel much more strongly about getting married. Is it any wonder that as a result that working women do more housework? The deck is stacked against women who want to be married, and most of the reason for that is the near-complete breakdown in the solidarity young women once had in avoiding premarital sex. Now that the motivations for male marriage are diminished, but maternal appetites remain, women are in a difficult situation.

I have seen much of this first hand. I went to an engineering school, so I watched first hand what having too many men looks like, the women were treated like queens. One of my friends transfered to the University Arizona, 77% women. Eating disorders suggestive clothing, and promiscuous behavior was rife. He never had a date his whole freshman year, but within a month of starting his sophomore year he had a girl that looked like a model and he treated like dirt.

Allowing polygamy would suck many women out of the dating pool, forcing the average man to work harder for the average women. One way that they would do this is to offer a marriage of gender equality. With US already having safely having a massive gender imbalance now, reducing this by allowing others to exercise their freedom of association in polygamous relationships can be tolerated. For foreseeable levels of polygamy it would merely be a transfer of gender power from men to women that would not be a threat to social stability or most men's ability to get a monogamous marriage.

Posted by OneEyedMan at April 7, 2006 3:44 PM

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