Some politician - and it doesn't matter which one - recently said that allowing gays to marry is a slippery slope to the day when assholes like him no longer have the power to tell you how to live your personal life. At least that's how I heard it.

Actually, I think he said something about gay marriage leading to *GASP* polygamy. And so I asked myself what's wrong with polygamy, assuming there aren't any child brides and cult overtones? I couldn't come up with an argument against keeping polygamy illegal. I'm not sure I've ever heard one.

Polygamy always gets conflated in the media with some sort of child-endangering, brainwashing, cultish pit of evil. But what if polygamy is just, for example, two dudes and one woman who work well as a trio? How does that hurt anyone?

Employee benefits, such as healthcare, would need to be adjusted in a polygamous world. You can't have one worker automatically qualifying for employee-paid healthcare for seven spouses. But that sort of thing is easy to tidy-up with legislation.

If anyone knows of an argument against polygamy, based on science as opposed to holy books, please let me know in the comments. And remember that polygamy can include one woman with multiple husbands. And just to keep things clean, assume the polygamous arrangement is based on practicality and not a religious belief.

This line of thinking made me wonder how one might organize society if there were no laws, customs and culture already in place. In other words, if no one had ever heard of traditional marriage with two people at the head of a nuclear family, what would be the most natural way to organize society? Are traditional marriage and polygamy even in the top five options?

I remember reading that people in arranged marriages were just as happy as those who married for love. That says a lot. And so I wonder: If you looked at every human society, past and present, and studied their marriage and social organization, would you find one model that just sticks out as working best? And what would it be?

Who knows the answer to that?

Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +81
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Jul 1, 2013
I believe that, historically, the non-religious case against polygamy was that it would leave too many men without women, which can cause societal unrest, and even wars.

You made the caveat that polygamy could be two-sided, but I would hazard to generalize that men are more apt to seek multiple partners than women are. If you think wealth concentrated in the hands of too few men can be destabilizing, imagine a world where sexual opportunities are similarly concentrated.
Jul 1, 2013
I guess the complexity of the arrangements and laws would grow exponentially with the number of wifes and husbands. Adulterous bigamy seems to work historically better then poligamy.
Jul 1, 2013
Love is a strong emotion. In a couple situation, each has a strong tie to the other. When a third person is added to the equation, things may not turn out so equitably, and could result in discord. One member may get possessive of the second member and jealous towards the third member. It would not happen every time, but the probability for discord is certainly higher than if there are only two people in the relationship.
Jul 1, 2013
"You can't have one worker automatically qualifying for employee-paid healthcare for seven spouses. But that sort of thing is easy to tidy-up with legislation."

That is the kind of thinking that causes most of the problems. If I can get coverage with two spouses and not with three, then you will get sued. Once you create a benefit for some people behaving legally and deny it to others also behaving legally, you run afoul of the equal protection clause.
Jul 1, 2013
The best laws are the ones that don't annoy or anger the majority of the population. I say let people do whatever they want, so long as there is 0 government assistance. As long as you're not, in part, financially responsible for your neighbors' lifestyles, you become a lot less concerned with how they're living their lives. It seems most of human existence, the average person seems to have paired up, at least from my recollection of history. People on the top and bottom had different arrangements.

The bigger question here is how would these societal changes, in which you are speculating, affect mens' rights? Just kidding.
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog