Confessions of a Libertarian Polygamist


The anonymous author of this defense of group marriage won't be trying to add Reason's Cathy Young (or Cato's David Boaz) to his harem anytime soon.

I'm a libertarian activist, not hugely well-known, but a decent number of people know my name. I'll tell you in a couple of minutes why I didn't sign my name to this article, but for now I will just say that attitudes like Cathy Young's and David Boaz's are part of the reason.

Reason published a piece by Ms. Young that did a lot of hand wringing about gay marriage being expanded to polygamy. A lot of what she said about polygamy sounds lifted straight out of the mainstream, Bible-belt news, not libertarian at all. Then she brought out the Cato Institute big gun, David Boaz, who said, "Two people seems like a good number for a marriage." Well, thanks for your tolerance David, and minding your own business!

Whole thing here.

[Link courtesy]

NEXT: Mars: Bots or Men?

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  1. Um, I thought the US Army was used in 1812, among other times…

  2. kwais,

    I don’t know from US Army uses, but seems that conservatives are howling that if we allow gay marriage, then we can’t have any restrictions on marriage of any kind, which is supposed to be a very bad thing. Of course, maybe that’s more if it’s the courts that determine that we must have gay marriage. Personally, I think that extending equal protection to a different number rather than a different class of people is a whole other egg, but if we look at a slippery slope as a case when making one change enables another for sociological reasons (as opposed to logical ones), they may be right that the courts could make that leap. Personally, I don’t think courts would make that leap anytime soon, and if they do eventually, maybe that’s just cause we’ll eventually fine that gay marriage ain’t really so horrible!

  3. It seems a bit strange to me that two people wondered about “well-known libertarian activists” when the poster *specifically said* that he was NOT a well-known libertarian activist:

    “I’m a libertarian activist, not hugely well-known”

    And commenters said:

    > First, who would qualify as a “well known” libertarian activist


    > Like Jose said, “a well known libertarian activist”? I am trying and failing to think of 1 well known libertarian activist.

    I understand that some people use quote marks loosely…but using them around a statement that means the opposite of what the poster said seems a bit too loose to me.

  4. Re: Patri

    I found it odd that one would describe himself as a “not very well known libertarian activist.” My point… is there any other kind?

  5. Fyodor,
    I was referring to the historical persecution of the Mormons before there were age of consent laws.
    Many marriages then were with what are today considered “underage” girls. There is a book (which I have not read) by a libertarian who recounts the history of his family and his grandmother who married at the age of 13. But I was speaking to polygamy, not intergenerational marriage.
    That is a state matter in any event.
    Age of consent applies to monogamy as well as to polygamy (and to non-marital relatioinships as well).

  6. I suppose it would be possible to have Marriage for unrelated men and women, and Civil Union for same-sex couples, groups of various kinds, and adult blood-relations. Of course, minors can’t be a party in any form of contracts.
    I have argued elsewhere why I think the Marriage/Civil Union distinction is worth making, and there appears to be an emerging consensus to favor such a distinction.

  7. the courts that determine that we must have gay marriage.

    Regardless of what is found to be “right” and “wrong” in all of this, a court does not make that determination. And until a legislature makes that determination, judicial decisions are non-entities. The popular support for amendments does not wane, and if a law which the people or Congress does not want changed comes into conflict with vague, broadsword clauses in state constitutions, it will require only going through the motions to render the judicial abstractions thereof moot.

    They’ll get their marriages, but not today. Complain about “waiting for rights” if you like, but rights are not rights until they are recognized as such by the entity empowered to do so. A few glorified lawyers in robes is not that entity.

    And stop being naieve, we will one day be arguing about the difference between “two unrelated people” and “n unrelated people,” and you all know it. Polygamy enjoys an existing if subdued standing in some modern and classical religions. Pretending that someone among the various ambulance chasers and civil rights blowhards we have to offer already does not see the opportunity to open that door in light of recent developments is ignorant. And what would your reaction be? “ick, polygamy!”?

  8. Jose –

    I see what you are saying. Perhaps the author meant “well-known among libertarians”, not “well-known among the general public”. There may not be any of the latter, but it seems to me there are a fair number of the former.

  9. I’m just waiting for Andrew to tell us why contraceptives need to be outlawed; after all, contraceptives allow “brutish” and “thuggish” men to run roughshod over women; and it will be the end of civilization too!

  10. I’m not sure off the top of my head, but it might still have been the Militia in 1812…. If I recall correctly, the original plan was for a professional Navy, and a Militia of citizen-soldiers.

  11. JB

    Characterizing guys, as I have come to know them over a lifetime, they range from about 60% basically decent, nice (kinda Cluless, maybe?) good guys…to anywhere from 20 to 40% narcissitic, shallow, self-serving dopes.

    Our choices as a culture, effects us all ON THE MARGIN. Not EVERY guy has to abandon responsible marriage, and sire kids he is unprepared to parent all over the landscape, for ALL of us to inherit a BIG headache…only ENOUGH of them have to. And the MORE who do…the BIGGER the headache.

    We should not do EVERYTHING we could imaginably do (or used to do) to promote family life…but there is a common sense case to do SOME things that might be relevant– and the concern isn’t trivial.

  12. ahh, fuck that.

    with all due respect, of course.

    besides, let’s preempt that – the best way to avoid all this shit would be to encourage contraceptive use or, better yet, sterilization. which would mean we should start encouraging people to ignore churches and groups who agitate against contraceptive use. or advocating actual dismissal of them, since their body-hating nitwiteries create whole swathes of people who are dangerous to my life, health and sense of artistic pride in the landscape around me. as entertaining as it is to hear the stories of people going to catholic school and learning that their normal, chronic masturbation sprees in adolescence injure god.

    personally, i would rather have people fucking in the streets and shitting out kids as irresponsibly as they do than try to tell them not to fuck in the streets or shit out kids.

  13. but at the same time, how does one encourage responsibility? in others of course.

    andrew: yer really hard on men. why?

  14. Thoreau said:
    “I’m all for legalizing polygamy. I’m also all in favor of taking things one at a time.”

    That is what we have in California at least:Serial Polygamy. People take one spouse at a time. Then another one. Then another one.

    The winners: Divorce lawyers. Wonder how much divorce lawyers will make when polygamy is legal?

  15. Andrew,

    Sorry, I believe your fears are over-dramatized and at best alarmist.

  16. We should be more concerned about the government interfering with the right of an individual to make a commitment than we are about the government enshrining Gay Marriage specificly.

    If that’s the author’s point, then the point is well taken.

  17. At what point does the gay marriage, polygamy slippery slope force this thread to be merged with the Dave Berry one where we have to outlaw sex with dogs?

  18. First, who would qualify as a “well known” libertarian activist? Second, the “confession” only reinforces the idea that government should run, not walk, away from the marriage business. If marriage is extended to same-sex couples, it is difficult to find an intellectual argument to suggest it should not be extended to groups of more than two consenting adults. I can imagine an enterprising woman who marries numerous men to facilitate a booming immigration “assistance” business. Perhaps organized crime will take advantage of a group marriage arrangement to gain spousal immunity? It seems ironic that same-sex couples will gain this coveted status just in time to see it further marginalized. This may be case where a well-reasoned libertarian argument offers a third way to settle a nasty culture war.

  19. Right on. There are people, such as CY and DB who are perhaps less than 100% libertarian.
    Marriage is, and should be, none of the state’s business. That it meddles there is part of the gevernment’s less than faithful adherence to constitutional limits, seperation of church and state.
    What may be other people’s business is parent’s responsibility for the children they produce.
    This, however, has nothing to do with marriage.

  20. Jose:

    You’re arguing that multiple marriages (of three or more; I don’t use the term “polyamory”) can potentially be abused, and so they should not be permitted.

    However, your very arguments against multiple marriages are taken from ways in which already existing marriage laws have been abused.

    To be consistent, you must also advocate the abolition of traditional marriage because it is so rife with ongoing, proven, pervasive legal and interpersonal abuse.

  21. One, saying any number of people can marry is a much bigger leap than saying any two people can marry. Two, what is this “marriage business,” anyway? I think it’s perfectly within the government’s legitimate powers to define what contracts are valid and what are not. So what if they call one type of contract a “marriage?” The big problem with plural marriage is that it exponentially complicates the contractual arrangements involved. Take care of that, and y’all can marry whoever or whatever you want!

  22. Many things may be imagined. Just about anything may be abused.

    The argument for state regulation of marital contracts is an argument for enforcement of religious mor?s.

    What’s is wrong with thoughtful, consensual polygamy?
    Other than resentments and fears that may be aroused in others, I say “Nothing.”

    The government’s persecution of the polygamist Mormons is akin to the genocide of the native Indians and a willful ignoring of the constitution by the Christian culture behind that persecution.

  23. Jose: Actually I think I miscast your argument. I think you were saying that a libertarian ideology is the solution; that government should not be involved in marriage or similar institutions. If that is what you are really saying, then I agree.

  24. Hehe, organized crime taking advantage of group marriage? That lends a whole new meaning to the term “crime family”! 😉

    I’m all for polyamory. Normally I’m a big fan of Cathy Young’s articles, so her article on that topic was a severe disappointment to me.

  25. Congratulations, libertoids! Your years of unbending commitment to stand on principle are finally paying off – the eminently reasonable idea of changing the existing civil marriage institution to civil unions, which is both smart in and of itself and the solution to the gay marriage gordian knot – is being completely dismissed within the media and punditocracy simply because of its affilliation with the scary, radical philosophy called “libertarianism.”

    Those anti-war protesters with the big puppets and ultra-hardline politics didn’t achieve anything, but I bet the camraderie of their shared radicalism gave them a warm fuzzy feeling.

  26. Who the hell cares about gay marriage and polygamy!

    What I wanna know is…when will I be allowed to marry my sister?

  27. Sam,

    Before painting such a broad brush about the prosecution of polygamist Mormons, be aware that the practice includes the liberal marrying of underage girls. When the “adult” part is taken out of “consulting adults,” it becomes another issue. Naturally, I think they should legalize the polygamy and go after only the underage marriages. I think this would go a long ways toward solving the problem, and some activists who help the victims of underage marriages, actually recognize this (unlike most activists who only see more government intervention as the solution).

  28. “cletis:”

    Republican: If nobody finds out.

    Democrat: If you’re among the last few members of some indigenous primitive cultural group.

    Libertarian: If she’s of age, agreeable, and you support your own breeding mishaps.


  29. Benton County Oregon Ends Marraige (For Now):

    BTW, I lived in Corvallis for approximately a year; its a very nice place.

  30. Here we go again.
    Debate issue. Wait a week.
    Debate again.

  31. joe,

    Are you saying that the only (or even primary) reason people are wigged by plural marriage is because they associate it with libertarianism?? I sure don’t get that at all.

    Anyway, I’d say that changing one’s position on a policy because someone else who thinks your original position is stupid might tar some other position of yours based on the first one is a pretty stupid reason to change your position. I’d hope you’d agree.

  32. Thank you, speedwell, for understanding my argument without prompting. Now if only libertarians might show some public relations savvy. People are far more willing to accept the idea of moving marriage into private realm of contracts and/or religion than to embrace polygamy. Americans could work towards a quiet revolution of getting the state out of marriage, but mark my words, some “well known libertarian activist” will prattle on about the rights of consenting adults to engage in polygamy and the herd will stampede. Pity.

  33. I’m all for legalizing polygamy. I’m also all in favor of taking things one at a time. Yes, yes, I know, taking things one at a time doesn’t satisfy the demands of ideological purity, and nobody should have to “wait their turn” for freedom. However, the fact is that we’re stuck in a sub-optimal situation, and you can only remedy so many problems at once.

  34. Like Jose said, “a well known libertarian activist”? I am trying and failing to think of 1 well known libertarian activist.

    Also on the marriage deal, there is going to be a marriage behavior where the government draws the line and says “this is immoral and thus will be illegal”. The gays are trying to make the case that they are on the majority side of the line. and polyamorists are saying “if gay people are OK then we are too. After all we are OK in the bible and all”

    I don’t know if that makes any sence, but I will post it anyways.

  35. thoreau,

    The problem is that people scared of gay marriage are using the fear of a slippery slope to polygamy as a weapon. This forces anyone who favors gay marriage (as I believe you do) to respond.

  36. joe,

    You’re forgiven! 🙂

  37. fyodor, I guess my earlier post was almost totally off topic, just a gay marriage-related idea that I’ve been kicking around.

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