The Merry Wives of Harford


Friend-of-Reason Tim Harford considers the economic case for polygamy over at Slate.

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  1. Finally, a proposal that men everywhere can support: The right to share a bed with 2 or more Eastern European chicks!

    Well, the young ones, anyway. The older Russian women are a different matter.

  2. Sorry to threadjack. Just a quick question. I’m new to this blog and it’s great, but I must ask:

    The way people who live near airports eventually stop hearing the planes, do regulars at this site eventually stop seeing the floor-humper?

  3. Well, two or more if you’re lucky. More likely, zero. Even in a case where there’s roughly the same number of men as women, I’m have a feeling that polygamy would result in lots of bachelors.

  4. PM:

    either ignore or become as the Carpet Humper…

    As Thoreau will explain, “Mona” failed this libertarian purity test and subsequently canceled her subscription…

  5. either ignore or become as the Carpet Humper…

    Or switch to Firefox and forever block the offensive carpet humper image from your consciousness (or at least from your eyes, depending on how seared into your psyche it has already become).

  6. ummm, I have firefox but don’t know how to make him go away… anybody want to help?

  7. It’s almost enough to make you want to move to Chechnya. Not.

    I have to agree with c here though. The most likely scenario when the M/F ratio is about 1 is that there would be a lot of unhappy bachelors.

    This has some interesting implications though which the article’s author sadly didn’t bother to bring up. 1) The human gene pool would tend to improve as the dolts and sloths have a harder time finding a mate to spread their DNA with. 2) this would definitely increase the desire to enter the top 10% or so of incomes for males. If not, no nookie is a terrifying thought. Perhaps this is the best way for Dubya to increase the amount of science and engineering degrees in the US….

  8. Right click on the carpet humper. Scroll down to “Block images from” and click. There, no more carpet humper.

  9. Oh! Also, be sure to reload the page.

  10. Curse you PM, I had managed to tune out the carpet humper when your post brought it back to my attention.

  11. I’m not against polygamy at all, but I wonder how popular it would be. Women don’t like to share their men (usually) and men don’t like to share their money. Polygamy would only really appeal to people who believe sex before marriage is a terrible sin. And adultery used to get you stoned to death, now it doesn’t even get you arrested in most states.

  12. Interesting idea. I’ve read some other places that the number of surplus males is the best predictor of crime rates. Lots of guys in their late teens and early twenties with no families equals high crime. There were a few people who asserted that this fact contributed strongly to the banluie riots last year. If the billionaires skim off all the desirable women into harems, shouldn’t that leave more men available for general mayhem and thuggery?

  13. Karen,

    Here’s the $64,000 question: if it were legal, would you keep a spousal boy-toy or two around? How many average women would do that is probably a good indicator of how many “surplus males” there would be.

    Again, I’m not against it, but I don’t think it’d be terribly popular for either gender.

  14. kmw,

    I married the only man I’ve ever met who could cook and fix plumbing. The others would just make extra work for Steve and me. We had kids instead.

    I think the “oooo, cool!!” response lots of guys have to the polygyny idea is that they think it means lots more sex instead of lots more laundry.

  15. Karen,

    Your response echoes similar I’ve heard. I think most guys wouldn’t be terribly interested in having more than one wife either, because it would mean more financial liability. Not to mention another person telling him to turn off the damn football game and talk to her. So I just don’t think polygamy would be very popular with either gender. I also think that men are starting to equate marriage with less sex, not more.

    One thing that puzzles me though, is why polygamy is a class C felony, with your typical 5 years/$5,000 penalty, but solicitation is usually a misdemeanor, with 6 months/$1,000. Is polygamy really worse than prostitution, or is this residual anti-mormon laws on the books?

  16. kmw, I haven’t done any research, but I’d bet a good bit of cash it’s residual anti-Mormon laws. Look for my home state of Texas to enact another load of such laws in ’07, in response to the fundamentalist Mormons moving into El Dorado. (This is the same group that recently left the twin towns in AZ, UT.) They’re openly polygamous.

    Speaking of fundamentalist Mormons, one of the 50 kids of the founder of the Hilldale sect wrote a book about growing up in a polygamous family. Her father was part of the sect featured in “Under the Banner of Heaven,” and was murdered by some relatives of the guys in that book. I checked the book out from the library and now can’t remember the title or the name of the author or her father. Perhaps a Google search for memoirs of polygamy might help. Anyway, it’s a really good book, and I was much more sympathetic to Dad than I thought I’d be.

  17. “there are several states where one in five young black men are behind bars. Since most women marry men of a similar age, and of the same race and in the same state, there are some groups of women who face a dramatic shortfall of marriage partners.”

    Those of you reading this whose endowment is even less adequate than the carpet-humper’s should take heed.

    Once you’ve tried black, you’ll never go back.
    Or so I’ve heard.

  18. Mr. Unnatural-Affection-for-Flooring shows up at the Washington Monthly and, sometimes, at Talking Points Memo. After I determined he wasn’t stalking me on the Internet, I quit noticing him.

  19. “Here’s the $64,000 question: if it were legal, would you keep a spousal boy-toy or two around? How many average women would do that is probably a good indicator of how many “surplus males” there would be.”

    In theory, it could work for me. 2 men, myself and several children. Better I’d say than several wifes with many children. ( Mormon groups, a lot of those other wifes & children are on/were on welfare)

    More free time for all the adults,the adults with jobs would have more freedom with employment, one out of the three could afford to stay home with the children, or go back to school etc.

    In practice could I find 2 men that would be able to work together like that? I’m not sure that I’d want to constantly bother with the hassle just to be more secure financially. I suppose it would be advantageous for my children -more male attention, involvement?
    Smoothly without jealously?
    Forget it-I was trying to make the case and already I don’t see it working!

  20. What about nontransitive polyamory? (using = here as “married to”)

    A=B. B=C. A/=C. A=D. B/=D. C=D. Etc.

    Probably a regulatory nightmare, but is this kind of commune emotionally plausible?

  21. Karen,
    IIRC, one of the minor-character ladies at the Seneca Falls convention was a woman in a polygamous mormon marriage.Suffragettes were amazed when they went to Utah expecting the women there to be thoroughly ignorant and instead found them to be quite independent and intelligent. It seems that, at the time, they had the advantage of being able to socialize within large groups of other women due to their circumstances. That by itself made them an especially empowered bunch compared to East coast wives who were expected to remain shut-ins within their homes. Brigham Young supported Women’s voting pretty much from the start.

    It’s all very interesting. I really think that someone outside of the Latter-Day saints should devote some time to studying the phenomenon.

    Btw, I read Under The Banner Of Heaven right before a trip to Zion a year ago. It definitely added some spice to the trip 🙂

  22. mk, it is my understanding that many of these women were managing farms and businesses while the man was doing “the Lord’s work”.

    The father of a friend of mine told us about how he had lived in Farmington(? – north of Salt Lake anyway), UT in the early 1950s. He met an old Mormon guy with tree wives from before the ban on plural marriage. Each wife had her own self-contained residence. Two had farms outside of town and the other lived in town where the old gent still ran the local bank (IIRC). Of course they must have been in their 80s or 90s by then so they were probably not real active.

    I’ve heard that actually the Mormons had problems with young men who could not find wives since the rich old guys were taking every eligible female. These guys had to be sent away to work as cowboys and teamsters so that they wouldn’t raise too much hell in town frequenting brothels and saloons (both, of course, being serious sins in the Mormon canon). Of course, as cowboys and teamsters, they just ended up raising hell in someone elses’s town frequenting brothels and saloons.

  23. tree wives should be three wives, dammit

  24. I remember reading in a textbook somewhere that most polygamous unions below the level of royalty were between one guy and a set of sisters. Theoreticall this should lower the level of conflict.

  25. I’m no expert on Mormons nor bonobo chimps, but I suspect chimps would be more instructive about how humans could theoretically arrange long-term male-female relationships.

  26. Ok, enough of this flirting. Who’s up for a polygamous marriage? I can meet the lot of you in Vegas within the week. Men, women and Bonobos. All are welcome.

  27. I remember reading in a textbook somewhere that most polygamous unions below the level of royalty were between one guy and a set of sisters. Theoretically this should lower the level of conflict.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    Sorry. My wife has two sisters, and she and I raised two daughters. Either set of sisters sharing anything has the potential for armageddon.

  28. In China, the policy of one-child families coupled with selective abortion of girls has produced “surplus” males. Such men are called “bare branches,” and China could have 30 million of them by 2020.

    Lucy Liu robots…..cleans the the house and fucks your brains out. cumming all over China in 2015 (mac campatable in 2017)

  29. Yeah, well try googling that in Chinese.

    Or should I say, I’d buy that for a dollar!

  30. It’s not much of a stretch to proceed logically from gay marriage to polygamous marriage, but what comes after that (fire from the sky, lots of frogs, a Democrat Congress) has me worried.

  31. Since when do squirrels have horns?

  32. Oops. Move along. Nothing to see here.

  33. tree wives should be three wives

    or not, if you are a Druid.

  34. And RC Dean answers Ed’s question.

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