Monday, January 24, 2011

NYT Columnist: Polygyny May Have Some Advantages for Women

University of Massachusetts at Amherst Professor Nancy Folbre makes the utilitarian case for polygyny in an NYT column, but then goes on to call for regulation of it. Of course, for a libertarian the case for polygyny has to be made on the basis that two adults should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want, as long as there is no coercion involved, not on Folbre's utilitarian justification. Which means from the libertarian perspective, that no special laws need to be designed for polygynists. The general non-coercion principle would handle any concerns Folbre raises. Life is really a lot simpler for libertarians, who don't need special regulations for every nook and cranny of life, and can operate under general principles. Here's Folbre: 
The laws of marriage emerge from a process of collective negotiation, informed (though certainly not determined) by consideration of their social and economic impact. Advocates for gay marriage, like my University of Massachusetts Amherst colleague Lee Badgett, argue that it has positive consequences for society as a whole.

Five of the 50 states (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont) plus the District of Columbia now grant same-sex couples the right to wed.

Other rules of marriage are subject to contention. A law prohibiting polygamy in Canada is now under review by the British Columbia Supreme Court for possible violation of religious rights guaranteed under the Canadian constitution. While the case originated in controversies regarding the community of Bountiful, founded by a breakaway Mormon sect that advocates plural marriage, it also has implications for Canada’s many immigrants from Muslim countries.

While there is little support for legalization of polygamy, or, more specifically, polygyny (one husband, more than one wife) in the United States, the HBO television series “Big Love” (now its fifth and final season) has modernized its cultural image.

Many reactions to the possible legalization of polygyny ride on its implications for women. Some economists, including the Nobel Prize-winner Gary Becker in his “Treatise on the Family,” have argued that polygyny should increase the demand for women and enhance the efficiency of the marriage market.

Government restriction of marriage contracts limits individual choice. In principle, the prospect of enjoying more than one wife could spur men to greater competitive efforts with one another. Some women might prefer to share a rich husband than to have a poor or unemployed husband all their own. Indeed, as income inequality among men increases, the potential benefits of polygyny for young and beautiful husband-seekers probably go up as well.

Intense economic stress, like that typical in many areas of Russia, can also lead some women to wish they had the option of officially sharing a husband.

Read the rest here.

1 comment:

  1. You jmention Canada. Polygamy is already legal in ojne of their provinces. Here is information from a recent family court case there in Saskatchewan Canada where a man was forced to become the "spouse of a person who has a spouse". Not kidding.
    "The respondent alleges that the provisions of the FPA (Saskatchewan Family Property Act) which permit an individual to have more than one spouse at the same time “offend and deny” his rights under the Charter [ss. 1, 2(a) and (b), 7, 12, 15, 33]."
    The Criminal Code provisions have no application due to our legislation.
    s.51 Where a person becomes the spouse of a person who has a spouse, the rights pursuant to this Act of the subsequent spouse are subject to the rights pursuant to this Act of the prior spouse."