Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.



June 5, 2006

"Polygamy Versus Democracy"

The Weekly Standard

Stanley Kurtz, our favorite anti-gay-marriage "slippery slope" polemicist, has a major new piece in the June 6th Weekly Standard. It was timed for the debate in the Senate on the anti-gay-marriage amendment to the Constitution (which failed to pass). The article is about why legal polygamy would destroy democracy -- which is, of course, the gay-marriage movement's secret goal.

Aside from the fact that the article depends on sudden leaps of non-logic (if you place two statements next to each other, they're logically connected, right?), it's actually a worthwhile and valuable read -- if only to see what the most important writer for the opposition is saying.

Most of the article describes how traditional, patriarchal polygyny is incompatible with a free society. Muslim and African immigrants to Europe are a major focus here. So are the 19th-century Mormons.

He has less to say about modern polyamory, but his grasp of it is getting better; he no longer lumps it with traditional polygamy, but now sees it as the opposing extreme. Instead of being too closed, rigid, and authoritarian for a free society, polyamory is too free, loose, and make-it-up-as-you-go to provide the family stability required by children.

Here is most of his section on polyamory:


Far from offering a democratic solution to the problem of multipartner unions, egalitarian polyamory simply reveals another face of the polygamy dilemma. It is inherently difficult to keep multipartner unions together. The traditional solution [to make patriarchal polygamy work] is to rely on rules, clear lines of authority, the suppression of emotion, and a sense of obligation to kin. Collective solidarity is the material and spiritual payoff for all the sacrifice. Yet the polyamorists cultivate love, resist authority, dispense with organizational rules, and try to wish jealousy away. Once all the stability-inducing sacrifices have been dispensed with, impermanence is the inevitable result.

Polyamory is a cover-all term for a bewildering variety of relationship forms--everything from open marriage, to bisexual triads, to a man with multiple women, to a woman with multiple men, to large sexual groups, and many more. The "rules" governing these arrangements are entirely flexible. There might be three "primary" partners who actually live together, and several additional "secondary" partners (collectively shared or not) to whom the three "primaries" are less committed. The levels of commitment, and the range of partnership and mutual involvement, are subject to continual change and renegotiation. Open and honest communication is the only rule. Polyamorists emphasize that multipartner unions take intense and constant work. Yet this need for a higher level of monitoring and negotiation only highlights the forces pushing against stability. . . .

This might not matter were it not for the problem of children. Family stability is highly desirable for children. Not only would legally recognized polyamory be unstable, but the legitimization of polyamory would also be incompatible with one of our core reasons for giving marriage the backing of law at all: to reinforce monogamy as a cultural value.

You can't send the message that marriage means fidelity when even a small portion of recognized marriages are polyamorous. The reliance of Western marriage systems on monogamous companionate love for stability is all but ignored by the advocates of polyamory, who have little or nothing to say about children. . . .

Democratic culture depends on monogamous marriage. The alternatives are either too authoritarian to be adapted to our society or so hyper-individualist that they cannot perform the work of families.


There you have it: expect the case against us from here on out to center on that last line.

Do read the whole article.

(For an informative actual history of marriage and its functions, see Julian Sanchez's Marital Mythology: Why the new crisis in marriage isn’t in the June 2006 issue of the libertarian magazine Reason.)

For the record, June 2012: Academics in Belgium publish a paper claiming to show that that polygyny is compatible with democracy.

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