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

March 2, 2015

Dilbert cartoonist: Nuclear-family marriage is poor engineering; poly tribes more optimal

Scott Adams in 2007
Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist and an advocate for creative engineering-think in real life, blogged a few days ago about the increasingly bad design of the nuclear family for today's world. In particular, he noted, the standard family model requires a catastrophically destructive divorce system to deal with single-point failures that are common and predictable. No engineer would approve.

If we want children to be raised better and adults to be happier, he proposes an obvious solution: more tribal ways of life, including fluid relationship models that can better fit reality and provide some redundancy:

Divorce is one of the most expensive, horrible, and wasteful things a person [can commonly] experience. It is terrible for the kids, terrible for finances, good for lawyers, bad for employers, etc.... And those people typically remarry and either divorce again or, all too often, live unhappily ever after. The entire process is insanely inefficient.

Unfortunately, in 2015, marriage is probably the best system we have for raising kids. But as a thought experiment, imagine that the government removes all laws favoring marriage. You get no tax breaks, no nothing. And instead the government encourages people to set up alternative social systems that solve the problems of divorce.

How do you solve the divorce problem? Ask any economist. It is quite easy. I’ll give you a solution in one word: diversification.

In marriage, if something bad happens to one person, or one person becomes a jerk, the system breaks. Any engineer will tell you that is a poorly designed system. But if, for example, you had a small tribe of people cooperating for mutual interest, a bad day for one wouldn’t be a death blow for the tribe. If your love interest hates you today, you have three others on call. If you get sick and need childcare, there are ten people ready to help.

...I won’t design a full alternative to marriage here because people are different and one solution does not fit all. The main idea is that marriage is perhaps the biggest economic problem in the country that isn’t food-related. Marriage made sense in old-timey days. But with the help of the Internet it would make more sense for people to organize around what works instead of what we know does not.

You will be tempted to point out that hippy communes didn’t catch on. I’m not talking about poorly-engineered hippy communes. That’s like comparing a Model-T to a Tesla. I think that with some creative thinking, and maybe some experimenting, society could develop modern alternatives to marriage that remove the divorce problem.

I hear whispers that these sorts of arrangements are already happening, but because non-monogamy is shamed, you don’t hear much about it. Marriage will go away eventually, as all bad systems do.... Can we speed it up?

Read Adams' whole essay (Feb. 27, 2015). The relevant part here is the second half.

P.S.: Adams can get away with this stuff because, like Colbert and Stewart, he's in the comedy business. You can tell how free or unfree a society is by how important its comedians become — by how much of the important stuff only gets said by the jester.



Anonymous Richard said...

Scott says he won’t design an alternative to marriage because there is no one-size-fits-all solution. I totally agree. That hasn’t stopped one of my partners and I from designing one solution however. It is based on Robert Heinlein’s concept of line marriage. Heinlein did not write a how to book on line marriage. Because of that, we decided to write a book that fills in the details. It is titled, Creating a Line Family: Love, Abundance and Belonging in the New Millennium. The initial print release is scheduled for August 2015 at the World Science Fiction Convention. Lots of polyamorous folk attend this convention. Anyone can see an early and very rough draft of the book at www.line-family.info.

My coauthor and I are part of a polyamorous family of 4. There are two men and two women. We have been together since 2000. If you think that is a long time, during our research we found an actual line family that has been going since 1980. There are alternatives out there that work despite the cultural pressures to conform to a system that does not work for a significant portion of the population.

March 03, 2015 2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...can't imagine reading anything from a person that writes "...hasn't stopped one of my partners and I..."

March 03, 2015 4:13 PM  
Blogger Mama Librarian said...

Yes to line marriage. :-)

My solution is polyamory plus living in Cohousing. My ex and I live side by side. It's about as amicable and ideal as one could wish for.

March 03, 2015 4:34 PM  
Blogger Petter Falch Rasmussen said...

Hmmm... It seems to me that the writer of this article mix up the words "marriage" and "monogamy". Marriage is nice enough, problem is that polygamy is not allowed (yet). The bigger problem behind that is that polyamory is still too much of a taboo. People wouldn't choose that just because we removed the benefits of marriage, or included the benefits to polyamorous relationships by legalizing polygamy. Most people would still believe monogamy to be a good idea

Why can't you imagine that? Can't you imagine people being curious about something unusual?

March 04, 2015 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is nothing is specified. That REALLY needs to be flushed out. The basics are "whats good for kids in a divorce culture"

The problem is with a non-descript polygamist marriage of 4-10 random adults no one takes responsibility for the kids (traditional marriage forces that with societal pressure, but the kids of the guy whos sleeping with the same woman as you but from a diffrent mother, who are they to you)
Also just try to claim the bio-mother is being a b!t@h and walks away from the polymarriage, just try to say she doesn't get the kids... honestly try it... guess what if she gets any custody your back at square one with divorce culture... no upside

The only flushed out idea that has worked is Clan family (clan mcCloud, clan McGregor) children belong to the people with same last name. Mom & Dad are asses well uncle Bill, grandma, & grandpa get the kids (ussually as cheap labor on clan farm but heck they are going to inherit it)
Now yes woman where sold as chattel but that was just to know 100% which clan it was the kids belonged to. (thats also why cousin marriage was popular.. same clan no arguments... besides most where 5th cousin's still no clan change) besides it doesn't have to happen that way now (as long as no confussion about which family gets kids)

so any better solutions? (details give details)

March 05, 2015 1:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't know the difference between polyamory and polygamy. They are VERY different, polygamy is illegal not to mention very taboo in most of the country. Polyamory is accepted in most of the coastal states and pockets in the rest. Polygamy is patriarchal, thus the taboo (it's also as old timey as marriage) where as polyamory is neither patriarchal or matriarchal in principle. Certain dynamics can be so but that's specific to that relationship.

March 05, 2015 3:20 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Me agrees.

March 11, 2015 5:54 PM  
Blogger Sam Fargo said...

Polyamory and polygamy are not always different. In fact I would say that polyamory includes most polygamy, as long as loving relationships are involved, since polyamory means multiple loves. Polygamy comes in two forms: polygyny (one man, and multiple women), and polyandry (one woman, and multiple men). Therefore, not all polygamy is patriarchal, and has nothing to do with the taboo. I think that the taboo comes from the fact that many polygynous relationships have historically been abusive, both to the adult women involved as well as forcing young girls into relationships without having a choice given to them.

July 07, 2015 7:42 AM  

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