A thought occurred to me today as I skimmed an article in a rationality forum where the subject of gay marriage cropped up; seeing as the issue has been hotly contested in various public fora and especially the courts, what about poly? After all, many if not all the arguments for gay marriage apply to poly marriage as well.

Questions for LWers who are currently in a such a relationship, or have an opinion to share:

Do polies want to marry each other or do such relationships not lend themselves to permanence above a threshold of partners? Should polies campaign for the right for a civil union anyway? what are the up and down sides of this? etc

 

 

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I think the real reason people in the social circles LWers tend to hang around in oppose poly marriage is because they don't want icky Muslim and Mormon men getting married to more than one woman.

People likely to practice polygamous marriage are low status in our societies, thus we tend to see forbidding that as a good idea. This is how humans work. Everything added onto this is just clever rationalization imo.

thus we tend to see forbidding that as a bad idea.

ITYM 'good'?

I've certainly heard the argument that polygamy is tied into oppressive social structures, and therefore legitimizing it would be bad. Would you say this is rationalization?

FWIW I'm very skeptical of the whole "status explains everything" notion in general.

ITYM 'good'?

Yes thank you for the correction.

I've certainly heard the argument that polygamy is tied into oppressive social structures, and therefore legitimizing it would be bad.

Same argument can and has been applied to other kinds of marriage.

Would you say this is rationalization?

Yes. Because legalizing such marriage would if anything improve the legal standing and options available to the women in such marriages. It would also ensure fairer distribution of resources, not to mention custody issues in case one of the parents dies. Also Polygamous marriages in the US and Europe are a fact on the ground, a social reality, that we should deal with. Refusing to do so is just perpetuating discrimination.

FWIW I'm very skeptical of the whole "status explains everything" notion in general.

Status doesn't explain everything, it does explain situations like this.

I've certainly heard the argument that polygamy is tied into oppressive social structures, and therefore legitimizing it would be bad.

Same argument can and has been applied to other kinds of marriage.

On the one hand, the argument doesn't need to be correct to be the (or a) real reason. On the other, I'd expect more people to be more convinced that polygamy is more oppressive (as currently instantiated) than vanilla marriage (and other forms, such as arranged marriages or marriage of children to adults, are probably more strongly opposed).

I don't care what other people are convinced.

When you said above that status was the real reason LW-associates oppose legal polygamy, you were implying that these people are not actually convinced of these issues, or only pretend to care about them for status reasons.

I'm in a happy polygamous relationship and I know I'm not the only one.

Certainly! I'd like to clarify that I don't think polyamory is intrinsically oppressive, and that I am on the whole pretty darn progressive (philosophically) regarding sexual / relationship rights etc. (That is, I think it probably ideally should be legal. There are probably additional political concerns but politics makes me ill.) I think it's kinda weird that government is in the marriage business to begin with, but probably it is useful to have some sort of structure for dealing with the related tax / property / etc. concerns. I think that polygamy does occur in some cultures that are oppressive towards women, but I don't really have a notion of how much a part of that oppression it facilitates, and I don't necessarily think that's a legitimate factor in whether to legalize the institution. I'm on your side philosophically / politically.

When you said above that status was the real reason LW-associates oppose legal polygamy, you were implying that these people are not actually convinced of these issues, or only pretend to care about them for status reasons.

If polygamous people where high status they wouldn't voice nor perhaps even think of these objections.

I think it's kinda weird that government is in the marriage business to begin with, but probably it is useful to have some sort of structure for dealing with the related tax / property / etc. concerns.

I tend to agree. Customizable contracts would be the best solution. This way we wouldn't straight jacket people into one size fits all marriage. Some people might like marriages where infidelity is grounds for divorce and the cheating party is penalized somehow. Some people might like marriages that have to be renewed every 10 years, to minimize any hassle with any potential divorce or allow a time out on the relationship. ect.

This would make everyone from the traditionalists to those seeking novel arrangements happy.

I tend to agree. Customizable contracts would be the best solution.

For some reason I'm picturing the Creative Commons licenses.

I had exactly that as a sort of model in my brain. :)

This would make everyone from the traditionalists to those seeking novel arrangements happy

How seriously do you mean this claim?

Pretty seriously, I'm not sure why you would think I'm not. Is there something wrong with people having options to customize the legal arrangements of their relationships? And with the decline of classical marriage shouldn't we encourage all such relationships to increase social cohesion as well as contribute towards creating better environments for raising children?

Pretty seriously, I'm not sure why you would think I'm not.

Because I find it very unlikely that your proposal would make traditionalists happy, if implemented, but it was plausible that you just meant that part as hyperbole.

It wouldn't make mainstream "conservatives" happy, but that is simply because they are so utterly ignorant to how legally different marriage is today compared to a few decades or worse don't mind it at all, not minding the incongruity. It would make traditionalists happy. They could recreate much of what they miss about modern marriage.

Take for example penalizing the partner who is cheating in divorce settlements, this is something I know no Slovenian court will ever take into consideration but something people who actually want a traditional marriage would love. In general maybe some people would like to make divorces more difficult because they in general don't approve of them. Maybe some people think default custody should de facto lie with the husband instead of the wife (as it does currently). ect. ect.

Before you think there aren't any people who look at it this way, note that I've seen enthusiasm for this concept on very hardcore Christian right wing blogs like the Orthosphere and The Thinking Housewife.

Take for example penalizing the partner who is cheating in divorce settlements, this is something I know no Slovenian court will ever take into consideration but something people who actually want a traditional marriage would love. In general maybe some people would like to make divorces more difficult because they in general don't mode approve of them. Maybe some people think default custody should de facto lie with the husband instead of the wife (as it does currently). ect. ect.

Careful, you need to weaken the political power of feminism first, otherwise they will try to pass restrictions on the types of marriage contracts to be enforced, similar to the restrictions on employment contracts.

Fair enough. If mainstream soi-disant conservatives aren't on the continuum you were referencing, then I was simply confused about what you were referencing.

Mainstream conservatives will be happy with it too. They aren't very clever that way, you can change almost anything you want and 30 years later they won't question it seriously any-more. ;)

As someone who was paying some attention to American politics back then, it sure does seem to me that the people usually described as mainstream conservatives in the U.S. are continuing to object strenuously to many of the same things they were objecting strenuously to in 1982. Are you suggesting that I'm mistaken in that perception? That all of that stuff is an exception that falls into the gap between "almost anything" and "anything"? That the people in question aren't mainstream conservatives? Other?

I am also not sure how to reconcile:

It wouldn't make mainstream "conservatives" happy,

with:

Mainstream conservatives will be happy with it too.

I assume you're communicating something key with your use of quotations (otherwise you'd simply be contradicting yourself), but it's too subtle a distinction for me to interpret reliably.

In context its perfectly obvious. The second quote has a implied "eventually".

As someone who was paying some attention to American politics back then, it sure does seem to me that the people usually described as mainstream conservatives in the U.S. are continuing to object strenuously to many of the same things they were objecting strenuously to in 1982.

Don't be silly. On economic matters yes, on cultural and social matters the right has utterly lost except perhaps on the issue of abortion. The very fact that today's debate is about gay marriage (to borrow the issue the OP brought up), should be an indicator of how far to the left 2012 is from 1982 on such issues. How many democrats would have even considered supporting such a notion then?

Mark my words in 2042 conservatives will be defending gay marriage as an integral part of the bedrock of Western civilization.

Thank you for explaining it despite considering it perfectly obvious.

I didn't mean to be rude, so I hope I didn't come of as such. It seemed obvious to me because in the context I was talking about them being "ok with anything" after several decades passing in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way, while in the first one I was describing a proposal I'd like to see implemented right away and how people would currently feel about it.

It wouldn't make mainstream "conservatives" happy,

Mainstream conservatives will be happy with it too. They aren't very clever that way, you can change almost anything you want and 30 years later they won't question it seriously any-more. ;)

As to the meaning of the quotation marks in the first one, I put them there because I think conservatives aren't very good at conserving much of anything.

A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.

--William F. Buckley, Jr. in National Review (1955)

The entire movement he and those like him helped create, has only proven itself capable of standing athwart history and yelling “Retreat!”. The politicians associated with that intellectual group are best characterized as standing behind history, yelling: "Wait! Let my voters catch up!"

"It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea." - Robert Anton Wilson

Everything I see says that Buckley was a really honorable man, simply a good person. That ought to count, a little. (I agree that his movement did little good in practice, though.)

Everything I see says that Buckley was a really honorable man, simply a good person.

My impression is rather more mixed. Buckley, 1986:

But if the time has not come, and may never come, for public identification [of people with HIV], what then of private identification?

Everyone detected with AIDS should be tatooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.

Buckley, 2006:

Someone, 20 years ago, suggested a discreet tattoo the site of which would alert the prospective partner to the danger of proceeding as had been planned. But the author of the idea was treated as though he had been schooled in Buchenwald, and the idea was not widely considered, but maybe it is up now for reconsideration.

[Edited to fix paragraph break in that first Buckley quote.]

I understand why it seemed obvious to you.
I also understand that your dismissive rhetorical tone isn't intended to be rude.

Getting back to content:

  • I agree with you that if we wait long enough everyone who considers themselves conservative will approve of whatever social changes we make, supposing those social changes last that long.

  • I don't believe that implementing your proposal right away will make conservatives currently happy.

  • I don't have a clear sense of what you mean by "traditionalists."

  • There exists a non-empty set of issues X such that 1982 conservatives agree more with 2012 conservatives on X than they do with 1982 anti-conservatives. There also exists a non-empty set X2 such that 1982 conservatives agree the same or more with 1982 anti-conservatives than with 2012 conservatives on X2. I am not sure whether (X2 > X1) or (X2 < X1) by any interesting metric, and I'm fairly certain that (X1 > .1X2).

I agree with you that if we wait long enough everyone who considers themselves conservative will approve of whatever social changes we make, supposing those social changes last that long.

I don't believe that implementing your proposal right away will make conservatives currently happy.

We agree on these points.

I don't have a clear sense of what you mean by "traditionalists."

Basically people who are nerds about adhering to some older traditional style Christianity. Some of them are protestants but their intellectual core as you may have guessed from the blogs are Catholic and Orthodox. As odd as this might sound American Evangelical fundamentalists are actually mostly practising a young take on the religion.

I am not sure whether (X2 > X1) or (X2 < X1) by any interesting metric, and I'm fairly certain that (X1 > .1X2).

I think X1 probably consists mostly of economic issues.

I think X1 probably consists mostly of economic issues.

That is certainly consistent with a popular narrative about American conservatism now and 40 years ago. Whether statistics back it up, I don't know.

Assuming the problems with that change don't become obvious within the time period. For an example of this happening, look at the problems caused by say no-fault divorce.

To stick with your example I don't think I've seen mainstream conservatives notice anything of the kind. Do keep in mind how I use conservative in this context and how I differentiated them from traditionalists worthy of the name. Now besides the traditionalists and conservatives you have other currents of right wing thought who notice such things, but they are pretty marginalized. A few blogs on the internet focusing and analysing this problem is unfortunately a very minor phenomena unlikely to result in social change.

If polygamous people where high status they wouldn't voice nor perhaps even think of these objections.

Why isn't it the other way around?

Status doesn't explain everything, it does explain a lot of discrimination.

Do you mean that status is a better explanation that in-group/out-group bias, or that status is equivalent to in-group/out-group bias?

It isn't fully equivalent. Out-group polygamous marriages are a-ok for us, one sees little lobbying on the UN level to forbid polygamous marriage. But I think Muslim immigrants in Europe and Mormon sects in the US are low status in-group members for most citizens when thinking about such issues.

Basically in-group out-group determines who has moral relevance. Status determines with who you wish to associate or disassociate.

After some thought, I'm still unsatisfied with "status" as an explanation of the phenomena. If we must use Hansonian terminology, I think the better explanation is signalling - specifically, signalling tribal affiliation. "who you wish to associate or disassociate" is either very imprecise or circular.

Additionally, I'm uncertain about Hansonian analysis of this phenomena because it makes the thought processes seem so deliberate and considered - when real world examples don't seem all that reflexively considered. I'm doubtful that people hostile to French Muslims could produce a coherent explanation on demand, and if you waited for them to collect their thoughts, they'd say things isomorphic to "Muslims in France are behaving unFrench." (whether that is the same thing as in-group bias is a separate question - I do think your explanation of in-group bias artificially narrows its scope)

META: This is an example of what I consider beyond the boundaries of germane LW discourse. It also boarders on violating the no-politics rule. Though the author raises some interesting questions and I trust their intentions were honest, I am down voting in net disapproval.

Tackling interesting and unusual issues is very much a "germane LW discourse". And I don't see this crowd trying to politicize this particular issue.

"What discussions are germane to LW discourse?" is currently an open question being discussed. For example, in Focus on Rationality, Oscar_Cunningham demarcates germane vs not-germane by the following criterion:

I'm suggesting is that LessWrong posts [...] should focus on rationality. They can talk about other things too, but the question should always be "What can X teach us about rationality?"

By that criterion, this post certainly isn't germane. But I disagree with Oscar and think his criterion is too restrictive. I laid out my thoughts (albeit in a stream of consciousness) here. The gist of what I said is this:

LW should definitely have a focus on learning epistemic/instrumental rationality. But I'd also like to posts on applying rationality to important topics. I think both can compliment each other nicely, and both are useful.

Even by that looser criterion, I am finding this post to be outside what I find acceptable for LW discourse. Like I said, it may be an interesting set of questions. And I agree with you that it is a bit of an unusual issue. But when I log onto discussion, it's just not the type of conversation I am looking for. There's something else missing from the topic needed for me to include it in the set of topics I approve for LW. And moreover, the set of topics the majority of people approve for LW.

Alternatively, it may be just you're looking for. In that regard, I think you're in a minority of posters. Unfortunately, I can't think of a way to turn this from a divergence of values into a disagreement on facts. Since values on the issue seem to cluster around positions like Oscar's and mine more so than yours, it's an uphill battle for you. Like what happened in this thread, others will be pretty quickly down voted.

About the other point: I find the point of whether this discussion boarders on the political much more clear cut. The OP knows that gay marriage is a heated political issue. I think it's a fair inference that they know polygamy is, too. The OP brings up both, as well as the question of whether "polies [should] campaign for the right for a civil union."

Now, I don't think most regulars would come into this post and try to intentionally politicize this issue more than it already is. Regulars likely know better than to do that. Actually, I think it is possible that some LW-ers, advanced in rationality, could have a reasonable conversation about the issue.

But so far as I understand it, the scenario of one bad political discussion is not why we have a rule against political discussions. Our rule against political discussions is, in part, a Schelling fence against one good political discussion leading to more political discussions, some of which likely won't be as successful. But those political discussions serve as a slippery slope to more, even worse political discussions. One reason for that is the kind of person political discussions generally appeal to and would attract to LW. (Read: people without the knowledge of what actually can make a political discussion successful.) And so on and so forth, I trust you know how a slippery slope argument works.

As with the first issue of LW discourse, you're free to disagree with me on this. If you were to write up arguments for why we should broaden our boundaries of what we consider germane or for why the no politics rule should be weakened/repealed, then that would be contrarianism worth reading. Who knows, popular opinion might change. (Especially if your arguments are sound and LW-ers are otherwise rational enough to have political conversations. If the majority couldn't change their minds on this non-political issue given a sound argument, then political discussions certainly wouldn't work.)

Until the point when community norms/rules are changed, I still think that this post violates them. So my disapproval and down vote remains. I think I've said all I have to say on the topic and have other priorities at the moment, so I'm tapping out. Please feel free to take the last word.

The OP knows that gay marriage is a heated political issue. I think it's a fair inference that they know polygamy is, too. The OP brings up both, as well as the question of whether "polies [should] campaign for the right for a civil union."

I'm pretty sure that the OP is talking about polyamory, not polygamy (I don't know if you were unaware of that, or if you deliberately brought up polygamy as an analogy).

If I wanted to be cynical I'd say that polygamy and polyamory describe pretty much the same phenomenon, except that polygamy is detestable and reactionary and oppressive, whereas polyamory is the complete opposite; or that polyamory is when it's done by fashionable white people, and polygamy is when it's done by weird brown foreigners (I don't think either of these is a fair statement!).

I agree with your main point - I don't particularly want to see more discussions of social policy on LessWrong, especially when they don't push the analysis very far.

I know that there are several poly- words, including polyamory and polygamy, but am not knowledge about the distinctions. I thought polyamory was a catch-all word for "romantic relationships where people can have more than one partner, with the knowledge and approval of all other partners." Or something to that effect. And polygamy is a particular kind of polyamory where the partners are married. I could definitely be mistaken about those words' meanings, though.

Since poly was brought up by the OP in the context of gay marriage and civil unions, I used polygamy. But I certainly didn't mean to imply any sort of connotation by the use of "polygamy" rather than "polyamory."

or that polyamory is when it's done by fashionable white people, and polygamy is when it's done by weird brown foreigners

I thought it was "polyamory is when it's done by New Yorkers (Californians?), polygamy is when it's done by Utahans," and weird brown people have harems and concubines instead.

(Though of course I also don't think this is a fair characterization)

Oh, I had forgot about Mormons - here in France, Muslim immigrants are the first thing that comes to mind on discussions of Polygamy.

Ah! Well, good to know. Generally I expect "Utahans" and "weird brown foreigners" are to be inflected similarly in both of these versions, anyway.

In general, I think you've picked out the relevant norms for Main posts, but they apply less strongly to Discussion.

The OP knows that gay marriage is a heated political issue.

Is there anyone on LW who still has a problem with gay people?

edit: "people" not "problem"

Is there anyone on LW who still has a problem with gay problem?

What do you mean by a problem in this context? I think there's a decent Burkian argument that there will be unforeseen consequences that won't become apparent until well after gay marriage is common. But I'm strongly in favor of gay marriage.

My point was that, although gay marriage might be a "heated political issue" among the general public, it's not controversial here.

I mean hell, evolution is controversial to the public but LWers mention it all the time.

Yeah, in that sort of context, you're correct. There's almost certainly no substantial controversy here in that sense.

My gut reaction is that very few, if any, current LW-ers have a problem with gay marriage. Because of the context of the OP, I was referring to the general American public. Sorry, I could have been more clear about that.

Adapting the law on man-woman unions to also cover man-man unions does not involve any technical hurdles on the legal side, it's just applying existing laws in a slightly different context.

Marriage with more than two people, however, would require many changes to the text of the law (except in places where the law already covers polygamy).

This. Poly marriage is also more complicated because of child custody (in particular given the increased instability of a relationship the more people who are part of it). Also significant is that there are multiple kinds of poly arrangements and covering them all in a useful legal way is difficult.

I say this as someone generally supportive of poly relationships. Eventually it'll be a fight worth having, but I'd wait for the current struggles over gay marriage to die down (I give that about 20-30 years)

I'd wait for the current struggles over gay marriage to die down

It has died some time ago in more socially progressive countries, but none recognize a group marriage, so, I agree, clearly social mores are not the only or even the main issue.

My guess would be that, just like in Physics, in Law the general n-body problem (ahem) is much less tractable than the two body problem. I suspect that there are many relevant legal issues that have not been even touched and will have to be addressed, before a reasonable group marriage framework can be constructed. Child custody/support/rights, potential for spousal abuse are some of those.

On general grounds, one would also expect the stability of such a union be much less than that of a 2-person one, thus reducing the need for legal protection. Most polys freely admit that they have a "primary" and one or more secondaries, who are not in an equal position. Again, the analogy with orbital motion is quite interesting, but I will not push it further.

I don't have statistics on poly relationships, and I doubt that anyone has good statistics.

Still, so far as raising children is concerned, I think you're conflating two situations. A poly relationship might be considered unstable if one or more people leaves, but if a core group remains raising children, it might be more stable for children than a couple that breaks up.

We have changed the legal traditions and practices surrounding man-woman marriage (especially with regard to divorce and child custody) far more in the past 80 years than would be required to make poly marriage workable.

Downvoted for "Disingenuous". If you disagree with a point, it is generally better to just counter it, than to accuse the commenter of making it in bad faith.

ETA: Downvote removed, following removal of the accusation.

I've dropped the word, I agree it was inappropriate.

The burden of changing many legal texts is not nearly a sufficient reason to deny some people equal legal rights.

Do you mean normatively or descriptively (i.e. “a sufficient reason why we should denied”, or “why we have denied”)? I agree with the former, but I'm not so sure about the latter.

Both. Descriptively, the practical difficulty of changing the law isn't the reason the law hasn't been changed in this way; the reason is that a great many people would oppose it on religious, moral, and other normative grounds. Many other laws have been changed over time despite the changes being nontrivial to implement, because the necessary people agreed in those cases that changing the laws was for the best.

I think laws forbidding cousin marriage are unfair and should be the next target of civil rights activism. Incest laws in general makes no sense except as a eugenics measure. Either we dump these laws or we judge all eugenic measures that rise above it in the cost-benefit metric as acceptable. Else we are just picking and tormenting loving couples because of some historic baggage.

And where is the transhumanist spirit? Technology lets a brother and a sister have as healthy a baby as anyone else's.

Edit: Added the eugenic argument, I originally didn't think I would need to.

Incest laws in general makes no sense.

I believe I've previously pointed out inbreeding depression to you; from Jensen 1969:

In Japan approximately 5% of all marriages are between cousins. Schull and Neel studied the offspring of marriages of first cousins, first cousins once removed, and second cousins. The parents were statistically matched with a control group of unrelated parents for age and socioeconomic factors. Children from the cousin marriages and the control children from unrelated parents (total N=2111) were given the Japanese version of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). The degree of consanguinity represented by the cousin marriages in this study had the effect of depressing WISC IQs by an average of 7.4%, making the mean of the inbred group nearly 8 IQ points lower than the mean of the control group. Assuming normal distributions of IQ, the effect is shown in Figure 9, and illustrates the point that the most drastic consequences of group mean differences are to be seen in the tails of the distributions. In the same study, a similar depressing effect was found for other polygenic characteristics such as several anthropometric and dental variables.

The mating of relatives closer than cousins can produce a markedly greater reduction in offspring's IQs. Lindzey (1967) has reported that almost half of a group of children born to so-called nuclear incest matings (brother-sister or father-daughter) could not be placed for adoption because of mental retardation and other severe defects which had a relatively low incidence among the offspring of unrelated parents who were matched with the incestuous parents in intelligence, socioeconomic status, age, weight, and stature.

No doubt one could dig up more recent results with a suitable search").

Should we use eugenic reasons forbid the marriage of women over 40 planing on having babies as well? The defect rate in children is the same just so you know. In the Western world most people are pretty out-bred, one generation of inbreeding does very little damage and very few Westerners will choose to marry their cousins generation after generation.

Should we use eugenic reasons forbid the marriage of women over 40 planing on having babies as well?

Yes. We should also encourage the use of sperm donors as resulting in 1/5 the birth defect rate. (On a large scale, this advantage would erode, but that is easily dealt with by encouraging men to donate more and treating them less like crap; we can think of it as 'sperm banking', akin to existing practice of 'egg banking'.)

In the Western world most people are pretty out-bred, one generation of inbreeding does very little damage

Do you know this, or are you guessing? If I were to go looking for any studies in out-bred populations, at how many points of average IQ damage would you concede the point?

Yes. We should also encourage the use of sperm donors as resulting in 1/5 the birth defect rate.

Ok you win eugenics is a good idea. But after designer babies are the norm, this rationale becomes obsolete.

In the Western world most people are pretty out-bred

By “the Western world” you mean the Americas or some subset thereof? Because I doubt there's that much genetic diversity in, say, Iceland (and in Italy there are some small towns where one or two family names comprise the majority of the population).

The Western world. You need to keep in mind that inbreeding is the human norm. Europe, at least any part that was under Catholic influence for a few centuries is a massive outlier in its low rates of consanguineous marriage.

Europe, at least any part that was under Catholic influence for a few centuries is a massive outlier in its low rates of consanguineous marriage.

They might not marry close relatives (say, those with common ancestors from 200 years ago), but when it's customary to only marry people from your own town with a population of 1000, this means that lots of your ancestors from 500 years ago are your spouse's ancestors too, so you still share lots of genes.

Urbanization in the 19th and 20th century mean this is very seldom still the case. How many people live in such small towns? And those who more often find spouses via work or in the course of their education, which seldom takes place in such small towns.

In any case the defect rates for such towns are only very seldom a problem. A better point in your favour might be the relative close relatedness of say the Aksenazi Jews.

The parents were statistically matched with a control group of unrelated parents for age and socioeconomic factors.

Do "socioeconomic factors" include the parents' IQ?

Given the strong influence of IQ on socioeconomic status, even without controlling for IQ explicitly, there's still going to be substantial controlling for IQ that way.

That would not be enough control if IQ has influence on whether someone marries their cousin.

Are you arguing for the sake of arguing a methodological point, or do you seriously think that this point has a >50% chance of making the theoretically predicted and empirically confirmed phenomenon of inbreeding depression just go away?

I don't think it makes the inbreeding effect go away completely, but it seems worth considering if there are other contributing factors to the observed effect. (Probability less than 50%, but I think worth tracking.)

I would be careful about dismissing "methodological points". The methodological standards are there for a reason.

I think laws forbidding cousin marriage are unfair and should be the next target of civil rights activism.

I've seen it argued somewhere that the acceptability of cousin marriage in society also relates significantly to the presence of corruption/nepotism/tribal thinking in that society.

Incest laws in general makes no sense except as a eugenics measure.

Besides eugenics issues, I'd guess that because of pre-existing power dynamics incest probably has much more of a potential to be psychologically unhealthy than most non-incestuous sexual relationships -- much like teacher-student / doctor-patient relationships are also frowned upon, except that the familial dependency is even stronger.

It puts all the eggs in one basket after all (psychological/financial support from biological family, psychological/financial support from significant other) -- if these are the same people, who do you turn to when you have problems?

I've seen it argued somewhere that the acceptability of cousin marriage in society also relates significantly to the presence of corruption/nepotism/tribal thinking in that society.

You mean hbdchick?

Did you edit in “except as a eugenics measure” after gwern's comment?

Yes. Because I originally didn't think people here would need that explicitly argued against. I will make the edict explicit.

My position is that polygamy should be tolerated, but not celebrated (or recognized by law). My reasons:

1) It will probably lead to a shortage of women, as some men hog all the women for themselves. Women are more willing to share a man than vice-versa. (Whether this is cultural or biological is irrelevant. Either way you'll end up with a shortage of women.)

2) Poly marriages are not as stable as two person relationships. The more premises an argument has, the less likely it is to be sound; so too for marriage. Dan Savage says that he's been to number of "poly weddings", but has never been to a poly tenth anniversary party.

Poly marriages are not as stable as two person relationships.

Maybe they don't have to be?

Maybe in the progressively less rigid modern society it is progressively less fit for marriages to stay stable?

Women are more willing to share a man than vice-versa.

This may be a dumb question on my part, but is this from personal observation, studies you know of, other?

ie, I know there're places where one man is allowed to marry multiple women, but not other way around, for example... But do we have reason to think that if suddenly we went "poof, now it's allowed both ways" in a western society that, until then, was mostly monogamous, it'd default to "few/single men, many women" type marriages?

(Just to clarify, I'm not arguing against you so much as simply wondering/asking. I honestly don't know the answers here.)

As far as stability, hrm... I would have thought that a strong poly marriage would be more weblike then chainlike, where each additional link strengthens in, but empirical data trumps all. Lack of poly tenth anniversary parties would be a fairly relevant data point.

(Hrm... wait, what's the prior for tenth anniversary parties in general vs the actual number of poly weddings that happen.)

Oh, sorry if this reply is a bit disorganized. It's as much me "thinking out loud" as an actual reply.

This may be a dumb question on my part, but is this from personal observation, studies you know of, other?

You know, I just looked it up and the evidence is less clear cut than I thought. In American poly culture, couples who want to date a woman are much more common than couples that want to date a man. Woman who want to date couples are called "unicorns", while men who want to date a couple don't have a word. But this kind of evidence cuts both ways; there are lots of couples that want women, but few women are jumping to date a couple.

Also: the existence of the cuckold subculture, where men ask their wives/girlfriends to have sex with other men. There are a few women who want the reverse, but there's not a subculture for it.

Wikipedia also describes some cultures where polyandry is practiced. It also says that polyandrous animals tend to have the females be larger than males, while polygynous animals tend to have males bigger than females. Since men are bigger than women, this is evidence that humans are polygynous rather than polyandrous.

Hrm... If it really would end up being significantly one sided (regardless of which side it would end up as) then it would likely be bad. But the question is how one sided it would be. (I guess really the best way is to actually go around looking at poly relationships (not the cults, but actual freely formed poly relationships) and see what tends to happen on average.

Hrm... interesting. Reading that, however, doesn't seem to imply that a small imbalance in the sex ratio necessarily makes anything more than a small difference. Did I miss it, or is there something in the original actual paper that implies small imbalances produce large effects? (My investigation into this topic is practically nonexistent, however.)

(I am curious also about the wording... Sexually active males vs sexually receptive females.)

If you look at the study (warning: PDF) you can get quantified information. Looking at page 5 you can see that a woman in .925 city (like Philadelphia) will get married a year earlier than in a 1.075 city (like Portland). So maybe the effect isn't that big after all.

Although I would expect the results would be more dramatic if we comparing the operational sex ratios of countries rather than cities. If the sexual market is unfavorable, it's a lot easier to import a mate from another city than another country.

Hrm... So the question is does data at the scale of countries (or at least larger regions within countries) exist for this?

Anyways, thanks. I may have to update a bit on this matter (conditional on poly actually being likely to cause imbalance.)

polygamy != polyamory.

1) Not sure what you mean by shortage of women. It's not like we live in a "fair" universe where every male is entitled to a female. A couple of other points: Poly relationships tend to be open. If you have trouble finding a partner, someone's poly arrangement is not the reason for it.

It's not like we live in a "fair" universe where every male is entitled to a female.

Isn't that the point? Indeed because there's no law of physics preventing more than n men from experiencing long-term involuntary celibacy, since all other things being equal an universe where (n + 1) men out of N experience it is arguably worse than one where n men out of N experience it, then it's up to us to make the former case less likely (unless the costs outweigh the benefits).

Two questions.

1) If women are generally willing to share men, how does it come about that the women are being "hogged" (which I understand to mean that they are partnered with only one man)?

2) Is #2 a special case of a general belief that family arrangements that are less stable than currently-legally-recognized families ought not be celebrated or recognized by law? Or does it just apply to this case?

Women are willing to share a man, and the man is unwilling to share his women.

I know a few stable triads, a couple of stable quads, a triad that became a quad after about ten years and two couples about two years after that, and a household that I don't quite know how to characterize but is closer to a line marriage than to any other relationship model I know of. As far as I know, all of them want legal protections that reflect the reality of their relationships. Some of them pursue that on their own, with lawyers; others of them shrug their shoulders and do without those protections. One of the stable quads presents as two married couples.

What qualifies as "stable"? How many years have they been together?

In general I treat any relationship lasting more than about five years without a major destabilizing crisis as stable. The relationships I'm thinking about... hm. I'd estimate the mean to be about seven years. Of course, the mean relationship time of my cohort increases as I get older.

It's also worth asking how one should treat open relationships. That is, I know a lot of stable couples who have had third and fourth parties involved in their relationship for a year or two or four; I don't consider those stable triads or quads, but neither do I consider them monogamous relationships.

I should probably also note that I reject the pervasive cultural notion that a relationship that ends in something other than death has somehow failed.

Allow people to enter into whatever legally binding contracts they so desire regarding relationships. Abandon the limitation to one specific "marriage" contract.

People are bad at predicting what legal protections they may need in the future, and marriage covers a lot of them. Boilerplates are useful even in fields where there is pretty arbitrary freedom to customize. I didn't try to write my own contract with the Cryonics Institute, for instance, though as far as I know they and I are entitled to enter into any contractual obligation we'd like.

Marriage isn't just boilerplate for private agreements. It gives married people legal privileges: custody of children, hospital visiting rights, rights to decide partner's medical treatment in an emergency, tax reductions in some jurisdictions (usually for joint-owned property or for inheritance between the married partners), and so on.

Lack of good boilerplate for marriage-like agreements isn't the problem. In many states, private agreements cannot grant most of these legal rights. That's why abolishing government-defined and -controlled marriage is a prerequisite to equal-rights private agreements.

People are bad at predicting what legal protections they may need in the future, and marriage covers a lot of them. Boilerplates are useful even in fields where there is pretty arbitrary freedom to customize.

Boilerplates are great and as you say they are available and in common usage even when there are arbitrary legal restrictions preventing all other possible arrangements. So there is no practical reason that we need to be prevented from making our own contracts.

Current marriage laws and traditional implementations thereof by the legal system are hostile to my interests for reasons including but not limited to being grossly sexist. It would take rather extreme extenuating circumstances for me to be willing to enter into such a contract. Mind you this government interference isn't nearly as offensive to me as the laws preventing me from purchasing and using drugs as I choose including such things as anabolic androgenic steroids and cognitive enhancing drugs but at least the latter legal restrictions are of the kind that can be ignored in principle.

An example of a legal contract that cannot be entered in to: One partner agrees to have children with the other on the condition that in the case of separation they will not be obliged to provide ongoing financial payments to their former partner. Not being able to make such an arrangement means that couples who would otherwise have - and expect to benefit from - children. (Of course for signalling reasons current situations are more likely to describe their aversion in purely emotion based language without admitting to real reasons. The effect remains.)

Nothing wrong with boilerplates, when they're not based on hundreds of years of sexist out-dated religious thought and enshrined in laws.

That still leaves completely open the question of what would make a good "marriage" contract for poly relationships, and so is almost entirely unhelpful as a suggestion.

My understanding is that most polyamorous relationship aren't 3+ person groups where each partner is equally married to each other partner. Some are one person married to 2 (or more) people, and some are more like a married pair, where each partner (or just one partner) has secondary relationships. Polyamorous relationships can become pretty complex, and it seems like it might make more sense for polyamorous people to work out their contracts on an ad hoc basis, especially since polyamory (as opposed to cheating) seems to be extremely rare.

One estimate* put the number of polyamorous people in the Bay Area as 2000. Since there are ~7 million people in the Bay Area , that puts the prevalence at about 1 in 3500. I'm going to go ahead and assume that there is a much greater concentration of polyamorous people in the Bay Area than in any given U.S. state or national polity. I think a 1 in 10,000 ratio seems plausible for the US as a whole.

That would give us an estimate of 31,000 polyamorous people in the US who might be interested in some kind of poly contract. Some of them won't be interested in marriage. The remainder will be spread out in huge numbers of permutations and different arrangements. It doesn't seem like a standard boilerplate contract makes sense for polyamorous people.

*An estimate from a leader of a Bay Area polyamorous organization called "Loving More". It could be an underestimate, but do people underestimate or overestimate when talking up their niche interest? Also, the tone of the post (by a pro-polyamory blogger) seems impressed by the number of polyamorous folks in the Bay Area.

After all, many if not all the arguments for gay marriage apply to poly marriage as well.

Actually I oppose all state sanctioned marriage.

I think the government should just not get involved in marriage. It's a social and religious issue, not a government one. Also, there's no good way to make marriage work for zoophiles.

Can you expand on where the line is between social issues and government issues?

It's a social issue because there are social rules about how it works. It's not a government issue because they aren't rules people should (or do) get punished for breaking. Also, because it's nigh impossible for the government to control it anyway. They can refrain from calling you married, but they can't really keep you from living together, having sex, and possibly deciding to have kids. Not everyone that lives together is in a relationship. The government isn't going to know if you have sex. They could take away your kids and/or force you to get an abortion, but they won't.

If I die intestate, is who inherits my house a government issue?
If my husband wants to visit me in the hospital after my stroke, and the hospital staff refuse to allow it, is that a government issue?
Certainly, my government is currently involved in passing laws about such things. And whether I'm married or not affects how those rules apply to me. That seems to indicate that right now, marriage in my country is a government issue.

Perhaps if the government was not involved in any issues like that, to which the social status of my husband and me were relevant, I would agree with you that our status was a purely social issue and not a government one. That might even be an improvement over the current situation, I'm not sure.

But it's not the situation I'm in.

If I die intestate, is who inherits my house a government issue?

The obvious thing would be for people to put it on their will, but I'm not sure how often people actually update them. I imagine it would be something people would do when they get married, along with contracts for sharing property and such. I'm not sure exactly how feasible that is.

If my husband wants to visit me in the hospital after my stroke, and the hospital staff refuse to allow it, is that a government issue?

Are there laws about that? I'd expect the choice of who can enter would fall to the hospital. If they care if you're married and aren't willing to take your word for it, they can still check. It's an issue, so someone will be keeping track of it.

I am somewhat confused by your response.

For example, I agree with you that putting information about who inherits my house in my will is the obvious thing to do. But what I'm asking is, if I die without having specified who inherits my house, is determining who inherits my house a government issue, or not?

If it helps, in most jurisdictions the U.S. today, the mechanism for this determination is controlled by law, which is understood to be a function of the government. I don't know whether that's sufficient to make it a government issue, or not.

If it is a government issue, then marriage in the U.S. is a government issue as well, since one of the things the government must establish in order to make that determination is whether I am married and if so to whom.

It is a government issue, and it is a good point. I don't think (but I'm not sure) that it's not good enough on its own.

At the very least, the government should stay out of marriage when possible, and they should keep everything optional (perhaps you don't want your spouse to inherit your stuff).

If it is a government issue, then marriage in the U.S. is a government issue as well...

It's fuzzy. That means that it's at least a little a government issue, but not necessarily important enough that they really should do it. You could find some reason why the government should care about anything.

I'm not saying "the government should care about who gets my house, and marriage relates to that decision, and therefore marriage should be a government issue."
I'm saying "right now, today, in the real world, the government does care about who gets my house, and marriage relates to that decision, and therefore marriage is, right now, a government issue."

As I said initially:

Perhaps if the government was not involved in any issues like that, to which the social status of my husband and me were relevant, I would agree with you that our status was a purely social issue and not a government one. That might even be an improvement over the current situation. I'm not sure. But it's not the situation I'm in.

Also, there's no good way to make marriage work for zoophiles.

Why?

Animals aren't citizens. Animals can't understand the idea of marriage. They can make something similar to marriage for zoophiles, but it's not going to be the same. It's not going to be fair.

It's not going to be fair.

Marriage fair? That would be a first! :P

Do polies want to marry each other or do such relationships not lend themselves to permanence above a threshold of partners?

I personally know one three-person poly family that consider themselves married and would be legally married if they had the option. I know of others as well.

Some changes would need to happen for poly families to get the same rights as married couples, particularly when it comes to taxes. And I assume that some hub-bub would be created about sanctity, and people getting married "just for tax reasons," and I am sure someone would reference cults trying to get tax exempt status even though it is something entirely different. I would even expect backlash from the gay community, who would be trying to make it seem like gay>poly wasn't the "slippery slope" that anti-gay marriage activists now claim gay marriage will lead to.

Frankly, it's probably easier to just try to form a non-profit group that acts like a marriage arrangement if one wants the legal benefits of marriage, with all personal assets of members going to the company before being redistributed to the members of the unit, although I haven't personally tried this.

Given the dug-in fight over gay marriage, the poly families I know aren't holding their breath. Most have just accepted that their fight probably won't even happen in this generation. As to whether or not it should happen... well, I doubt there will be any hideous consequences from allowing polyamorous unions to be recognized by the law, outside of the people shouting about it.

I wonder what kind of legal recognition might work to encourage and recognize pet owners who have developed particularly deep (I'm not talking sexual necessarily) bonds to their pets. Considering the benefits of such relationships to society I think they deserve some recognition, not really marriage (which was brought up by some commenters), but something.

It isn't clear to me what the purpose of such a legally recognized partnership would be. All the functions of legal inter-human marriage that I can think of are inapplicable. Humans already have the rights to do anything they want to their pets. Giving rights to pets is pointless if they can't effectively claim them (deciding on partner's treatment in a medical emergency, custody of partner's body after death). Tax and property rights - non-humans can't own property or money. Custody of children is irrelevant. Etc.

I think they deserve some recognition

As a consequentialist, the question I care about when considering whether recognition should be granted is whether the recognition of the relationship has a societal benefit, not whether the relationship has societal benefit regardless of the recognition.

The reason why I considered this is because I think genuine bonding at least with long lived animals produces humans who care about nature more as well as provides social benefits to those who can't find humans who would interact with them in this way.

By de-stigmatizing and even commending such relationships, perhaps clearly differentiating them from animal hoarders (who do themselves and the animals harm by trying to "take care" of too many), we would ideally cause more such relationships to develop.

My opinion on people interacting and bonding with social robots or programs is similar.

Hm. Some sort of standardized institution in place to take care of the pet in case the human dies, perhaps? Tax breaks?

I'm baffled as to why this was down voted.

My general view is there's nothing inherently wrong with poly (although it's not for everyone), and legal stuff shouldn't be used to prevent poly relationships. However, poly marriage is more complex.

Legalizing gay marriage is, in a sense, trivial. The transformation of the law to allow it is fairly straightforward.

But having some form of legalized poly marriage is rather more complex, and it seems to me those complexities largely arise from the fact that, when legalizing it, you have to choose whether or not marriage will be transitive. Regardless of which option you choose there, there will be some odd consequences.

Basically, consider this simple example: A, B, and C are married to each other. A and B want to divorce each other. Both want to remain married to C. What should the law do?

More fun: How should parental rights work in large poly marriages?

Joint tax filing?

etc...

I'm not saying these are unsolvable questions, but it's not a direct simple transformation of marriage the way legalizing gay marriage is. There's actual nontrivial stuff to solve/figure out/decide.

Basically, going from 2 to N opens up a larger space of possibilities.

Oh, incidentally, the notion of poly relationships has been advocated on LW several times.

More fun: How should parental rights work in large poly marriages?

That part should be easier. Base it off genetic testing with biases towards whichever of the two parents is the one that had the child burst forth screaming from their genitals. Further modify implementation of rights by discretionary judgements made in favor of the child's best interest. Basically, do exactly the same thing that the system should do now without the poly relationships being formal.

Hrm... not sure such a bias makes sense, especially in a group marriage where everyone was involved in raising the kids, for example. (Again though, I'm not saying these things are unsolvable. Just... there's a bunch of little things like that that would, in fact, have to be specified.)

(I'll avoid commenting here on the extent to which the system presently mucks things up, since that's outside the scope of the discussion.)

Relax the condition that prevents person A from marrying person C if A is already married to B. This allows A, B, and C to marry one another, or allows A and B to both marry C but not one another, as they choose.

Most legal practices related to marriage won't be altered by this.

Some will -- the practices that assume that "A's spouse" uniquely identifies a single individual -- and those practices will have to change. For example, if the law says that in cases where A dies intestate then A's spouse inherits, then the law will have to either be modified or a canonical interpretation arrived at to handle the case where "A's spouse" is more than one person.

I agree that this adds some complexity to the law.

For example, one relatively braindead way to do this is to assert that for those laws, "A's spouse" is understood to refer to their spouse with the longest tenure. (aka "senior spouse")

The tenure/seniority rule does seem to be a shaky one. Anyways, I'm not claiming that these are unsolvable, merely that "legalize poly marriage" is insufficiently specified, and there's several tunable parameters that need to be tuned.

You propose for marriage to be non transitive. That's fine, but then that does lead to other things like how tax/insurance/etc should work. (One possibility would be that joint filing benefits be completely separated from marriage and instead work like this: Anyone is allowed to jointly file with ONE other person.)

There will be a number of other things that need to be addressed, though. I'm not at all opposed to poly stuff, merely that if one wants some form of legally recognized poly marriage, my question is basically this"what... precisely, is it you want the law to do? Taboo 'legalized poly marriage'"

Agreed on all of this.

More generally, what I want laws governing marriage and parentage to do is formalize social support for family arrangements in a way that provides equal support for all families that share the properties that I value supporting. The most important of those properties is a commitment by an individual to provide logistical, economic, and psychological support to another individual in times of crisis.

Within the specific context of poly marriages, I want the law to do that for families that include more than two adults, but that's just a special case of what I think marriage and parentage law (more broadly, family law) is for.