Syndicated column by Jonathan Rauch
April 03, 2006
One Man, Many Wives, Big Problems
The social consequences of polygamy are bigger than you think
On April 3, 2006, REASON.com published a syndicated article from Jonathan Rauch, titled,
"One Man, Many Wives, Big Problem". The subtitle indicated the author's fear-inciting speculation as if it was somehow a proven fact: "The social consequences of polygamy are bigger than you think." The article was so startlingly anti-libertarian that it was quite surprising to see that the libertarian media source, REASON.com, had actually published this syndicated article.
Rauch's article started out by first referencing a March 17, 2006 op-ed by
Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post. Krauthammer's op-ed had used the irresponsible journalism of referring specifically to a sound-bite from TruthBearer.org's Founder while intentionally not citing his (Mark Henkel's) actual name in the op-ed. As that indirect reference instead specifically cited a Newsweek report that properly cited Mark Henkel, Rauch had equally referenced the Newsweek report and did, indeed, directly mention the TruthBearer.org organization as a leading pro-polygamy organization.
Citing a 1994 book, titled,
"The Moral Animal: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology," Rauch first quoted the book's author, Robert Wright, who "notes that a 'huge majority' of the human societies for which anthropologists have data have been polygamous." After that, though, Rauch then took a purely speculative direction, "using" an idea that was also originated in Wright's book, while never specfically giving Wright the attribution. Namely, for the remainder of the article, Rauch maintained one of Wright's unproven hypotheses, suggesting that because "marriage is a zero-sum market," de-criminalized polygamy "would" cause numerous low-status men to commit crimes because of some imaginary "deficiency" of "marry-able women." (Rauch also referenced
another book, "Bare Branches", about an excess of males being born in Asia due to population control sex-selecting abortions - as if the consequences of intentionally-manipulated population births somehow compare to polygamy.) Adding irony to the irrelevance, Rauch referred to "gay Americans" marrying each other. In doing so, he did not even realize the illogic. Even by using the "zero-sum market" assumption, men having same-sex marriages with each other can easily be seen as providing a "mathematical" re-balance to any supposed "deficiency" of "marry-able women" for heterosexual men - if marriage really was a "zero-sum market."
Based upon his (or, actually, Wright's) fallacious premise, Rauch declared, "polygamy is a profoundly hazardous policy", thereby justifying the continuation of big government social engineering to disallow polygamy - in order to "protect" society from "unmarried criminals." Rauch then took this startlingly-socialist non-sequitur even further, suggesting that he supposedly had "proof" of this theory as to what supposedly happens when polygamy is accepted. Namely, he actually cited the horrendous example of a rogue breakaway Mormon-based cult that kicked out many of their young boys. In making this comparison, Jonathan Rauch promoted the sheer fallacy that, if consenting adult polygamy was de-criminalized, normal secularized America would ever somehow "copy" the example of a breakaway cult!
Jonathan Rauch's own personal web-site appears to present him more as an "Elite" activist for homosexuals than actually having much of a commitment to the libertarian-related views that readers of REASON.com might typically expect. A senior writer for the National Journal magazine in Washington and a contributing editor of The Atlantic, Rauch has also authored many books. One of his recent books demonstrates his intentional activism, titled, "Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America." Lastly, Rauch is also the Vice President of "Independent Gay Forum".
Notwithstanding Rauch's "Elite" credentials, it was still a surprise to see such an article that does not understand free markets in such a leading libertarian news source. After all, REASON.com's own slogan declares, "Free Minds & Free Markets."
To libertarians, a free market for marriage inevitably has to mean keeping government out of the marriage market for unrelated consenting adults. Additionally, such a perspective sees that a truly free market recognizes how competition incentivizes excellence. In his article, Rauch lamented, "In a polygamous world, boys could no longer grow up taking marriage for granted." Rather than seeing free-market competition as incentivizing such boys to self-improve so that women could have better options, Rauch instead viewed that as an "ugly" thing, instead preferring the current marital Marxism of "one for each, so that each might have one." But that actual-socialism has only dis-incentivized modern boys to not even try to self-improve - yielding the current "era of dumbed down males," with "marriage-phobic men," "playas," and "baby-daddies." Hence, de-criminalizing polygamy would actually incentivize men to grow up. As more of the "lower status" men then self-improve themselves (in order to better compete) because of the incentivization that the allowance of polygamy would create, their self-improvement would then mostly equillibrate a man-to-woman re-balance in marriage anyway. The result would be more and more women able to marry much better, self-improved men overall. Hence, a true free market would improve the excellence of the quality of most men - overall - for the benefit of women.
Clearly, most committed libertarians would recognize that point. Indeed,
Milton Friedman's own grandson, Patri Friedman, "gets it," even saying so
more than once!
Anyway, while the reason is not known, it appears that
REASON.com stopped publishing Jonathan Rauch's individual op-eds two years later, in March, 2008.
Even though his April 3, 2006, syndicated opinion piece, "One Man, Many Wives, Big Problem", did not seem to be an accurate "fit" for publication in such a leading libertarian media source, Jonathan Rauch's mention of the TruthBearer.org organization therein was the first introduction of this leading (and non-Mormon) pro-polygamy organization to REASON.com and its readers. Moreover, while the premise of the article itself was clearly flawed, Jonathan Rauch had been genuinely respectful when he specifically made that introduction. For these reasons, Mark Henkel and everyone else at the TruthBearer.org organization are truly and genuinely grateful to both Jonathan Rauch and REASON.com.