Missing The Big Love Boat

The HBO series Big Love is of course provoking considerable debate on polygamy. I expect most libertarians to miss the boat on this by focusing on polygamy as a matter of public policy.

I see something far more interesting here: Polygamists simply don’t recognize that government has legitimate authority over their marriages. Whereas many gays complain that they can’t marry the spouse of their choice because the government won’t permit it, polygamists simply defy the law and marry however they please.

Forget policy, polygamists are demonstrating that individuals can and do take their marriages private. As well they should:

The Sovereign Individual argues instead, that one must simply evict the state from one’s own marriage. Your marriage is not properly a matter of public debate so don’t treat it as one. Take and keep private what ought to be private. And all of your life is your private affair.

Leave the institution of marriage to the Institutional Man.

Sovereign Individuals are the Makers of Manners:

You and I cannot be confined
within the weak list of a country’s fashion
we are the makers of manners,
and the liberty that follows our places
stops the mouth of all find-faults

11 thoughts on “Missing The Big Love Boat”

  1. Well said!

    I would only make note than many gay and lesbian couples have long lived together in marriage with or without the state’s permission, and prior to any thought the state might recognise their marriage. And such marriages should be considered absolutely real and valid. The marriages of slaves, conducted in defiance of their state, societies, and masters- are rightly regarded as sacred expressions of the human spirit in the most pitchlike darkness. And so should we regard gay marriages which ignore the state.

    I myself have serious doubts about whether marriage, gay or straight, is such a wonderful thing- I think marriage is primarily a householding arrangement and believe love flourishes best where there is liberty and no dependency. But in *this* context, marriage is something beautiful.

    Lady Aster,
    heirogamous polyamorist

  2. And such marriages should be considered absolutely real and valid.

    People will treat them as they see fit. My marriage is independent of the opinions of outsiders. I was not offended but amused when libertarian Micha Ghertner told me he didn’t think I was really married if it wasn’t licensed by the state.

    I note that in practice few seem to doubt that polygamists really are married even though it’s a legal impossibility. Even the state recognizes these marriages. Tom Green was prosecuted for being married to four women he had legally divorced.

  3. I agree with the polygamist approach to marriage–it’s not the State’s business. I’ve never understood why gays self-righteously say whom they sleep with is nobody’s business, and then simultaneously, beg the State to regulate their relationships via marriage. All the “benefits” they claim legal marriage would give them could be obtained with the help of an attorney.

  4. The most charitable interpretation I can come up with of the pro-gay-marriage side is that the state offers a ready made contract which bundles most of the features people want in a cohabitation agreement for a low price, but the deal is only available if the parties to the contract are one man and one woman. It’s a shame that said contract was given the same name as a religious sacrament. If the piece of paper issued by the state were referred to as a “declaration of cohabitation” from the start, rather than a marriage license, I doubt that there would be any controversy from.

  5. You single guys not looking to marry. What do you care.

    You single guys looking to marry, aren’t you having enough trouble finding one wife without worrying about the state restricting your second bite at the apple. Don’t you think that if they allowed second bites that would actually reduce your chances.

    You married guys, isn’t the government doing you a favor here? :)

  6. But of couse it is the business of the state who marries and under what conditions..though the law (in the state, not the nation) might ignore or pay no heed to the laws they have made). After all, when you divorce, it is the state that decides who gets what, how, when. Polygamy is wrong because of economics: if each man gets 4 wives, then there are not sufficient women for those men without wives who want one or more

  7. Polygamy is wrong because of economics: if each man gets 4 wives, then there are not sufficient women for those men without wives who want one or more

    You’re not taking into account the fact that polyandrous households would also exist and that many people would still choose monogamy. But even if polygynous marriages became the most popular choice, economically, I don’t see how that would be any worse than the present system.

    In a polygamy tolerant society, men who are vying for a limited number of available women would become more motivated producers and earners and would likely be even more considerate of there spouses. In such a situation, even women who elect monogamous marriage would also benefit because they’d have a more qualified field of candidates from which to choose.

    Overall, men would be better men and women would be happier.

    I can see where that would produce desirable outcomes, not only for women, but for children and ultimately for husbands who, in their twilight years, rely quite heavily on their wives and children for care and support.

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