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Polygamy

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From the NYT:

He also heard of poisonous mistrust between [Osama] Bin Laden’s wives. In the cramped Abbottabad house, he was told, tensions erupted between Ms. Sadah, described as “the favored wife,” and Khairiah Saber, an older woman who occupied a separate floor. In interrogation, Ms. Sadah accused her rival of having betrayed their husband to American intelligence.

Here you are, the world’s all-time top terrorist, and all you want is a little peace and quiet around your own damn house. Is that too much to ask? Why can’t we all just get along?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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By Adam Nossiter in the NYT:

TRIPOLI, Libya — It was just a passing reference to marriage in a leader’s soberly delivered speech, but all week it has unsettled women here as well as allies abroad. 

In announcing the success of the Libyan revolution and calling for a new, more pious nation, the head of the interim government, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, also seemed to clear the way for unrestricted polygamy in a Muslim country where it has been limited and rare for decades. 

It looked like a sizable step backward for women at a moment when much here — institutions, laws, social relations — is still in play after the end of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s 42 years of authoritarian rule. 

In his speech, Mr. Abdel-Jalil declared that a Qaddafi-era law that placed restrictions on multiple marriages, which is a tenet of Islamic law, or Shariah, would be done away with. The law, which stated that a first wife had to give permission before others were added, for instance, had kept polygamy rare here. 

“This law is contrary to Shariah and must be stopped,” Mr. Abdel-Jalil told the crowd, vowing that the new government would adhere more faithfully to Shariah. The next day he reiterated the point to reporters at a news conference: “Shariah allows polygamy,” he said. Mr. Abdel-Jalil is known for his piety. 

He also remarked cryptically, “We will not abolish any law.” 

Still, some women here saw the collective remarks of the chairman of the Transitional National Council as a menacing sign that the new Libya would mean new repression. Human-rights lawyers also viewed the comments as a clearly aimed swipe at the Qaddafi law on marriage, as did a scholar of Islamic law at the University of Tripoli. 

Libya experts abroad saw the leader’s foray as a political effort aimed at placating newly influential Islamists. “He and the other leaders are not quite certain which way this is going to turn,” said Dirk J. Vandewalle, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College. “They are hedging their bets. The worrisome thing is he mentioned these things, which take him outside the mainstream.” 

Abroad, the reaction was one of dismay among allies whose military firepower ensured Colonel Qaddafi’s fall. … 

There was disquiet that Mr. Abdel-Jalil had zeroed in on the marriage issue in a relatively brief speech. Unprompted, the young women circulating in a university courtyard angrily brought up his comments.

… Unlike in its African Muslim neighbors to the south, where multiple-wife family compounds are frequently seen, polygamy has hardly been part of the essential fabric of daily life here. Under Colonel Qaddafi, there was a notion that polygamous marriages were the exception, said Azza Kamel Maghur, a lawyer here. Apart from the wife’s consent — delivered in front of a judge — a man had to give reasons for taking another wife. 

Like other women here, Ms. Maghur, whose father was briefly foreign minister under Colonel Qaddafi, was sharply critical of the country’s temporary leader for proposing fundamental changes during a period of transition. “Women gained rights in the 1970s,” she said. “We don’t want to lose them.” … 

In Benghazi on Friday, several hundred men staged a demonstration in support of Mr. Abdel-Jalil and demanded that his prescriptions be carried out. …

You notice how no guy ever says in one of these articles: “Hey, under polygamy, I’d probably wind up a lonely bachelor, so I’m against polygamy!”? Are guys really that dumb that they don’t get the basic math? I’m sure that Mustafa Abdel-Jalil and his male relatives will do very well for themselves in the marriage market as long as he’s head of government, but what about men as a whole? How do more men wind up better off if some men get to have four wives?

This sort of speech might almost make you skeptical about the motivations of elites. But if average Libyan guys start being cynical about the motivations of Mustafa Abdel-Jalils call for more polygamy, then average Americans might someday stop believing that the reason Bill Gates is always calling for more immigration is not because he’s in favor of more equality, and start wondering if its because he’s in favor of more inequality. If this kind of bad attitude is allowed, Southerners might start to imagine Jefferson Davis had ulterior motives in favoring slavery and secession.

Anyway, making the law more favorable to polygamy probably won’t have much impact statistically because the truth is that outside of tropical hoe agriculture economies where the women do most of the work, large numbers of men can’t afford to have a lot of wives. The irony is that this is especially true in Islamist cultures where the women have to be kept out of sight. Wives can’t very easily be bringing home the bacon if they can’t drive and have to be escorted everywhere by male relatives and have to wear awkward tent-like clothes that they have to grasp with one hand at all times.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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With polygamy back in the news with some breakaway Mormon fundamentalists suing under the same logic as gay marriage, you might be interested in The Economics of Eldorado, a 2008 post I wrote on the how the leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints can afford to have all those wives in that huge compound in Eldorado, Texas where the state seized 437 children:

If you ask most guys, they’ll tell you that having one wife is expensive. So, how do you have a community based on having a bunch of wives?

Read the whole thing there.

 
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From the NYT:

Polygamist, Under Scrutiny in Utah, Plans Suit to Challenge Law 

By JOHN SCHWARTZ 

Kody Brown is a proud polygamist, and a relatively famous one. Now Mr. Brown, his four wives and 16 children and stepchildren are going to court to keep from being punished for it. 

The family is the focus of a reality TV show, “Sister Wives,” that first appeared in 2010. Law enforcement officials in the Browns’ home state, Utah, announced soon after the show began that the family was under investigation for violating the state law prohibiting polygamy. 

On Wednesday, the Browns are expected to file a lawsuit to challenge the polygamy law. 

The lawsuit is not demanding that states recognize polygamous marriage. Instead, the lawsuit builds on a 2003 United States Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws as unconstitutional intrusions on the “intimate conduct” of consenting adults. It will ask the federal courts to tell states that they cannot punish polygamists for their own “intimate conduct” so long as they are not breaking other laws, like those regarding child abuse, incest or seeking multiple marriage licenses. 

Mr. Brown has a civil marriage with only one of his wives; the rest are “sister wives,” not formally wedded.

Are these “sister wives” actual sisters? That’s the kind of thing I find interesting, but nobody else seems to wonder about…

The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon Church, which gave up polygamy around 1890 as Utah was seeking statehood.

Making polygamous unions illegal, they argue, violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, as well as the free exercise, establishment, free speech and freedom of association clauses of the First Amendment. 

“We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs,” Mr. Brown said in a statement provided by his lead attorney, Jonathan Turley, who is a law professor at George Washington University. 

The connection with Lawrence v. Texas, a case that broadened legal rights for gay people, is sensitive for those who have sought the right of same-sex marriage. Opponents of such unions often refer to polygamy as one of the all-but-inevitable outcomes of allowing same-sex marriage.  

Such arguments, often referred to as the “parade of horribles,” are logically flawed, said Jennifer C. Pizer, a professor at the law school at the University of California, Los Angeles, and legal director for the school’s Williams Institute, which focuses on sexual orientation law.

The questions surrounding whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry are significantly different from those involved in criminal prosecution of multiple marriages, Ms. Pizer noted. Same-sex couples are seeking merely to participate in the existing system of family law for married couples, she said, while “you’d have to restructure the family law system in a pretty fundamental way” to recognize polygamy.

Huh? Professor Pizer, there are a whole bunch of Muslims who want to have a word with you about which has been around longer: polygamy or gay marriage.

Well, okay, what Prof. Pizer said didn’t make much sense, but let me explain what she really meant: Here’s the simple logic behind today’s conventional wisdom about who should have family law fundamentally restructured on their behalf and who shouldn’t:

Gays are good, so they should get whatever they want.
Fundamentalist Mormon wackos are bad, so they shouldn’t. 
And that’s all you need to know. The rest is just an exercise in legalistic rationalization of the basic who / whom distinction of gays good / Mormons bad.
That logic will stand to keep polygamy banned as long as it’s just blond Mormons doing the suing. But, at some point, say, two immigrants from Guinea here on fraudulent asylum visas will sue for a third spousal visa to import a third spouse into their polygamous marital union. If they are all gay black immigrant HIV+ men who are members of a [long-awaited] progressive gay-friendly Muslim sect and they want immigration laws changed to recognize their culture’s ancient history of gay polygamy (just wait for the scholarly books), well, then they’ve got what will, over a few decades, turn into an obvious slam dunk case. I can’t predict exactly which legal rationalizations will be trotted out in that kind of case, but it’s only a matter of time.

The Supreme Court supported the power of states to restrict polygamy in an 1879 case, Reynolds v. United States. Professor Turley suggests that the fundamental reasoning of Reynolds, which said polygamy “fetters the people in stationary despotism,” is outdated and has been swept away by cases like Lawrence.

Douglas Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University, said today’s courts might not agree with the sweeping societal conclusions of the 19th-century courts, but noted that more attention has been paid in recent decades to the importance of internal family issues as part of the public policy sphere. Questions of child abuse and spousal domination, he said, could figure into a judicial examination of polygamy. 

“We’re more sensitive to the fact that a household can be quite repressive,” he said, and so reservations about polygamy “might be even more profound.”

Nobody ever mentions the leftover men problem with polygamy. We’re only supposed to worry about the harms polygamy causes to women, not to men. (Here’s my 2002 article on “The Problem with Polygamy.”)

Professor Turley disagreed, noting that “there are many religious practices in monogamous families that many believe as obnoxious and patriarchal,” and added, “The criminal code is not a license for social engineering.”

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: Polygamy, Who Whom 
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About once every decade or two, the LA Times runs an article on some old guy in Africa with 100+ wives. I remember reading about a Kenyan in 1981, and another one in 1999. They’re worth waiting for. In today’s LA Times:

Always groom for one more
An Islamic faith healer in Nigeria has married 107 women. The wives seem happy, but religious authorities are not amused.
By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times 

Reporting from Bida, Nigeria 

He fell in love with his first wife because she was sincere and eager to please. His second wife, a cousin, was irresistible because she did everything he wished and nothing he didn’t. “That alone made me love her.” His third wife won him because she submitted to his every request. “I saw her, I liked her. I went to her parents and asked for her hand in marriage.” 

Wife No. 4 was very obedient. So was wife No. 5. Wife No. 6, the same. As were wives 7 and 8 and 9 and … 

Well, by then — it was the late 1980s — things had taken off for Bello Maasaba, an Islamic faith healer in this city in Niger state. He went from a wedding every few months to one every few weeks. 

All told, the 87-year-old has married 107 women, which, even in a society with a tradition of polygamy, is on the high side. 

Three years ago, Islamic authorities in Niger, a majority Muslim state with Sharia, or Islamic law, ordered that Maasaba divorce 82 of his wives, keeping four. He refused and was ordered by the Sharia court to leave town. (Muslim scholars generally agree that the Koran allows up to four wives, provided each gets equal treatment.) ….

With so many wives, how does he meet their romantic needs? 

He smiles. Everyone asks him that.  

Here’s my 2002 article “The Problem with Polygamy,” which was inspired by the 1981 article.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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A couple of weeks ago, following a hoax phone call from (apparently) an Obama delegate in Colorado, the state of Texas seized 437 children from a community recently built outside of Eldorado, TX by the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (which, for some reason, is known as FLDS rather than FCLDS).

I’ve been trying to understand the economics of Eldorado.

If you ask most guys, they’ll tell you that having one wife is expensive. So, how do you have a community based on having a bunch of wives?

In tropical farming communities, the usual solution is to send the wives out to work hoeing the fields. That’s how you come across stories now and then of some handsome, prosperous fellow in Kenya with 100 wives — he owns the land, but the work is being put in, overwhelmingly, by the wives.

The downsides to this tropical model (frequently found in Africa and the New Guinea area) normally include that childcare winds up catch as catch can and the husbands have a hard time keeping their wives in the fields away from local bachelors trying to lure them into the bushes. But then, does the husband care all that much if he winds up with a few cuckoo’s eggs? He’s not busting his hump for the kids, anyway, so it’s not a big deal.

FLDS seems to be midway between the lackadaisical African model of paternal uncertainty and the Middle Eastern Muslim model of paternal paranoia with wives locked up in harems and only allowed out wearing tents. The FLDS women don’t seem to be allowed out much to work in the wider world, and have to wear modest clothes at all times, but at least the FLDS doesn’t have eunuch harem guards. (But they also throw out scores of young men each year to reduce the bachelors in the bushes threat.)

So, where do they get their money? Models that might be helpful to think about include:

1. Welfare fraud: Since the states don’t recognize subsequent marriages, all the wives after the first are legally unwed mothers, eligible for Aid to Families with Dependent Children, food stamps, and so forth. Apparently, it’s called “bleeding the beast.”

2. Organized crime / politics: The main FLDS community of Colorado City, AZ / Hilldale, UT (it’s on the border for purposes of legal confusion) is its own town in two different states, and lots of money comes down from Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Washington D.C. for things like public schools, the local airport (used primarily by the Prophet), street paving and so forth. Supposedly, the place gets back $8 in state services for every $1 it pays in state taxes. Not surprisingly, the FLDS puts lots of its members on the state-supported payroll and appears to skim off a sizable fraction of the budget for its own purposes. In 2005, the state of Arizona put the local school district into receivership for mismanagement. So, it’s kind of a racket.

Of course, the same thing could be said of a lot of municipalities, like, oh, Chicago. On the other hand, the Mayors Daley never quite had government employees as hypnotized into not rolling over for prosecutors as the Prophets Jeffs.

3. Pyramid scheme / slavery — The male members of the FLDS appear to be, in general, industrious and competent at blue collar trades, especially construction work. But their earnings are “taxed” at very high rates by the handful of leaders at the top of the church. All property is owned by the church.

Why do these hard-working guys put up with it? The Prophet gets to decide who marries whom. If he likes how much money you’ve brought in, maybe he gives you a wife. If he really likes you, maybe he gives you a second, prettier one. The sky’s the limit. But, if the Prophet doesn’t like you, no wife for you. In fact, he may expel you from the only community you’ve ever known. After all, there are about an equal number of boys and girls born to the sect, so a lot of the more unruly and/or less productive males get tossed out.

4. Puppy mill – Not surprisingly, not that many people want to convert to FLDS, so to keep the supply of young wives for elders as bountiful as possible, they have to grow their own. This leads to inbreeding problems. The Deseret Morning News reported:

Until a few years ago, scientists knew of only 13 cases of Fumarase Deficiency in the entire world. Tarby said he’s now aware of 20 more victims, all within a few blocks of each other on the Utah-Arizona border.

The children live in the polygamist community once known as Short Creek that is now incorporated as the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Tarby believes the recessive gene for Fumarase Deficiency was introduced to the community by one of its early polygamist founders.

According to community historian Ben Bistline, most of the community’s 8,000 residents are in two major families descended from a handful of founders who settled there in the 1930s to live a polygamist lifestyle.

“Ninety percent of the community is related to one side or the other,” Bistline said.

So, does this mean the state of Texas should have taken 437 children? Arizona tried it 55 years ago and it proved to be a nightmare.

So, I don’t know what Texas should do now, but here’s the first lesson for other states: Do not let these people infest your state.

When Texas first got wind of the FLDS plan to set up a compound a few years ago, they should have come down on them with a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) lawsuit, hostile building inspectors, environmental impact study demands, everything in the ample arsenal of the modern state to get them to go away.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
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I hadn’t been following the election of Jacob Zuma as president of the African National Congress, the ruling party of South Africa, other that this item from the genially witty I, Ectomorph:

Quote of the day:

“I am happy Zuma won because under his rule women will have fewer rights,” said Johannesburg parking attendant Brilliant Khambule.

It just works on all levels.

But, Brilliant does seem to have a point. The Washington Post reports:

Zuma, 65, is a former guerrilla with no formal education and a personal theme song, “Bring Me My Machine Gun” [Zuma sing it to his supporters here], that evokes the party’s history of armed struggle rather than its more recent emphasis on the unglamorous work of reconciliation.

As a polygamist with a reported 16 children — as well as a former rape defendant acquitted in 2006 — Zuma has alienated many South African women, and his personal life threatens to tarnish the party’s image as a champion of gender equality. The wedding, scheduled for Saturday, would bring the number of his current wives to four, news reports say. …

His ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is South Africa’s foreign minister and, according to many reports, Mbeki’s preferred successor as party leader before Zuma’s election last month. Another wife, Kate Zuma, killed herself in 2000. In a scathing suicide note, published by a South African newspaper, she wrote that her married life was “hell.”

Among Zuma’s three current wives is his first, Sizakele Zuma, news reports here say. His marriage to Ntuli would make four.

Zuma’s sexual encounter with a family friend infected with HIV also became public fodder after she accused him of rape. Zuma defeated those charges in court, but statements from the trial — including his assertions that her knee-length skirt made clear her sexual intentions and that his culture compelled him to satisfy her — outraged women’s rights groups.

But many of his supporters reached a different conclusion about that trial, saying the rape charges came only after the family of the woman, who was not publicly named, tried but failed to have Zuma take her as a wife.

My Cameroonian friend always said he wanted four wives. He wasn’t Muslim, but he agreed with them that four was enough.

He planned to add an additional wife each decade. Anthropologists call this “gerontocratic polygamy.” One theory is that it tends to appeal to women in disease-ridden environments, like Africa. If a man survives to age 65, like Zuma, then he must have a good immune system, so his offspring would be more likely to inherit good immune system genes, thus making him a good father.

Incidentally, my friend had gotten married in Cameroon as a teenager and had a son. Then he went off to UCLA and kind of forgot about being married. Much to his surprise, about a half dozen years later, his wife showed up in LA one day, leaving their son behind with relatives. He wasn’t sure he wanted a wife, but quickly came to enjoy having her around, and they had had another baby just before I met them.

A Ghanaian friend in Chicago told almost the exact same story about how his semi-forgotten wife had showed up one day. It’s a happier variant on the one John Updike tells in The Coup, which matches the story of Barack Obama Sr. almost exactly: a married African student attends an American college and bigamously marries an American girl. (Updike has an African son-in-law and an African daughter-in-law, so he knows Africa far better than most Americans. Plus, he’s John Updike, so he notices stuff.)

Update: Ben Trovato asks:

Why, in the name of God, won’t someone bring Jacob Zuma his machine gun? I can no longer stand by and watch the man suffer like this. Has he not been through enough?

There is an organisation called the Friends of Jacob Zuma, and yet not one of its members is willing to do as he asks. Some friends.

Jacob Zuma has anywhere between two and five wives. But what good is that if none will go the extra mile? Who brings him his pint of Ijuba after another exhausting live concert outside the Pietermartizburg High Court? As a proud Zulu man, he cannot be expected to fetch his own sorghum beer and automatic weapon.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: Africa, Polygamy 
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An anthropologist emails:

Steve Sailer has recently posted on isteve on trying to come up with a definition of class. Here are a few thoughts.

I don’t think we can get too far from the standard sociological notion that “class” has to do with inequalities in power, wealth and status in stratified societies, without completely changing the meaning of the word. But we can add the idea that class is not only a matter of social stratification, but involves assortative mating based on Power, Wealth, and Status. I take it this is what Steve is getting at. This would mean that a rich powerful celibate priesthood would not be a class.

Why bother? On reason is that over time classes may differentiate genetically if different genes help people get into different classes. This is part of the argument of The Bell Curve. The genetic consequences of a pure class society will be different from those of a caste or ethnically stratified society. In the former situation, only genes relating to class (or linked genes) will differ between classes, in the latter, where descent not assortative mating is driving things, all sorts of other genes may differ between strata.

Even without genetics, marriage practices can make a difference to class. The anthropologist Jack Goody has spent a lot of time looking at broad differences between African and Eurasian societies. He says that by and large, African societies, even when stratified, don’t form Eurasian style classes, because African polygyny means that high status groups incorporate low status females in large numbers. So you don’t, Goody claims, get the distinctions between “high cuisine” and “low cuisine,” and other high/low culture distinctions in traditional Africa as much as in traditional Eurasia, although the well-off of course get more of the good things in life than other folks.

I don’t have any well-worked definition to offer, but the basic idea seems to be that we have to take into account that people are more than just isolated monads floating around (as in a lot of classical economics) but have families and kin and (most of us hope) descendants, and our definitions of social aggregates ought to reflect this.

I had never thought about class (or its relative absence) in traditional African societies before. It’s one of those dog-that-didn’t-bark phenomena that are so hard to notice, but are often very illuminating when you finally realizing they are missing.

I have a book by Goody sitting around, but the prose style is awfully academic so I haven’t gotten very far.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: Africa, Class, Polygamy 
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, VDARE.com columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.


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