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« Brochure Lit | Main | Fact for the Day »

November 24, 2008

Winner Take All

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

For The Guardian, GNXP's Razib surveys polygamy and monogamy, and wonders whether the increasing atomization of Western Civ since 1970 might be turning us into a winner-take-all society where sex goes too. That's a hunch that the Game crowd should find congenial.

Nice passage:

Hunter-gatherers are no angels, but the structural constraints of their economic system renders it impossible for an ambitious male to control all of a band's wealth and support dozens of wives.

Many of the comments on Razib's piece are canny and thoughtful.



posted by Michael at November 24, 2008


in nature, animals dont marry....they

i vote we get there first...

Posted by: Ramesh on November 24, 2008 10:44 PM

Somerset Maugham said certain acquaintances impressed him by the number of their sexual conquests...until he saw the conquests.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on November 25, 2008 1:58 AM

Razib: Perhaps western societies will revert to the "normal" human type, and accept the inevitability of both radical inequality of marriage and income, becoming Saudis in cloudy climes.

If so, then the economic explosion that Razib relates to the widespread practice of monogamy will also revert to the "normal" human type of economic stagnation. As Razib pointed out, since 1970, most of our economic gains have gone to our "elites", and there has been widespread wage stagnation otherwise. Should these trends continue, I see a future no sane man would celebrate...humans behaving more like elephant seals than gibbons.

Despite my often being accused of biolgical reductionism, "nature" holds no place of pride in my heart. If we do revert to polygamy and small elites lording it over impoverished masses, that may very well be "natural". But it will also, most definitely, be a reversion.

Sigh. It's as if liberalism, broadly speaking, is just too difficult for people. The scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, industrial civilization, these are all going to be seen as parts of a brief, failed attempt to create and to live in a civil, i.e., human society.

But it's too hard to do that. So instead, we're going to do what other civilizations have done...we're going to go back to "nature". We're going to revert.

Pardon me while I shudder. And if the Game crowd finds Razib's "hunch" (explicitly indicated as such by his use of the word "perhaps"--Razib is far more precise in his use of language than the Game crowd), if they find his hunch congenial, as you say, Michael, then they're not only immature and bitter, they're insane.

Imagine it: Losers like the "Game crowd" wouldn't prosper in a world of "Saudi Arabias in cloudy climes". Why on earth would they think they would?

Posted by: PatrickH on November 25, 2008 9:54 AM

"Somerset Maugham said certain acquaintances impressed him by the number of their sexual conquests...until he saw the conquests."

Apparently, quantity has a quality all its own...

Posted by: Anon on November 25, 2008 10:08 AM

The Karaoke Queen more accurately describes the current sexual scene as a "free for all."

Two major factors have blown everything up:

1. Women don't necessarily need to rely on men for income, and

2. Porn

The implications of #1 are obvious. This factor is entirely to the benefit of women.

Porn has dramatically changed sexual performance and expectations. This is entirely a negative for women. When sexual behavior was more hidden, women could easily cop a plea with men. Porn has made it obvious that women have historically been poor performers in bed. Men have discovered, in short, that women have been holding out on them. No surprise there.

As a result of porn, both men and women expect sexual satisfaction and love in marriage. These expectations are almost impossible to meet. So, everything is falling apart.

Only a few generations ago, marriage was seen almost entirely as a practical arrangement for the purposes of rearing a family and providing for financial security.

Now, marriage is supposed to provide you with a soul mate and a permanent hard on.

The result: the aforementioned free for all.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on November 25, 2008 10:08 AM

One of the issues facing modern Americans is the simple fact that over 50% of their income goes to pay taxes of some sort or another (Federal, state, property, sales, excise, etc). That means, in a two-income earner family, one earner works just to pay the other's taxes. Worse, now that both parental units are out of the house, they must spend extra to care for their children decreasing their income further. They could try using alternating shifts, where one parent works days the other works nights, but this places a strain on the family and often leads to the dissolution of the family.

Let's now add in polygamy to this paradigm. A multi-partner family can now distribute tasks and reduce overall burdens. Not just work, but financial as well. Two wage earners means the third can stay at home and care for the children. Or, all three can work, but work enough variance of shifts that they can not only bring in sufficient funds, but also find time together with at least one other member of the family much easier. Potentially, they could all work part-time jobs, which historically don't pay a lot, but when you have three or more people contributing small amounts to the pot, it adds up. Adding more partners into the mix simply means more income, and less work for all. This is all just an extension of Brigham Young's concept of polygamy that should the man of the house die, there would be enough women left to handle the farm.

None of this, however, represents my own personal views. But, being a lifelong fan of Heinlein, I have done lots of thought experiments leading to these conclusions. :)

Posted by: Upstate Guy on November 25, 2008 10:58 AM

Patrick, the Guardian never misses an opportunity to persuade us to think like medieval Arabs.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on November 25, 2008 6:08 PM

A lot of the comments assume equality. But even women working at a decent paying job are not equal with men, mainly because they care for the kids...

Monogamy allows women protection while raising their kids, a guarantee that they will not starve. The modern welfare system, easy divorce, and living together has destroyed marriage in the western world, i.e. no guarantee of support, so women might indeed prefer a welfare check. But the cost to children is devestating.

As for polygamy: Most polygamous countries have few multiple spouses...partly for financial reasons and partly because the stress of living with two women who hate each other is terrible for all involved.

Posted by: Nancy Reyes on November 27, 2008 4:53 PM

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