Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Non-Monogamy, Anti-Feminist Arguments, and Economics

Hey folks, yeah, loooooong time since I've used this blog. I've been more recently active on my other one though (here). Digging back into my non-monogamy scholarship was put on hold for grad school, and I've been slow to get back into it since graduating. I did have an interesting thought pop into my mind that I'm strongly compelled to write about however, so, something to help me ease back into these thoughts (-:

So, a little background first, I recommend viewing this video. As a numbers person I can appreciate the economics of her argument. There's some areas I would contest, but generally I agree with what's said.

Secondly, I'll be drawing specifically from polyamory (also referred to as poly), in the most general sense, as the root of the form of non-monogamy I'll be working with. The end result won't be polyamory proper, but pretty darn close to it, and lines up with many of the rights that poly people have been wanting. I'll be specifically focusing on polyamorous or polyfidelitous families where the members live under the same roof, though the argument works better for polyamorous families over polyfidelitous families, which I'll explain later.

Ok, now that that's out of the way, let me make my claim: Polyamory can resolve many of the problems that Straughan identifies. I emphasize 'can' in this, because there's ways it could fall apart, but I think polyamory has a better shot than the existing system, or rolling back to old-school gender roles. I'll get more on that later though.

Now to my arguments. Straughan states that part of the issue is the inefficient use of resources from split families. The efficiency of poly families is much higher than in monogamous ones. More people under the same house, less consumption-per-person needed because of the shared resources. Yes Straughan does examine the overall social benefits of split families, however I would posit that the increased per-person resource consumption ultimately overwhelms the broader social (and usually short-term) benefits of split families.

Straughan also states that part of the problem is in how the state's involvement not only dis-incentives men's labor, but increases the overall resource needs. This is still a potential risk among a poly family, however any member who wants to leave a poly family stands to loose a LOT more than someone who wants to leave a monogamous one. Because the consumption-per-person gets lower (at a reduced level the more people you add, granted) with more people involved, the potential loss of going from multi-partner to solo is, frankly, catastrophic.

Now this doesn't weed out people who are exploitative, or otherwise messed up, from 'gaming' the system, but there is a nice safety net for that too. One of the chief values among poly folks is open dialog and communication. Given that communities of poly people have rather complex networks of involvements, it becomes easy to identify people who game the system and exclude them. One person screws one poly family over, word spreads fast, and that person is quickly excluded from other families. This is one of the benefits of polyamory over polyfidelity, as polyfidelity's exclusive nature weakens the connection to the community network.

Let's talk children too: Again, per-person consumption is lower, so raising children is easier, and unlike in Mormon polygamous families, the adult:child ratio tends to be a lot more even in poly families, which gives even more resources available to children because of a higher ratio of producers (adults) to non-producers (children). Also, with the additional family members around, there's more sources of information, experience, and knowledge for those children to draw on.

Now, here's the big one: One huge advantage that a poly family has over a monogamous one is stability. This seems counter-intuitive, as the system supports shifts in family structure and social connections, however the family unit has redundancy. Since it's not dependent on the continued presence of only two people, the family unit itself can more readily shift and adjust to the incorporation or departure of any individual member. When you've got five people in a family, loosing one is not a big deal. When you've got two, loosing one is *big deal*.

Now, one thing I should make clear: Very little of what I've said mandates polyamory as 'the' structure for these benefits. Similar results can be achieved with various forms of communal living, and/or extended family households. Polymaory does, however, have the advantage of forming stronger intimate connections, thus encouraging the above behaviors more than other structures.

And sure, there are some good counter-arguments out there, most of which are to do with how non-monogamy interfaces with the current legal structure, and some of the cultural norms. I talk about the legal stuff rather extensively in previous posts. The cultural norms bit? That's trickier, and I'm open to thoughts there.

Anyway, my 2c. Feedback welcome (-:

- Jason