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Argument: Legalizing polygamy could spread the institution and its social harms

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Reasons to agree

  1. "Should Polygamy Be Legal?--Posner's Comment". The Becker-Posner Blog. October 22, 2006 - "Against all this it can be argued that polygamy would be uncommon in a society such as that of twenty-first century United States. But the less common it is, the fewer the benefits to be anticipated from legalizing it. And I am not sure that it would be all that uncommon. Although few American couples want to have more than two or three children, a polygamous union is not a couple. If a couple has three children, the ratio of adults to children is 2:3. In a polygamous household consisting of a husband, two wives, and four children, the ratio of adults to children is higher: 3:4. So the per-parent burden is less, even though there are more children.
  2. Because polygamy is illegal everywhere in the United States, few Americans think of it as an option. If it were made respectable by being legalized, who knows? There are 400 American billionaires, and several million Americans with a net worth of at least $6 million. Nor, with most women working, is it obvious that a man would have to be wealthy in order to attract multiple wives, though presumably men who wanted to be polygamists would have to be able to offer some financial inducements, since most women would prefer to be a man's only wife. As more and more men attempted to become polygamists, the "price" they would have to pay for a wife would rise, so polygamy would be a distinctly minority institution. But it would not necessarily be trivial in size or harmless in its social consequences, which would be likely to exceed those of homosexual marriage. Polygamy is banned in most advanced societies and flourishes chiefly in backward ones, particularly in Africa. This is some evidence against legalizing it."
  3. Legalizing polygamy would have the likely effect of increasing the practice, although perhaps not to the extent that it proliferates on a massive scale. But, if the practice is deemed harmful, any marginal increase in it can be concluded as bad, and should be cause for concern and pause among legislators who are considering legalizing it.

Reasons to disagree

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