Polygamy and U.S.Law

I was looking at something altogether different, and ended up with an odd bit of “Oh Dear!” from a Supreme Court ruling.

It started with the Republican Convention and the oblique references to Romney being from a Mexican root. How deep was that root, I wondered. So I went looking.

The short form is that when the U.S. Government was abusing the Mormons in Utah (and it’s hard to interpret it as anything but that) a bunch of them “bugged out”. Some to Canada, some to Mexico, some to other places no doubt. Just looking for some peace.

Turns out Romney’s Granddad was one of them. Mitt’s Dad was born in Mexico, but being the child of an American Citizen, they kept the American citizenship line running. Later he returned to the USA and Mitt was born, so both born on U.S. Soil and the son of U.S. Citizens. Just Dad was born in Mexico… So “sort of an immigrant’ is the way he is described.

For those not familiar with the Mormons, they have, basically “one more book” glued on to the end after the Old Testament and the New Testament: The Book Of Mormon. I have a couple of copies and I’ve read ‘some of it’ ( it can be a bit dense at times, with a load of ‘new names’ and ‘histories’ and more.) Why? Well, I grew up in the largest Mormon Stake west of Utah (or so they claimed). The town was predominantly Mormon, then a smaller ‘large minority’ of Catholics, then a scattering of dozens of other tiny little ‘minority’ churches with names like Baptist, Protestant, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist… Even some Christian Scientists and a Seventh Day Adventist colony ‘outside of town’ a few miles.

Mormons are expected to pitch their religion to others ( go on a mission, etc.). Rich kids go to foreign lands. Kids of poor Mormons have to work the local neighborhood. With most of the town Mormon, and many of them not rich, we were one of the minority of folks who could fill the roll for them. So we chose to listen politely, accept the Book Of Mormon, and thank them. They got to check the check box with whoever did the accounting and everyone was happy with the deal. I also got to listen to a lot of Mormons and look at various parts of their theology. Over the years the quality of my questions improved, if nothing else ;-)

As my mother couldn’t drive until I was about 12, we would go to the church close to the house, since we walked. Baptists to begin with (but not the First Southern Baptists – some other Baptists who’s full name escapes me – hey I was about 3 to 4 years old…) then Methodist for a while (we moved to the other side of town ;-) and the occasional Lutheran. Eventually back to the Baptists (this time the First Southern Baptist sort) where I got the full body dunk in the tank at 12 ish. (They were on the other side of town, but Mom was driving then ;-) At about that time the Episcopalians built a church in town. It being closest to the Church Of England (Mom being from England and from that Church) off we went. It was also all of 3 blocks from our home. For a while my sister dated the son of the Episcopalian minister (or whatever they call the guy running the church). Dad, BTW, was born a Catholic but didn’t go to church much. I occasionally did attend the Catholic Church as my closest friend was a Mexican kid, so I’d go with him some times or occasionally with my family.

Why mention all this? Because I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was getting one heck of a broad religious education in the process. See, I asked folks “What makes your church different from theirs?”, then I’d shut up an listen. This included the things I learned in our restaurant. You learn a lot about folks running a restaurant. Food allergies. Food preferences. Food prohibitions… Mormons are not to have caffeine. We sold a LOT of 7 Up and Sanka (decaf coffee). We also had a lot of Jack Mormons (those who stray…) who would drink regular coffee unless in a group. Then there were the Adventists, some of whom were vegetarian (before it was trendy). We also had a Jewish Doctor so I learned about his particular needs (like not cooking his hamburger on the grill where bacon was cooked, but in a pan on the burner) and not offering a cheeseburger. THE basic rule was “do not judge, ask what they need and provide it.” And preferably learn it in advance so you don’t have to ask.

As a result, from earliest age, I started learning what makes one of these groups different from another, and why.

Part of that was learning the history of Mormons and how they had been polygamists and how the U.S.Fed had attacked and bullied them into a change of doctrine. It was that moment when the Romney clan fled to Mexico, then later during the Mexican Revolution a bunch of them fled back to the USA (by then having gotten out of the polygamy habit, mostly.) It’s a pretty crude history. Involving things like the U.S. Army showing up in Utah and basically telling the LDS Church “Endorse monogamy or be eradicated”. Along the way breaking up the old Utah Territory into Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, etc. and writing into the State constitutions that polygamy was bad.

What I didn’t realize was the strength of the words and the force with which it was put into those constitutions. To even advocate or belong to an organization that advocated polygamy was to result in the loss of the right to vote. (Eventually those terms were tossed out by some court or other). Freedom of speech and all.


I cannot say that this Court has explicitly approved any of these state constitutional provisions; but it has approved a territorial statutory provision that went even further, depriving polygamists of the ability even to achieve a constitutional amendment, by depriving them of the power to vote. In Davis v. Beason, 133 U. S. 333 (1890), Justice Field wrote for a unanimous Court:

“In our judgment, Section 501 of the Revised Statutes of Idaho Territory, which provides that `no person . . . who is a bigamist or polygamist or who teaches, advises, counsels, or encourages any person or persons to become bigamists or polygamists, or to commit any other crime defined by law, or to enter into what is known as plural or celestial marriage, or who is a member of any order, organization or association which teaches, advises, counsels, or encourages its members or devotees or any other persons to commit the crime of bigamy or polygamy, or any other crime defined by law . . . is permitted to vote at any election, or to hold any position or office of honor, trust, or profit within this Territory,’ is not open to any constitutional or legal objection.” Id., at 346-347 (emphasis added).

Pretty strong stuff.

So you can see how folks who think they ought to be able to at least ASK for their position to be heard might want to bug out to somewhere else…

My Bias

As this topic causes some folks to go ballistic (vis the behaviour of the U.S. Government vs. the Mormons of the 1800s) I ought to state my bias; otherwise folks will make up all sorts of stuff.

I just don’t care.

Really. Not one whit.

Frankly, I have enough trouble keeping one home and one spouse and one family all functioning well. I have no idea how folks with 2 wives or 3 husbands do it. I’d expect to be crazy or impoverished in short order, but that’s just me. In much of the world, polygamy of various sorts is the norm (much of the Muslim word, for example, and large parts of Africa). Clearly some folks can make it work.

So I don’t see where I have any reason or grounds to tell them what they can or can’t do. Two women want to share one home, fine with me. Two guys want to share a spouse, I don’t care as long as they are happy. Heck, a line marriage of 4 guys to 3 gals, if they can make it work, not my problem. It wouldn’t work for me, nor my spouse, but so what?

Frankly, too, I don’t understand why those folks who do get bent and wrapped around the axle about it do care. It’s like caring what someone else wants to eat. You like garlic ice cream? Not my problem…

Oh, and the deviant polygamy practiced by some folks with ‘arranged marriages’ to underage girls is, IMHO, fundamentally evil as it is NOT a marriage of choice by the individuals involved as free adults. But that isn’t a function of the “poly” part, but of the underage part and of the cult like indoctrination applied to the young. It is child abuse more than anything else.

That’s my bias.

Per the Mormon justification of polygamy

As I remember it (it’s been a few decades since I thought about it) the Mormons had two main pillars for the idea that polygamy was OK. (They have since rejected it, at the request of a large U.S.Army pointing guns at them…)

1) It’s in the Bible.

Hard to argue with that one. The fact is that the Old Testament and the New Testament come from a Middle East taproot that includes polygamy. There are a variety of circumlocutions and rationalization and redefinitional games played to get from a basically polygamist cultural root to the modern monogamy dominant culture. It always looked very strained to me anyway. They basically say “It’s in the Bible that the Lord was OK with polygamy as they clearly did it then and God didn’t say it was bad.”

IMHO the correct answer to this is just to recognize that polygamy is in keeping with Biblical history; but say it is not acceptable under secular law, and be done. But due to the pressures of the day, the Mormons had a ‘revelation’ that Monogamy was the way and the light, direct from God and all that… and pay no attention to those guns on the hills and the U.S. Army holding them pointing your way… Oh well, not my religion, not my problem. But I do think they are correct in how they originally read the Biblical evidence.

2) Spirits are eternal, so if a spouse dies, and you remarry, you ARE still married to two people. In Heaven, you will all be reunited in one large family, so why not on Earth too?

This one is a bit harder to buy. First off, you have to believe in an eternal spirit and an afterlife and all that. Then you have to accept that “leap” back to Earth. Well… OK. IFF you are being all spiritual and believe in an eternal spirit and a reunion in heaven, you do end up in a bit of a conundrum.

There’s a couple of ways out of it. Only EVER have one spouse. NEVER a remarriage. Most folks would likely reject that choice as most folks are “serial polygamists” (folks who find that harsh like to call it ‘serial monogamy’ in a kind of broken ‘several one’ kind of way…) It IS multiple spouses, just in a serial format, so IMHO ‘serial polygamy’ more accurately describes things. While ‘serial monogamy’ can be stretched to mean ‘several ones in a row’ it’s just lumpy. Several one spouses? Then there is the “out” of saying that marriage ENDS when you die, that in heaven we are all holy spirits and matters of the flesh are void. Kind of hard to make that one fit if you believe in marriage as a holy joining of the spirits in perpetuity…

In that context, the Mormon approach of saying “OK, you are permanently joined spirits, so polygamy in heaven must be OK” for the normal U.S. / European pattern of “serial polygamy” ends up being a reasonable justification for “parallel polygamy”.

At any rate, that’s my understanding of what they thought “back then”.

Of Homosexuals and Mormons Common Cause

Little did I suspect that when I ran off to check out Romney’s Mexican roots, I’d discover that the Gay Rights / LGBT / homosexual movement would have “common cause” with the Mormons; but a ‘not too long ago’ Supreme Court minority opinion makes a decent case for it. (Though it did end up the minority dissent opinion).

Seems that some of the States passed amendments that said, in essence, homosexual activity is not the basis for being found a special protected class. A position I agree with, BTW. For the simple reason that IFF I can get “special privileges, protections, and minority status” by claiming a behaviour, well, it’s pretty easy for me to step ahead of others on the ‘human rights’ and government goodies lines. “Hey, I think guys are cute. Now hand over the money and put my neighbor in jail; he looked at me funny.” (In California “elevator eyes” are grounds for a sexual harassment finding. Doesn’t matter if the person has flashing lights on their shoes and is wearing nothing on their midriff. Scan from head to toe and back, you just committed a sex crime…) The potential for abuse, once you allow behavior to define a ‘protected class’ are just gigantic.

So what happened? The Supremes decided it was just FINE to discriminate in favor of gays based on sexual preferences and struck down the amendment in Colorado.

The problem?

The decision basically rests on asserting that it’s not allowable to single out one group based on sexual preferences in any law.

But this ignores that we ALREADY did it in the polygamy laws.

Now we’ve got a conundrum. Holding both positions at the same time is schitzo. One must fall, and The Supremes already ruled it’s not the gay laws… So applying the same logic to the polygamy laws means they, too, must fall.

No, I don’t expect that to happen. I expect the Court to become every more creative in cooking up imaginary distinctions and ‘rights’ where there are none and ever more fanciful justifications for their preconceived notions of what ought to be. But “Why? Don’t ask why. Down that path lies insanity and ruin. -E.M.Smith” and the whole purpose of the Supreme Court is to explore “why”. So it has chosen to take a path that leads to more insanity and eventual ruin. Not immediately, and not fast, but the seed is planted. Internal conflict between various forms of reason and the Rule Of Law. Logical inconsistency.

Judge Scalia expounds on it in his brief, at that link. I’m going to quote some of it here.


This is from a 1996 case, so aged a bit, but still ‘young’ as Supreme Court schedules run…

… The constitutions of the States of Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah to this day contain provisions stating that polygamy is “forever prohibited.” See Ariz. Const., Art. XX, par. 2; Idaho Const., Art. I, Section 4; N. M. Const., Art. XXI, Section 1; Okla. Const., Art. I, Section 2; Utah Const., Art. III, Section 1. Polygamists, and those who have a polygamous “orientation,” have been “singled out” by these provisions for much more severe treatment than merely denial of favored status; and that treatment can only be changed by achieving amendment of the state constitutions. The Court’s disposition today suggests that these provisions are unconstitutional, and that polygamy must be permitted in these States on a state-legislated, or perhaps even local-option, basis–unless, of course, polygamists for some reason have fewer constitutional rights than homosexuals.

The United States Congress, by the way, required the inclusion of these antipolygamy provisions in the constitutions of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Utah, as a condition of their admission to statehood. See Arizona Enabling Act, 36 Stat. 569; New Mexico Enabling Act, 36 Stat. 558; Oklahoma Enabling Act, 34 Stat. 269; Utah Enabling Act, 28 Stat. 108. (For Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, moreover, the Enabling Acts required that the antipolygamy provisions be “irrevocable without the consent of the United States and the people of said State” – so that not only were “each of [the] parts” of these States not “open on impartial terms” to polygamists, but even the States as a whole were not; polygamists would have to persuade the whole country to their way of thinking.) Idaho adopted the constitutional provision on its own, but the 51st Congress, which admitted Idaho into the Union, found its constitution to be “republican in form and . . . in conformity with the Constitution of the United States.” Act of Admission of Idaho, 26 Stat. 215 (emphasis added). Thus, this “singling out” of the sexual practices of a single group for statewide, democratic vote – so utterly alien to our constitutional system, the Court would have us believe – has not only happened, but has received the explicit approval of the United States Congress.

I cannot say that this Court has explicitly approved any of these state constitutional provisions; but it has approved a territorial statutory provision that went even further, depriving polygamists of the ability even to achieve a constitutional amendment, by depriving them of the power to vote. In Davis v. Beason, 133 U. S. 333 (1890), Justice Field wrote for a unanimous Court:

“In our judgment, Section 501 of the Revised Statutes of Idaho Territory, which provides that `no person . . . who is a bigamist or polygamist or who teaches, advises, counsels, or encourages any person or persons to become bigamists or polygamists, or to commit any other crime defined by law, or to enter into what is known as plural or celestial marriage, or who is a member of any order, organization or association which teaches, advises, counsels, or encourages its members or devotees or any other persons to commit the crime of bigamy or polygamy, or any other crime defined by law . . . is permitted to vote at any election, or to hold any position or office of honor, trust, or profit within this Territory,’ is not open to any constitutional or legal objection.” Id., at 346-347 (emphasis added).

To the extent, if any, that this opinion permits the imposition of adverse consequences upon mere abstract advocacy of polygamy, it has of course been overruled by later cases. See Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U. S. 444 (1969) (per curiam). But the proposition that polygamy can be criminalized, and those engaging in that crime deprived of the vote, remains good law. See Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U. S. 24, 53 (1974). Beason rejected the argument that “such discrimination is a denial of the equal protection of the laws.” Brief for Appellant in Davis v. Beason, O. T. 1889, No. 1261, p. 41. Among the Justices joining in that rejection were the two whose views in other cases the Court today treats as equal-protection lodestars–Justice Harlan, who was to proclaim in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U. S. 537, 559 (1896) (dissenting opinion), that the Constitution “neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,” quoted ante, at 1, and Justice Bradley, who had earlier declared that “class legislation . . . [is] obnoxious to the prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Civil Rights Cases, 109 U. S. 3, 24 (1883), quoted ante, at 14. [3]

This Court cited Beason with approval as recently as 1993, in an opinion authored by the same Justice who writes for the Court today. That opinion said: “[A]dverse impact will not always lead to a finding of impermissible targeting. For example, a social harm may have been a legitimate concern of government for reasons quite apart from discrimination.
. . . See, e.g., . . . Davis v. Beason, 133 U. S. 333 (1890).” Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520, 535 (1993). It remains to be explained how Section 501 of the Idaho Revised Statutes was not an “impermissible targeting” of polygamists, but (the much more mild) Amendment 2 is an “impermissible targeting” of homosexuals. Has the Court concluded that the perceived social harm of polygamy is a “legitimate concern of government,” and the perceived social harm of homosexuality is not?

Extremely well reasoned. As I see it, Scalia has it ‘exactly right’. As do the folks asserting that “class” based legislation is “obnoxious” to the 14th Amendment. Either we all have equal protection under the law, or some Pigs are more equal than others

Only way I can see out of this is for the Supreme Court to explicitly say that there is no ‘social harm’ from homosexuality and that there is a significant social harm from polygamy. Frankly, while I’m sure they can (and likely will) do just that; I can’t for the life of me see how. Can you really find that about 1/2 the world is indulging in ‘grievous social harm’? Can you really find that most of the Old Testament actors (and many of the rest) were indulging in ‘grievous social harm’?

Personally, I’d be fine with them tossing out the egregious interference in States Rights represented by the polygamy amendments and laws. I just don’t see any need for the Federal Government to be defining acceptable sexual habits and preferences of any kind or sort. IMHO the Feds ought to say exactly nothing about anything sexual. Just don’t see where sex shows up in the list of things delegated BY the States to the Feds.

But somehow I think most of the population would be aghast at that action…

So the court has stuck it’s finger in the light socket “for a favored group” and is just waiting for someone to turn on the light switch.

Subscribe to feed


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Political Current Events and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Polygamy and U.S.Law

  1. KevinM says:

    Also illegal to marry your own family. I believe it is inbreeding related. So now that gay marriage is becoming OK, do we have to modify that? You may marry a sibling, but only if it’s gay? Or only if you wave rights to SSI benefits for birth defects?

    Honestly I don’t care much myself. I’m a Christian, and my reading of the manual tells me that god wants me to sort out my own character flaws before looking sideways at others. It amazes me that people in my own denomination can not read the book through more than once and come away with the impression that it’s our job to publicize and punish the sins of our neighbor. The message of the NT is that we’re relentlessly missing the mark, and should be thankful we’re not kindling yet.

    Also see Matthew 22:30 re marriage in heaven. No spouses in the resurrection.

  2. KevinM says:

    A sentence in their got iConfused by the iKeyboard. Publicizing the sins of others not good, IMO.

    [>/b> Reply: I removed the iExtranious iI in the iSentence ;-) -EMS ]

  3. Thanks, E. M. Smith, I share your sentiments and intrigue that we are all immigrants.

    Nevertheless, the 30-year history of the Climategate scandal that surfaced in Nov 2009


    Revealed two horrific, unintended consequences of forming the United Nations in Oct 1945:

    1. Lock-step, consensus science is one unintended consequence of the decision to save the world from the threat of nuclear annihilation by forming the United Nations:


    2. Another horrific, unintended consequence was revealed by official responses to fraudulent global temperature data after Nov 2009: There are no constitutional limits on UN’s one-world government, as there were on national governments by-passed to form the United Nations

    In conclusion: We can’t restore integrity to government science
    Unless we first restore constitutional limits on government !


    – Oliver K. Manuel

  4. The idea of having several wives at the same time is somewhat frightening – hats off to the people who make it work, but I can’t help thinking that if each man has multiple wives, then there are likely to be a number with no wife. I would expect that successful men would end up with more wives and children, so in a Darwinian sense you should end up with selection for whatever led to that success. Rather than being a social problem, polygamy should gradually lead to higher-achieving people.

    As one of those “serial monogamists” with spaces between as single while I tried to work out what I did wrong, I’d also accept that being married to someone is a relationship that continues in some sense when divorced. There is a degree of polygamy involved even if you never got as far as the marriage ceremony. Sometimes it’s a heartfelt “glad I didn’t”, but relationships shape our histories.

    IIRC, one of the Mormon teachings is that an unmarried woman is not “complete” and won’t go to Heaven when she dies, thus it is a religious duty for a man to marry any unmarried women around. If she dies unmarried, then a marriage ceremony is performed post-mortem in order to satisfy the religious need. Please correct me if I’ve misremembered this.

    If polygamy or polyandry give the children a stable home to grow up in, I can’t see that it’s bad. There are a lot of belief systems that seem to be stable even if I don’t particularly like or understand them. I have no problem until they start to tell me what I can or can’t do. Especially if they point guns at me to do so.

  5. BobN says:

    This is a very relevant subject as it points to many things that are not right.
    Our government has resorted to picking winners and losers by who they give subsidies to or who they give direct assistance to (Solyndra). The courts, though not as blatant, are doing the same thing with picking and choosing who to give special treatment to. You can see our government deciding everywhere what they think best, not whats fair and equal treatment. I will site examples of what I consider abuse.

    The Military has outlawed burning of the Koran, but burning of Bibles are allowed.
    The Military code of behavior was recently changed to allow sex with animals to accommodate Muslim soldiers.
    Obama care exempts Muslims from insurance because its against their beliefs, but forces Catholics to support abortion, even though its against their law.
    Sharia banking has taken hold in this country as evident by Merrill Lynch, Morgen Stanly and Goldman Sachs all being Sharia compliant. If you look at the rules sharia loans don’t carry interests, but special fees need to be donated as determined by Muslim Clerics. Money is being skimmed off and sent out of the country, thwarting government regulation. This will some day be the next banking crisis.
    Courts are more and more siting and following Sharia law in deference to existing laws on the books. There is fundamental differences in Sharia and western law, We can’t let one group live by one set of rules and the rest of us buy another. In Sharia law a man can divorce a woman by repeating, “I divorce thee” three times, a woman can not. It is OK for men to beat (discipline) their wives. Young girls of 9 are offered up to marriage. Honor Killings, while not explicitly allowed is common practice in the Islamic culture.
    A women was being repeatedly raped by her husband in New York, she tried to get a court order to keep him away from her, He said he had the right by Islamic law and the judge ruled in his behalf, it was over turned by a higher court, but she had to endure repeated rapes in the meantime.
    Women filing for divorce are being hung up in court by the men getting annulments under Sharia and claim they have no obligation to the women as they weren’t married.

    Every where you look the government is making judgement calls, much of it based on who has influence at the time.

    I could care less if Mormons have 20 wives, I could care less if Muslims can have 4 wives under their law., but I strenuously object to behavior that costs me tax dollars. Many Mormons and Muslims skirt the law by having one wife, but live with many others as almost wives. The false wives have kids and receive aid to children under government protection rules. One of the recent Muslims arrested for terrorist activity was found to have multiple wives and he had received over a million dollars in child support payments. There needs to be linkage between child payments and fathers and responsibility.

    This was sort of an unorganized rant, but there are so many related things to what EM posted. I live in a heavily Mormon community and find them to be exception in family values and their way of living. Some of the compounds in Utah abuse the system, I don’t care who sleeps with who, just where the dollars go.

  6. Power Grab says:

    Even though polygamy was practiced in OT times by the patriarchs, it must also have been practiced in NT times because Paul wrote that a leader of a church should only be the husband of one wife, and be able to keep his household on the straight and narrow, as it were. He wouldn’t have said that if it weren’t something that needed addressing. I’m guessing he was voicing the preference for less-encumbered (or, like himself, unencumbered) individuals to hold positions of authority.

    Since you mentioned the states that were required by the federal government to have an anti-bigamy provisions in their constitution, and since those states make up a sizeable chunk of the US real estate, I can’t help but wonder if part of their motivation in requiring that was to keep the population low in the new states. Lower population in the new states would keep their representation in the House weak, which would allow the smaller, older states to maintain control of things of value.

    Since we’re bringing into discussion some parts of the Bible, I would like to recommend that one take a look at the latter chapters of Genesis and the early chapters of Exodus. When Joseph was functioning as a sort of prime minister of Egypt, and brought his entire family to that land during the big drought, he coached them on how to respond to Pharoah when asked about their line of work. Since they and their fathers before them had been keepers of herds, he reasoned that Pharoah would send them to live in Goshen, where the only green pasture could be found during the drought. He put them in charge of his (Pharoah’s) flocks and herds. So they had access to a healthier lifestyle because of the availability of foods from animal sources. They lived there and prospered and multipled. Eventually, the native Egyptians became worried that the Hebrews would be a threat to their safety, since they were so numerous and might take the side of the enemies of the Egyptians in any war. (That’s how they reasoned.) That’s when the baby-killing order came down from Pharoah, to kill any boy babies that were born.

    I used to just see that as a somewhat academic discussion of the rationale for Moses’ rise. But now that I have lived long enough to see official, institutionalized sponsorship of baby killing…and lived long enough to see that families that have less than 2 children are allowing their people to die out, while others are more than willing to take over what they built and leave behind…it is not so academic anymore. If Western Civilization and Western Christianity are to survive, then families of those cultures had better see children as the God-given blessings they are and get busy making more of them, and raise them well.

  7. Ian W says:

    There was a definition of a puritan being “The deep-seated fear that someone, somewhere is enjoying themselves”.

    One of the main marks of an authoritarian regime is one that controls the sexual activities of the populace. (A kind of state domination and submission approach). This level of control of sexual behavior is seen in almost all religions and is a way of stamping authority and control over the ‘congregation’ as (almost) everyone will think about some aspect of sex every day. Most religions tend toward the authoritarian and certainly did at the time of the partition of the Utah territory. What surprises me is that the interpretation of the Bill of Rights ‘freedom of religion’ appears to be that you are free to practice any religion as long as it follows the same social/sexual behavior and the same constraints as that practiced by the majority. I am sure that is not what was meant when the Bill of Rights was written but it may be that the authors could not conceive of any other faith but theirs or simple catholic / protestant when they wrote it.

    As an aside – the ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”. was almost certainly triggered by the ‘Gordon Riots’ after the passing of ‘The Papists Act’ in 1778 in the UK. The Papists Act allowed Roman Catholics to take senor posts in government, the civil service and the military. This led to riots in London and many other cities in UK fomented by Lord George Gordon (If you go into the Drummond’s Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland in Trafalgar Square at the entrance to ‘The Mall’ you will see a display case with the muskets that the bank security staff used to protect the bank against the rioters). So having seen the riots due to the repeal by the Papists Act of the Popery Act – it is unsurprising that the Bill of Rights told the lawmakers in Congress don’t even go there. The subsequent distortion of what was meant by “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion is unfortunate. It was nothing to do with ‘separation of church and state’ – it was don’t make any laws limiting religious freedom. So now we have precisely the opposite – the ‘freedom to exercise your religion’ has become the constraint on religion.

    However, this mistranslation of the Bill of Rights parallels the treatment of the Mormons – you are free to exercise your religion providing it matches our current mores if it does not – and having more than one wife does not – then those Feds on the hill with guns are going to take you out.

  8. Don Matias says:

    Oscar Wilde:
    “Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same.”

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Don Matias:

    Chuckle ;-)

    FWIW Polyandry is also OK in many places under the broader heading of polygamy. Polyandry is multiple husbands. Polygyny is multiple wives. Polygamy is both and more… So one has to wonder if there’s a Lady’s View that’s the same… Biandry is one husband too many. Monoandry is the same ;-)


    It’s called “Inbreeding depression”. Too many recessive genes can get concentrated and ‘bad things show up’. They are still there with outbreeding, just not expressed. So in many cases, second cousin is as close as you can marry (in some, first cousins).

    Oddly, in professional breeding, you frequently ‘back cross’ to the parents or siblings precisely to concentrate desired, but recessive, traits. (Then once stabilized, you do a lot of adding in more variety of genes and removal of any concentrated bad genes.) This, though, requires significant “culling” of the bad concentrated genes… And as folks are not fond of the idea of doing in the genetically damaged offspring; that’s frowned upon for people…

    It’s one of those odd backwaters of thinking. What works very well for every other sexual species on the planet, somehow doesn’t work for people… Yeah, right… ( Realize I’m not advocating for it; I’m admiring that we’re pretending the reason is not what it really is. We ought to admit that we’re just emotionally too soft and intellectually too strong to embrace a solution that involves culling the herd; but recognize that it does work. That we are making a MORAL choice, not one based on genetics per se.) An interesting case of this showed up in the mountain country back east. Seems a recessive gene that makes folks blue (yes, ANOTHER blue state) got concentrated over the years due to a small breeding pool. The Blue Fugates:


    So is that a defect, or a feature? Like the folks with body hair all over:


    Could go either way.

    In professional animal breeding, they would become a new “breed” and considered a “fancy”… in the wild, they are the things evolution works upon. In our society, they are a ‘medical problem’.

    Go figure…

    But, to your point: Since the ‘marry in the family’ incest laws are to prevent inbreeding depression, and since gays don’t have kids together, I see no reason to apply those laws to them…


    The “nutty” ‘treaties’ we’ve signed (but largely left unratified) are a great threat. We need a line of clarification that makes it clear a treaty can NOT override our constitution nor a vote of the people…


    One of the “odd bits” is redemption after death, or some such. That’s why the Mormons have such a large focus on genealogy. They have made (and continue to make) a very large library of all folks known; then you get (blessed / baptized / saved / whatever ) after the fact.

    On visiting a friends house, they took a book down off the shelf and looked me up. I’ve been “Saved”; probably since I lived in the town…as had some number of my ancestors. So yeah, I can easily see a ceremony to “save” someone who didn’t make the boat in time. Don’t know for sure, though, what the exact process might be.

    BTW, in an odd way, you’d think the gays and the Mormons would be both endorsing this. The Gay Guys get each other, and the Mormons get the spare ladies ;-)

    But what I remember of the rule (someone with better info can correct this if I’m wrong – I’m remembering something told to me 40+ years ago when not paying close attention…) it was broader than that. Any one left without a spouse, who needs help, was to get it. It’s a community responsibility. So if a widow has a broken sink, and a husband would have fixed it, someone shows up to fix it. Don’t know to what level of “needs” the provision extends, but folks were supposed to have a complete and full life. IIRC (not at all guaranteed) the ‘old way’ was that the orphaned family would be married into an intact one. That is, the widow and any children would be married to someone able to care for them. With the loss of the polygamy option, this changed into a less formal arrangement. The widow stays a widow, but gets spiritually adopted by someone.

    Really a pretty good idea in the Wild West where folks often died young, lots of families had risk of total extirpation from various plagues, fights, whatever; and survival was dramatically increased by ‘sharing the burden’ of any children and spouses left orphaned.

    @Power Grab:

    Good points. Sadly, I wasn’t paying much attention to the whole spousal angle when reading the Bible (as I was about 8-12 at the times I was reading it most) so I’m a bit vague on which parts had what on that…

    Your observation of Moses and the effects of politics on population dynamics: Yup. Why I think there needs to be a strict “hands off” between government and religion and reproduction.

    @Ian W:

    Kind of stark, isn’t it? It’s things like that which have caused me to be somewhat jaded toward all things government. Even the absolutely clear and unambiguous demands of the constitution are simply ignored. Even by the “Framers”. Never forget that after agonizing for about 2 years on how to constitutionally do the Louisiana Purchase, even Jefferson just said ~”Oh the heck with it, just buy it and we’ll work out the legality later”. You’d be surprised how many folks, now, have no idea that the Federal Government is prohibited from owning land other than for post offices, post roads, D.C. and military uses…
    You can largely see when they “gave up” on what the constitution actually said in this map of Federal Land ownership:

    Just about Colorado / Kansas border…


    To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;

    Notice the explicit listing of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and buildings; but not large chunks of forests, deserts, coal fields, etc. etc.

    And as we know, anything NOT enumerated is reserved to the States and the people…

    Oddly appropriate, Utah may be pressing the point:


    If the federal government is justified in owning 33 percent of all the land area in the nation, why is it not justified in owning 66 percent, or 99 percent? Of course, environmentalists and socialists would prefer that the federal government own all the land, and absolutely control its use. This position is diametrically opposed to the concept of private property honored in both the U.S. Constitution and the Utah Constitution.

    The federal government should own no land other than the land authorized by Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17.

    Were the Supreme Court to rule in favor of the Utah initiative, the federal government could shed enormous expense and reduce the size of government. State governments would have enormous resources to convert to revenue to fund budget deficits and provide tax relief for private citizens and small businesses.


    But it was such a GOOD rant! ;-)

    Until and unless congress passes Sharia law, it has not place in the US Judicial system. Period. Similarly the Talmud and any European / International laws.

    A simple technique I used for decades in negotiating contracts. If someone wanted a ‘special clause’ in a contract, I’d just change all the “I” and “You” to “we both”; then ask if they still wanted it ;-) Symmetrical duties and rights. It’s a beautiful thing…

    Good for the goose, good for the gander and all that… So I’m against ANY asymmetrical law and “special” rights, privileges, and whatnot for anyone. Like those congressional exceptions from the laws they pass…

  10. KevinM says:

    BobN brings up an important point about marriage as a legal device. Instances where broader definitions can cause confusion abount.

    Eg in many no fault divorce states, the laws are specific in splitting all assets in half. So if wife number 6 bails, do the remaining 5 plus husband get left with 14 pct each?

    In a multiple husband situation, if husband number 3 bails is he on the hook for child support?

    Can half of an all girl marriage have a hetero-adventure at a nightclub with a good looking prospect, then subsidize her actual family via paternity suit?

    If you have both polygamy and gay marriage, a family city could be started where literally you are married to everyone in town. Then you begin distributing the social security survivor benefits. With a stable population every second generation could forgo work… Or if the laws are badly worded, only one person in the city would have to work per generation. Everyone else is on the dole.

  11. Les Johnson says:

    I grew quite familiar with the Yoruba people and language when I was in Nigeria. Polygamy is practiced, of course. But, they have a saying, that I call the Exponential Law of Polygamy:

    One wife, two problems. Two wives, four problems.

  12. One point not mentioned in your enjoyable post: The current presidential election is between the child of a polygamous marriage and a believer in one man, one-woman marriages.

    Obama is, of course, the first US president who is the child of a man with multiple simultaneous wives. But Obama’s family polygyny is not even on the list of my problems with him.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  13. Pascvaks says:

    The problem is lawyers using “our” common everyday words and putting them into laws where they suddenly lose all meaning. Realisticly, we’re at the point where words don’t mean anything anymore because they’ve been swiped, defined, redefined, and fruther re-redefined. Old principle – KISS (Keep it simple stupid;-); we’ve lost that kissing principle. Why is everything so fouled up? Lawyers! Let’s all agree to call some common, human practice by the term “Apples”, once you get it into the legislative and ‘law’ recycle circle it will be apples, applesauce, applebutter, applecider, applejuice, applepudding, cran-apple, cran-apple-grape, and ten-thousand other things that never go away before you have a chance to life a peaceful life and go on to your heavenly reward. I guarantee that if tomorrow night we were to go out and hang every lawyer in the country, come this time next week you’d find some crawling around your kitchen sink in the morning.

    PS: Most of the cards that make up the huge high house of Western Civilization are scraps of paper with words written on them, we call them laws. More and more they are becoming meaningless. The words have been over used, abused, and now are just confusing gutteral sounds. Imagine what the common ‘human’ definition of the word ‘marriage’ would be if the House of Cards fell down one day; heck, we probably wouldn’t even use that word. When people’s brains freeze an Ice Age cometh in more ways than one.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    @Keith DeHavelle:

    Interesting point… I didn’t realize Obama The Elder was so, er, traditional…


    Folks tend to forget that the “line” was NOT “kill all the lawyer” but was to bring about tyranny, one must FIRST kill all the lawyers. Or, my preferred form “First, kill all their laywers” ;-)

    But yes, ‘meaning drift’ is a terrible thing. Happens in all languages, all cultures, over all time. Lawyers make a jargon of it and that adds a level.

    Frankly, part of why I’d just get the Government out of the game is just so that it didn’t matter what folks did. Per the ‘underground’ polygamists getting a free ride off the welfare system, the easy thing there is just eliminate the welfare system. Why should anyone have to pay for someone else to have kids? So I don’t care if you have one, zero, or a dozen spouses, or in what mix; as long as you don’t expect me to pay for it.

    The romantic “marriage till death do us part” is a relatively new invention. Were it not for legal sloth, we’d likely have already gone back to a ‘marriage of years’ and with limited property sharing.

    The spouse and I watched the John Wayne / Maurine O’Hare movie “The Quite Man”. A major plot theme is her “things” and her “property” and her money. This harkens back to the older Celtic system where each party had their own goods that were NOT necessarily shared / blended in a marriage. So her things had been handed down from grandmother to mother to her over several hundred years. A bit different from our ‘common property’ ideas today.

    So in some “do over” I’d expect a variety of such systems to re-evolve…

  15. philjourdan says:

    “Two guys want to share a spouse, I don’t care as long as they are happy.” – Guess you saw Paint Your Wagon too. ;-)

    Scalia has the sharpest legal mind, and I have to agree with him (not that I agree with Polygamy as I tend to agree with the Yoruba). But as we have seen too many times already, the liberal justices of SCOTUS are not intellectually honest, so I can see a majority ruling splitting that baby.

    Fascinating subject. You never know which rabbit hole ChiefIOs mind is going to wander down!

  16. Pascvaks says:

    Whatever happens in November for the US General election is going to be BIG. It’s the USSA and Big Brother 1984, or the usa writ little and BIG changes from what went before during the 20th Century’s American flitration with socialism. We be out of money is the bottom line! If Obama wins it’s a swift leap out the window, a 40 second freefall to the concrete, and s p l a t ! If Romney wins its a total undoing of The New Deal and The Great Society and Obummacare, it’s 1912 and re-boot the whole Federal Government all over again. The Goppers and Romney won’t want to do anything to make anyone mad but they’ll be forced into a corner, a very small, tiny corner; and if they don’t bite the bullet they’ll be replaced with Mad Dog Paul-Bearers who will. I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the backlash that’s coming is going to impact everything and everyone on the planet, that ‘tradition’ will play a big role in lawmaking and liberal causes will die on the vine due to lack of money. Reinterpret “Old Fashioned” marriage into some wierd, more all-inclusive touchy-feely New Age racket for lawyers, tax collectors, and make it meaningless? Really, I have a feeling that something’s going to hit the fan in November. It’s either going to be the beginning of a New Civil War or a New Revolution and the vibrations from the gunshots and artillery will be felt worldwide;-)

    PS: I know the election “shouldn’t” be as BIG as all this, but honestly, I have a feeling it will be Very BIG! Like it or not, someone is going to cross the Rubicon in November.

  17. Jason Calley says:

    @ pascvaks “Like it or not, someone is going to cross the Rubicon in November.”

    I suspect that We The People crossed the Rubicon a couple of decades ago, but even so, things are indeed getting shakier. Perhaps this November is when we realize that we are no longer wading the river, that our feet do not touch bottom and we are now just treading water.

  18. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, I’ve been watching the news out of Europe and Asia and “it’s not good”… so it isn’t just the USA lining up for a SHTF moment. Been trying to find a way to grab a handful of that Jello to make a decent posting out of it. So far, no joy.

    Short form? China is having an economic slowdown. Why? Lack of sales into Europe. Even Germany has had a rollover in auto sales as China has slowed down buying BMWs and Mercedes. So the German Miracle is no longer ‘net flush cash’ to bail out the PIIGS, who are auguring in at great speed… The USA is trying to decide “Socialism or Revolution, decisions decisions” and is just doing ‘kick the can’ at ever higher frequency, and expecting China to loan us $1 Trillion a year more indefinitely. China has slowed / stopped the net buying of Treasuries (see above note about economic slowdown and lack of sales…) so isn’t available to be that spark plug just right now… which means that the European Central Bank and The Fed are both buying all the debt they can. Which is fine, except that it isn’t actually real productivity backed money that is handed over to the PIIGS and US CongRats. Given the basic mantra of Economics: “Who, makes What, for Whom”, that means it is only ‘redistribution’ and not going to create new wealth. Redistribution from the taxpayers and anyone with wages / cash income, into the pockets of the Government Employees (who as we all know have been just SO stellar about creating new net wealth… /sarcoff;> ) So the proposed “solution”? Print more money to hand to the government in exchange for more IOUs… while chasing real productivity out of the country and driving it out of existence with more heavy handed Government Mandates. Repeat until dead.

    But it is just so damned slow that folks get mesmerized by it and think they are doing something else. So we’ve got a ‘Race Condition’ between the Socialist Tortoises running for the cliff. Who will get there first? Euro Zone? UK (better than many, but with a recession starting again)? Australia (who have shown some limited signs of sanity, perhaps too late)? Japan? Aging into a stagnation of mutual dependency and self absorption). Communist China (exuberant but discovering that it’s a bad parasite that kills the host)? South America (where Chavez and Friends are trying to make a New Socialist Union of South America, fed by massive influx of Euro and US Oil Money – see above about printing paper…) that’s dependent on China, EU, and USA that are all ‘having issues’? Or the USA which used to have a vibrant and flexible economy but now is mostly just “customer of China, Saudi, and OPEC” and wants to consume a few $Trillion more than it makes every year for the next few decades? Where the BEST that looks achievable is a Japanese Style “Lost Decades” that lasts for 30 years.

    I have little hope that even the best possible outcome, a Romney win, can turn around the momentum of the US Economy toward that cliff. He ‘worked well’ in Taxssachusetts and that sets your habits as “compromise and die more slowly”. But it’s the best shot we’ve got. The EU is 100% dedicated to the phantasy solution method (money shuffle and fiat games) and not to reality based POV. (Things like actual production of goods). China is not interested in changing and is happy to be the parasite sucking all possible resources out of the ROW. South America has never got it right and only decides it was a Bad Idea to once again play with the Socialism Shiny Think after it blows up and kills many, burning most. So it looks to me like we are mostly in a “beggar thy neighbor” race to consume all the seed corn (and net productivity) before the other guy. Everyone is just sort of hoping that China will somehow transition to an internal consumption model and become a new ‘engine of the economy’. It won’t. It’s a sweat shop run to enrich the Politburo. They don’t want more internal consumption for all. Basically, The West wants to retire and consume for the next 30 years to excess, but has no money. The East wants to ‘invest’ in the west and provide those goods for the next 30 years, but expects some real value for them. So we’re printing pictures of Dead Presidents and they are starting to say “What? More of that junk?” While the EU is trying to find a legal way to Bugger The Euro too…

    It’s all just such a mess and I can’t help thinking that these folks actually believe they have the ‘answer’ when it is really ‘exactly wrong’… Focused on printing paper and “debt as wealth” instead of looking at real net wealth creation as the only way to increase total aggregate wealth. “If we only had a BIGGER credit card then we’d be wealthy! This time for sure!!!” … /sarcoff;)

  19. EM – that should maybe have been a new post. There’s enough meat in that for a good feast. There’s a lot of the current money-shuffling that to me seems plain dishonest. After a few times of someone you know borrowing money again without paying back, you tend to just say No but it seems that the politicians think that people won’t remember last year’s promises, let alone ones made before the last election.

    There comes a time when the people actually working and paying the bills go galt and the whole house of cards tumbles. Unless there’s a miracle, looks to be soon.

  20. E.M.Smith says:


    Once I get it more neatly organized, and with some appropriate links, it will be a posting. For now it’s just an off the cuff rant ;-)

    FWIW, I have a nascent / forming thesis that whole national economies can ‘go Galt’ despite few individual actors doing so.

    So the USA has a very high corporate tax rate and a hideous regulatory burden. The various companies make reasonable rational investment decisions; the net result of which is to not invest. (ROI projections under hurdle rate. Raise costs, you must have a higher hurdle rate to cover them while your ROI is lower from more input costs too, so fewer things ‘make it’.) In some cases, disinvestment sets in. (Closing coal fired power plants before expected End Of Life. Closing coal mines in Spain. Net net less electricity at higher costs, leading to lower wages and incomes, fewer employed, MORE companies large and small having ROI not exceed hurdle rate.. wash and repeat…)

    So, in effect, the Productive Economy writ large can ‘go Galt’ and just stop working as the costs get too high and the return too low. Look at Spain as a stellar example. Youth unemployment over 50%. People in their prime productive years, that ought to be making goods, services, and wealth and moving up the productivity ladder faster than at any other time of their lives; instead ‘on the dole’ and effectively “Gone Galt”. Similar things in Italy and Greece, if a bit less intense. USA not adding jobs net due to no idea what the hurdle rate needs to be (as the cost basis is ill defined and constantly changing) nor what the regulatory burden will be nor the energy costs. So Small Business stopped hiring to ‘wait and see’.

    GM was “saved” by handing it to the employees (and buggering the Bond Holders who ought to be at the top of the capital structure). Now no one will want to buy bonds from a highly union industry in decline, knowing that the Government will take their wealth and redistribute it. Higher costs to borrow mean a higher hurdle rate means less investment means less jobs… ( I know I’ll never buy an automaker bond nor an airline bond while this is the law of the land… nor bonds in any newly socialized medical facility… nor…)

    In short: I think that whole industries and national economies can “Go Galt” as a natural consequence of the way Hurdle Rate drives decisions and the way UNcertainty drives hurdle rate requirements. Add in lower costs in China and, well, manufacturing moves out of town… you end up with 20% general unemployment (headed to 40) and 50% youth unemployment (headed for 100%). Begin national tax spiral and entitlement leach driven spiral decent into collapse… See Stockton California as an example… or San Bernardino… or Valejo… or California overall…

  21. BobN says:

    The First Audit of the FED just came out and it looks like the American taxpayer is on the Hook for about another 16 Trillion Dollars. The loans were given out to banks all over the world at zero interest with none yet having been payed back. This is all done in secret, but its done by the backing of the US taxpayer.

    Personally I think the financial system will soon collapse all over the world. This is the only way for governments to get a do over. While the governments can create a new currency and wipe out the old debt, the average Joe Six-pack will be wiped out in the process.

    I try not to be a nut job and go along with all the whacked out conspiracy theories, but their sure are a lot of dots to connect. I personally think the government knows its coming and is preparing for the hell that will follow.

    Like anything of this magnitude, once the wheels are set in motion no one knows where the bus is going. Revolution – maybe, but most assuredly it will be trauma and untold hardships.

  22. Pingback: $16 Trillion! | Musings from the Chiefio

  23. E.M.Smith says:

    @Simon & All:

    OK, I made a posting out of the last two rants… and added a pointer to the debt clock that’s about to roll over $16 Trillion (or has already)…


  24. EM – that makes too much sense. Eurostar (the Channel Tunnel operator) was “saved” in the same way as GM – surprisingly they do seem to have new investors. Maybe peoples’ memory is that short.

    Britain used to own Hong Kong. The Governor set in place by the UK set the taxes as nothing below a threshold, then 20% above that level. No complexities, no Supertax. Business boomed, they made a lot of money in tax and managed to happily pay for public amenities. I think China has kept things pretty well going, though I have no data on this.

    Uncertainty, and government changes of the rules every year (and sometimes more often) seems a major problem to me. There’s a lot of that in Europe. Politicians think change is good (they are doing their jobs), but it isn’t.

    I’ll look forward to the full rant.

  25. E.M.Smith says:


    You can be assured that any such event will not dramatically impact the very wealthy… A way will be found to ‘make them whole’ (rather like the banks and GM were not allowed to take their lumps) at the expense of the less well connected.

  26. BobN says:

    @EM – With the amount of wealth and the number of people involved we have the makings of a Revolution when they try. I think the tipping points of all tipping points is at hand.

Comments are closed.