Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Equality for Me, Dystopian Hellscape for Thee

Last month I wrote about the implied inequality (between men) in gonzo patriarchy. In reading through the footnotes for Leonard J. Arrington's Great Basin Kingdom: Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900, I came across this bizarre take on polygamy.

"So far is polygamy from being opposed in spirit to democracy, that it is impossible here, in Salt Lake City, not to see that it is the most levelling of all social institutions--Mormonism the most democratic of religions. A rich man in New York leaves his two or three sons large property, and founds a family; a rich Mormon leaves his twenty or thirty sons a miserable fraction of his money, and each son must trudge out into the world, and toil for himself. Brigham's sons--those of them who are not gratutitously employed in hard service for the Church in foreign parts--are cattle-drivers, small farmers, ranchmen. One of them was the only poorly clad boy I saw in Salt Lake City. A system of polygamy, in which all the wives, and consequently all the children, are equal before the law, is a powerful engine of democracy." Sir Charles Dilke, M.P., Great Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries..., (2 vols.; 2nd ed.; London, 1869), I, 179. [p. 481, fn. 18]

That's fine for impoverishing the polygamist's heirs, but what about the fact that he has "twenty or thirty sons" while others now have none because they can't get a wife? And as for the effect on democracy, given the inheritability of political affiliations, and the negligable effect of money on political outcomes, isn't the concentration of heirs at least as much of a burden on democracy as the concentration of money?

No comments: