The economics of sex and marriage

South Africa\’s polygamous President Jacob Zuma married his fourth current wife on Friday, the sixth time the 70-year-old has tied the knot.

It is, of course, complete nonsense that women ever marry for economic advantage.

That\’s just the sort of evolutionary psychology nonsense put forward by the phallocrats.

12 comments on “The economics of sex and marriage

  1. There’s a good argument that the general absence of polygamy in the Western social tradition is a primary reason for our success as a civilisation. In the social market, rationing isn’t always a bad policy.

  2. Ian B – “There’s a good argument that the general absence of polygamy in the Western social tradition is a primary reason for our success as a civilisation. In the social market, rationing isn’t always a bad policy.”

    We will make a puritan of you yet Ian. Justify the ban on polygamy. Even if monogamy is a pre-requisite for civilisational success, which I believe, how can anyone prevent women choosing to marry rich older men with other wives – even at the cost of a civilisational collapse?

  3. Ian B – “I don’t think one can justify a ban. I just think there’s good reason to think it’s not a very good idea.”

    Even if it means an end to democracy and the collapse of Western civilisation?

  4. Well, I think democracy has already ended so far as I can tell, but if the collapse of Western civilisation were the consequence, I’d probably justify it on that basis then.

    But I can’t see western womankind taking to polygamy wholesale. The primary advantage of it for women was the protection of an Alpha male in dangerous tribal societies, at the price of being a low status woman. I can’t see said womankind all wanting to be Wife Number 4, kind of thing. Not in this day and age. So far as I can tell they prefer a strategy of displacing the incumbent wife in order to gain the monopoly.

  5. Aren’t there still mistresses?

    (I couldn’t afford one, but it would be disincentivising to learn that they no longer exist)

  6. Richard – “Aren’t there still mistresses?
    (I couldn’t afford one, but it would be disincentivising to learn that they no longer exist)”

    Perhaps your parenthetical point answers the question – mistresses have merely transmuted into high-end ladies of the night. See, e.g. that diminutive French chappie.

    The latter ladies multiplex in parallel rather than serially. In consequence they optimize their plant utilization (as it were) and hence value add is maximized.

  7. Ian B – “Well, I think democracy has already ended so far as I can tell, but if the collapse of Western civilisation were the consequence, I’d probably justify it on that basis then.”

    I have trouble taking the first part of that seriously. An d the second really. Come on. We on our way but we aren’t there yet.

    “But I can’t see western womankind taking to polygamy wholesale. The primary advantage of it for women was the protection of an Alpha male in dangerous tribal societies, at the price of being a low status woman. I can’t see said womankind all wanting to be Wife Number 4, kind of thing. Not in this day and age. So far as I can tell they prefer a strategy of displacing the incumbent wife in order to gain the monopoly.”

    Except women have turned to polygamy wholesale. Any number of women know that the man they will sleep with tonight has no long term commitment to them at all and will be sleeping with someone else tomorrow, as they were the day before. That tiny number of Alpha males has a disproportionate share of the sexually active women. Essentially they would prefer to share an Alpha male with every other woman in the city than have a Beta male to themselves.

    Even if they hope to displace the incumbent, the point is that a tiny number of men are monopolising the fertile years of a lot of women. Other men are excluded. We see an increasing number of losers from this striking out – most obviously if they are Koreans studying in the US but I bet Brevik did not have a girlfriend.

    The price of being the wife of a Beta or worse is much greater in this day and age. Especially when you can see WAGs on TV. Which is why footballers can do what they like to girls on the off chance that one of them might take a shine to her. There is nothing worse than not being f**ked by an Alpha.

  8. Ah, okay, I see your point now. I was talking about textbook polygamy, i.e. multiple true marriage (or at least, concubinage) to an alpha.

    You may be surprised, but I agree with you. I don’t have an answer though. My general opinion that the advantage of a monogamy system (even allowing for widespread “cheating”) is that it farms out the females so you don’t get a large cohort of maritally disenfranchised males who become socially disconnected “losers”.

    So, for once we seem to be in agreement 🙂

  9. Ian B – “I was talking about textbook polygamy, i.e. multiple true marriage (or at least, concubinage) to an alpha.”

    Actually I expect a lot of the objections and distaste to polygamy is that the man is not a “true” (whatever that means) Alpha. If rich men can afford more wives, as in the Middle East and East Asia, it may not follow they are the sort of men women prefer.

    However I fail to see the importance of the distinction. No doubt women like to think it matters, but if you’re happy to sleep with some married footballer, knowing he is married, then I don’t see what the addition of some sort of social sanction would do except make it more socially acceptable. Many women are prepared to be less than a concubine now, so there is no reason to think they would not welcome an improvement in their status.

    “You may be surprised, but I agree with you. I don’t have an answer though. My general opinion that the advantage of a monogamy system (even allowing for widespread “cheating”) is that it farms out the females so you don’t get a large cohort of maritally disenfranchised males who become socially disconnected “losers”.”

    As has been nicely shown, monogamy and democracy go hand in hand. As Laura Betzig has shown. Our modern technological world relies on those hapless nerds who can’t talk to women and never get the girls. If we alienate them, we will end up like Africa. The Middle East seems to have this problem writ large. But we will get there.

    “So, for once we seem to be in agreement”

    Except you seem to think there is nothing to be done but retreat like Boethius in face of the barbarians. While I tend to think we can and should defend the best society that has so far existed on the face of the planet – by individual morals and social pressure where possible, by legislation and law where not.

  10. from Zuma’s point of view ‘practice makes perfect’ seems to be working.
    Polyandry would seem to make economic sense in the long run – for a woman. Maybe it is yet to come.

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