July 12, 2011

The Economics of Eldorado

With polygamy back in the news with some breakaway Mormon fundamentalists suing under the same logic as gay marriage, you might be interested in The Economics of Eldorado, a 2008 post I wrote on the how the leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints can afford to have all those wives in that huge compound in Eldorado, Texas where the state seized 437 children:
If you ask most guys, they'll tell you that having one wife is expensive. So, how do you have a community based on having a bunch of wives?

Read the whole thing there.


Thomas said...

In polygamous societies, my suspicion is that the problem of many of the spare males tends to sort itself out in rough, but somewhat effective ways. The FLDS ones here eventually have to migrate away or be sent away from the church. In Africa or the Middle East, wars or crime probably do a lot of the work. (Let's be honest, the African-American underclass in the United States is "softly polygamous," with fewer than 30% of children born into wedlock in two-parent households. A lot of African-American men are dead or in prison during the years they'd otherwise be around as patriarchs. That community still does wind up with a lot of spinsters though.) Finding ways to dispose of surplus males is a constant anthropological problem but not an insurmountable one. And the fact is that we're probably hardwired not really to notice it going on. As you pointed out, Steve, in your 2002 article: nobody identifies with the losers.

Whiskey said...

No one identifies with the losers, but they always make themselves heard. One way or another. It is particularly true among women, that "loser-dom" is taken for manifest genetic destiny, but that's a rather shallow assumption. Nevertheless it is made quite often, call it the Oprah effect.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I could never get about the Mormons and the whole polygamy thing (this also applies to all other such societies around the world). If one guy can have four wives, doesn't this cause a huge "wife shortage"? Just do the math. I offer here a little hypothetical example. If 250 male Mormons are "married" to 1,000 female Mormons, where does this leave the 750 other guys? And since they are the large majority of the total male group, why would they tolerate a system that leaves them sexually/romantically "disenfranchised? Its a great deal for those 250guys but it sucks for everyone else. They get four females and the other guys get zilch. Even the women come out badly as they get one-fourth of a male. You would think they too would want a better deal. I just don't get it?

Anonymous said...

Women are totally happy with polygamy. And the excess men in turn have the choice of going out and conquering another neighboring tribe and taking what is theirs or rebelling and taking out the higher status males.

Luckily the cultures that protect stable marriage will eventually in all likelyhood overwhelm the ones that don't(again).

Steve Setzer said...

Anon @10:11 on 7/12:

The original Mormon polygamy is said by some sociologists to have coincided with a "spare woman" problem that had two roots: women disproportionately join charismatic new religions, and Western Europe (where the Church had great initial missionary success) had lost many men in war. The mainstream LDS abandoned polygamy in the 1890s, about two generations after the Utah settlement -- I suspect that by this time the Church was large enough that births swamped conversions as a source of new members. This plus two generations of peace meant that by 1890 there were nearly equal numbers of male and female adult Mormons.

Sword said...

Whiskey said...
No one identifies with the losers, but they always make themselves heard.

No prizes for guessing whom I am thinking of just now.

Anonymous said...

I have a parsimonious account of what kept this place in El Dorado, TEXAS perking. First, assume arguendo that the inhabitants are a little like flower children that some Amish group has given finishing touches to and assume arguendo that America's anything-goes sexual smorgasbord is a little
over-egged by procreant group sex
after the fashion of Jeffs' plural marriages, etc., the fact remains that if most Americans spent a week in this place, it would feel and look saner than what they were immersed in when they entered the Morman place--i.e, what tilts the ledger sheet is what it ain't , not what it is.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had known of this blog at the time of this event. No newspaper in Texas as far as I know ever dealt with the story other than on some "feed me" basis from what Texas socialwork/police/ raiders told the "journalists" This for me has created a context that would make any half serious retrospective very interesting. At last word I had (about 18 months ago), the State of Texas ended up spending about 15 million dollars and had about a half dozen convictions to show for it all--"crime of the century" items like child neglect ,failure to enroll in school, etc. Even if they could only get as far as a half thorough detective investigation, it would seem the State would have raked up $omething to make this whole debacle something other than a Libertarian case study (????)

Anonymous said...

yeah, so many of them are parasites, except for the productive males. So what. There are lots of parasites elsewhere living more conventional lifestyles. Cut some of their benefits and let them adjust.

At least they are having lots of white children. The ones who get expelled end up becoming regular American Mormons who are a decent subpopulation overall.

Also, with respect to the motivation of the males in this cult, don't underestimate the practical value of shared high trust community. Their coreligionists will not cheat them. Their wives will not divorce them and demand alimony. Their kids, at least the ones who don't get expelled, will not do drugs or become otherwise obnoxious. So if their little society taxes heavily for the privilege of living that way, maybe it's worth it for many of them.

David said...

Today's American female is increasingly expensive, no matter how she's parsed.

Let's face it. Men are subordinate to women. Illusions to the contrary are merely a passing fad historically. Read Robert Graves.

Anonymous said...

Luckily the cultures that protect stable marriage will eventually in all likelyhood overwhelm the ones that don't(again).

This is precisely the historical check on polygyny; monogamous societies utilize their resources far more efficiently, and win the conflicts. But we're well past the end of history now, right? No new real estate, fixed (and open) borders, etc. And the tech differentials between societies far outweigh the power differences inherent to the old balance.


Anonymous said...

"so many of the are parasites...at least"
What made this El Dorado matter stay in mind for me was that in the newspapers at the time of the raid and following there was just
a "use me" reguritation of what the peoople carrying out the raid told the media. One thing that creeped out between the lines was that the basis--the witness giving forth the information used to get the search warrant--was almost comedy hour shaky and flaky. IF there is sooo much con artistry and downright fraud characterizing this Jeffs radical Morman group, the State of Texas has had a helluva lot of motive to get as much of it publicly outlined as possible, if but in flimsy indictments etc. To my awareness as of two years ago, the hard indication was that Texas shelled out 15 million in a vast comedy of errors and of Therapeutic State overreach and could show almost no justification. The media continued on and on to repeat allegations as though they had some reasonable basis for at least tentative presumption. A basic reason for any sect like this to remain incommunicado is fear of being misunderstood. And a more immediate one in the face of a raid by law enforcement is to adhere to legal advice in the hope thaqt formal legal proceedings would bring the fuller light of day to the whole undertaking. Perhaps a larger concern here is the effect of PC indoctrination upon the "campus masses" of undergrads, etc. IF IF this had been protrayed as a group of immigrants with odd habits and odd ceremonies, no PC shaped journalist would have been other than tolerant, tolerant, tolerant to the point of maschoistic indulgence. That they are Americans with old fashioned dress and old fashioned hard work and a let alone, get along point of view makes them reflexively objects of derision and effete
anger. Where's the story, Steve??

Anonymous said...

I respectively believe the 2008 account is due some retrospective.
As nearly as I could ferret out from the pathetic newspaper coverage in Texas at the time,
there was utterly no reluctance of government AT ANY LEVEL to throw the book at these people. Thus, it is a resonable presumption that if RICO investigation had shown any even feeble basis for prosecution, indictments would have been forthcoming under that statute. In fact, the State of Texas created a huge swarm of publicity based on allegations and innuendo, but at last word I had
the actual proven offenses were sooo meagre that if a randomly selected group of people in Texas
of similar demography had been put through a fine tooth comb, the results would have been greater,if meagre also. The problem with Steve's template of suspicion is that after the dust has settled, there is scant evidence Steve's template had any basis in fact. The State of Texas spent millions to yield up a handful of minor offenses. This appeared to be a story of The Therapuetic State run amok. THAT IS A HELLUVA STORY IF IT EVER GETS TOLD.

Anonymous said...

Comments here regarding polygamy might be informed and somewhat correcged in some instances by the brainy and ballsy informed commentaries of UK academic psychologist, Chris Brand. Attendant to the depublishing of his 1995 book THE "g" FACTOR(accessible free online now ), Brand made courageous suggestions that for some persons in some settings, polygamy (widely defacto
practiced in many urban ghettos ) could raise IQ. He pointed out that it has worked successfully within some parameters and failed badly when resorted to indiscriminately. For us Americans, it is a fact of life there was a good bit of polygamy on the cutting edge of the American frontier.