Evidence-based policy has been a big issue for some time. It seems to me to be a reasonable trend to base political action on evidence, on facts and verifiable scientific theories, rather than on ideological beliefs. (Notice: This article is translated – and some contents might have been added or left out to better meet the needs of an international audience – from an original article on my new german website Polygamie-ist-gut-fuer-sie.de (engl: Polygamy is good for you) Please excuse for my probably not perfect english).
An article by Richard H. Thaler in The New York Times, 7 July 2012, “Watching Behavior Before Writing the Rules” shows the benefits of evidence-based policy by the example of several initiatives by the British government.
I will allow myself to take a look at marriage-laws in my home country Germany based on evidence. The basic assumption of german marriage-law is that monogamous marriage is the basis of the stability of our society and therefore deserves special suport and special protection of the state. As far as i know other western countries follow similar reasoning when justifying exclusive support for monogamy. But is that kind of reasoning based on facts?
For decades, the divorce rates have gone up, marriages are getting shorter, cheating is normal and is one of the main reasons for many divorces, as you can read on my page about statistics (only in german, but as far as i know the numbers are pretty much the same in all western societies).
Therefore to talk of monogamous marriage as a force of stability in our society is nonsense. In my opinion the only areas in which the enforcement of monogamous marriage provides for stability are these:
- the high number of divorces
- the heavy burden of our courts by divorce cases
- the incomes of divorce lawyers
- the high number of people who as children or adults have to suffer through the trauma of divorce, often both as a child and as an adult, and thanks to serial monogamy in both age groups maybe even several times
- the incomes of the psychotherapists who have to care for such traumatised people
Policy – if it were evidence-based – would finally have to realize that monogamous marriage as the only institutionalized model for long-term relationships does not work for most people and has to be supplemented by other ways. Monogamous marriage does not fulfill the purpose intended by the Government, to provide for stability in our society. And as the statistical evidence shows it has not done so already for decades.
Sticking to the idea of monogamous marriage as the only form of family life is based purely on traditional and ideological reasons, but is definitely not evidence-based.
Multiple relationships would be a useful way to complement our range of forms of marriage, and it would offer a real opportunity to have more stability. Because, interestingly enough, most people who want multiple relationships, are interested in long-lasting relationships. They want polygamous lifestyles, because they think that the beginning of a new love need not necessarily be the end of an existing love, as we can read in numerous articles and books about why people choose polyamory or- if possible – polygamy.
An evidence-based policy should also consider that the science shows that humans are by nature sexually promiscuous. This is reflected in the statistics mentioned above and in a myriad of scientific studies. The clearest and – despite scientific integrity – most entertaining book about this is Sex at Dawn.
If one starts to think about it, one might also want to ask, if the government should not leave most of the rules of a marriage to private contracts between the people involved.
I myself am still undecided on this issue. Ultimately, it follows from my views that the state should stay out of the private affairs of people as far as possible, and love and marriage are certainly as private as a matter can be. On the other hand, I am a studied historian, and as such I am well aware that families are an important factor in a society, but our ways of organizing families have always changed through the course of history.
So it should be possible to find senseful (evidence-based?) ways to leave large areas of married life to the private area of regulation, such as by marriage-contract, while the state sets just a minimum of rules and by ensuring the rule of law creates the stable framework for the private-sector contracts to be enforced when enforcement is necessary.
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— Viktor Leberecht (@ViktorLeberecht) Juli 8, 2012
Notice: This article is translated – and some contents might have been added or left out to better meet the needs of an international audience – from an original article on one of my german websites Viktor-Leberecht.de or Polygamie-ist-gut-fuer-sie.de (engl:Polygamy is good for you). How i do my translations. Last updated: August 4, 2012 at 17:57 pm © Viktor Leberecht All rights reserved. Please feel free to share my content on Social-Sharing-Services. What do you think? Leave a comment here. For your convenience you may either use the integrated comment system of wordpress in the first comment field, or if you prefer you may post with your Google+ account in the second comment field. You may also send me a question through the contact form or the FAQ.