October 23, 2006

Sophisters, Economists, Calculators and Plural Marriage

Gary Becker and Richard Posner, a Chicago economist and a judge/law professor respectively, share a blog that mostly applies economic theory to social issues. It can be an interesting exercise, if sometimes limited. Bright as Posner is, he's not about to make the Supreme Court.

In Becker's latest post, he analyzes polygamy (really, mostly polygyny, plural wives) from an economic point of view, and comes to the conclusion that there'd be no great harm in allowing it.

Remember when Sen. Santorum and Justice Scalia were excoriated for suggesting that if judges turned homosexuality into a civil rights issue, polygamy couldn't be far off? They were of course, prescient.

Schismatic Mormons, Muslims, and secular polyamorists can't possibly be far behind the gay rights movement. And Becker's right there with the economic analysis.

I've never been a fan of the last refuge of bureaucrats--"It hasn't been done in the past." When it comes to social policy, however, that Burkean notion sounds a lot better than the nattering of even the brightest "sophisters, economists, and calculators." Cultural and social innovations are like gene mutations--many are lethal, others mildly deleterious or lethal, and precious few beneficial.

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