Friday, March 17, 2006

Althouse: Distinguishing gay marriage and polygamy.

Ann centers the argument over state-recognized same-sex marriage around the employee fringe benefits issue. It's not fair, she argues that a "gay person with a pension and a health insurance plan is incapable of extending those benefits to his (or her) partner. He (or she) can't file a joint tax return."

On the other hand, a "polygamous marriage, however, puts a group of persons in a position to claim more economic benefits than the traditional heterosexual couple. That doesn't appeal to our sense of fairness." I note that there is no tax benefit to polygamy, so she must being focusing here on fringe benefits.

Fairness? What's fair about singles not being able to get the same benefits as employees with families?

Evidently the presumption is that firms are mandated to extend benefits to all kinds of families. I thought the law was more interested in efficiency than fairness. To inquire into efficiency we have to inquire into why firms offer family benefits, and whether they would be reluctant to extend them to same sex couples, or polygomous marriages. And what would happen if the law said firms had to treat all families alike. Then maybe some firms would not offer extend benefits to families at all.

Or, look at modern societies where polygny is practiced: the law does not require the employer to provide benefits for more than one of the marriages. Think outside the box and you will see there are answers outside the box.

The Undercover Economist's observation seems timely: people who object to polygamy have trouble adding up.

UPDATE: Some say look at the evidence. Polygamy is on the rise. Via The EclectEcon by email.

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