At MarriageDeabte.com, Eve has a couple of posts pondering a new kind of polygamy. What makes it new? She draws a distinction between "the historically common kind, where a man can take many wives" and the new kind "where any number of people of either sex can combine in a kind of small-scale married communal life." She links to this example of the new kind of polygamy and then provides the persona of Esperanza to defend this new type of polygamy. She finally asks, "Is Espereranza wrong?"
I would tell Esperanza, I wouldn't say that you were necessarily wrong, but what is it that you are asking for? Same-sex couples are asking that the same rules of marriage that apply to everyone else apply equally to them. Just read the laws gender neutrally. That cannot be what Esperanza is asking for. She must be asking for distinct rules. Before we can judge whether we should rewrite the marital laws to conform to these new rules, we must know what they are. So Espereranza please tell us how you would rewrite the thousands of statutes and policies which deal with marriage. Then we can begin to examine what effect these numerous changes might have. For example, the anonymous libertarian polygamist Eve refers to writes:
None of us took our marriage vows lightly; we thought and talked and made contracts to spell out how the relationships would work and how they'd end, if they end. It works for us.
Is Esperanza also proposing that every married "group" will define their own unique obligations and divorce rules? Such a system would be replacing civil marriage by a system of private contracts. A few libertarians have proposed this style of "private marriage" which gets the government out of the marriage business (other than the usual enforcement of contracts). I can think of a number of a problems with such a system, but I don't want to be attacking a straw man. So I would like Esperanza to spell out how precisely her new system of marriage would work. Would each person in the group be bilaterally married to each other person? Would there be some proper subset of pairs which are married (and others which are not married)? Or would there just be one group "marriage"? If the latter, how does one define spouse? In any of these cases how would divorce work? Is there a limit to the number of people that can be involved in this group? Can new people enter into an existing group? What bilateral obligations exist? What obligations does one have towards the group as a whole? These are just a few of the questions that must be answered before we can begin to evaluate Esperanza's plan.