Alberta Report

Monday, January 18, 1999

Marriage, monogamy and democracy

Candis Mclean
Alberta Report

In her book, "Farewell to the Family?"  British sociologist Patricia Morgan points out that although daughters of sincle parents are statistically predisposed to single motherhood, poverty and dependence on state support, the effects on young boys are even worse.  "We have reproduced the historic conditions for a warrior class: separation of economic activity from family maintenance, children reared apart from fathers, wealth subject to predation and male status determined by combat and sexual conquest, with young men dealing in drugs and guns," Ms. Morgan writes.  University of Calgary political scientist Tom Flanagan suggests the Morgan thesis explains the increasing prevalence and violence of youth crime in Canada and he believes there is only one prescription to the problem—the restoration of monogamy and the traditional family as cultural norms.  Without them, he asserts, social conditions are likely to deteriorate further.

Under the Neo-Darwinian interpretation of human behaviour, he explains, reproduction is the most important determinant of human activities; it shapes the social order.  The monogamous heterosexual couple is the essential underpinning of a co-operative social order where people voluntarily pursue collective aims in a law-abiding way.  "The opportunity to marry is the cornerstone of the democratic political order and civil society," Prof. Flanagan continues.  "Historically, democratic governments have only existed where society is monogamous.  All Third World countries which have successfully adopted democracy, like Japan, have switched to monogamy."  The reason, he speculates, is that democracy as a political system requires a rough equality of respect for individuals.  Polygamous societies are always non-egalitarian because the cost of maintaining harems—the seizure of reproductive opportunities—requires an accumulation of resources, severe social stratification and enormously wealthy families. 

Canada, he explains, is moving away from monogamy to serial monogamy (one partner at a time for a period of time) and promiscuity (no exclusivity of partner).  "This destructuring of the family throws individuals on their own resources and makes them rely on the state instead of one another," Prof.  Flanagan says.  "As the state gets bigger, it becomes less controllable by citizens and more controlled by bureaucrats and judges.  My concern is, how long can we have a democratic state as we move away from monogamy?"

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