I am watching the reality show Sister Wives, with obsessive fascination recently. The family of fundamentalist polygamists are exposing their lives and feelings to the public view in a kind of group therapy session every week. Kody Brown, the patriarch, has 17 kids and 4 wives. He doesn't seem like an old Testament Bearded stern god-to-be. More like a play dad who is living a fantasy life. His wives seem to be rather uni-dimensional, each with a clearly defined role. There is the accountant and breadwinner, the nanny, the trophy wife, and the eldest wife who is the director, but considers herself a failure at the main job of wives, which is producing many children.
Kody himself doesn't seem to do much except have fun with the various families. He manages to go on honeymoons and anniversaries with each of his four wives every year, but we don't hear about how they manage to pay for the sports cars, vans, 4 houses, and adventures we see every week.
The whole sister wife concept appears appealing. I can see how they benefit and it is pretty cool for the kids to live in a child-centered commune. But it is not sustainable in the long run. Each wife is younger than the last. We have to wonder if grey-haired Kody will continue producing progeny in his 60's and 70's with a new generation of fertile wives. What happens to the young men who are left without partners? And who will the children marry if most them are related to each other?
There is at least one documented epidemic of severe recessive disease in the polygamous community of Short Creek due to inbreeding. The polygynous lifestyle (not true polygamy because it is always one husband with many wives, not the reverse) can only survive if it is rare in the community. When it becomes prevalent we begin to see the dark side, where young males are driven out, where young girls are coerced into relationships with old men, and where inbreeding creates genetic problems. The polygynous family is by necessity parasitic on society. Many, if not most rely on social services to feed the many children they have. One man is not enough to give 17 kids the financial emotional support they really deserve. We see only the fun times, and the good times in the Brown household.
The Browns seem like decent people other than being a bit short-sighted and selfish. They really want to fit into society but don't see the harm they are doing.