It is very tempting to think to oneself, especially those of us with a libertarian streak, why should the state get involved in consensual adult relations at all as long as neither party is injured? As we posted here, the institution of marriage is very, very important and society has a compelling reason to safeguard it in a reasonable way.
A gay marriage-style argument is now being used to peel back prohibitions on incestuous marriage. Steve Chapman, of the Chicago Tribune editorial board, has endorsed cousin marriage. The idea that the antiquity of cousin marriage in the Muslim Middle East somehow justifies cousin marriage in America is absurd. The same argument would justify polygamy and polyamory here. But of course, Chapman approves of those too. Actually, cousin marriage may be at the root of some of the problems in the Middle East, as I’ve argued elsewhere. But the real point is that cousin marriage in the Middle East has a totally different meaning than it would here. I addressed the issue of adult incest in “The Libertarian Question.” The interesting thing is that a columnist and a member of an important paper’s editorial board is making a public argument for cousin marriage. And all the recent talk about polyamory is nothing compared to what we’ll be seeing after a possible national establishment of same-sex marriage. With that safely done, the cultural left will feel free to openly press for more–much more. But right now, on polygamy and incest, Steve Chapman is leading the way.
Do click the title for the entire post and the follow the links, especially the one on the Middle East and "The Libertarian Question".
With regard to consenting adults Kurtz argues persuasively that allowing laws that weaken longstanding societal taboos like that of marrying cousins will start to sap the strength of other, more dangerous taboos like those against incest and polygamy. It is a slippery slope because legalization removes slowly the horror and disgust associated with the taboo that makes it unthinkable and socially unacceptable and IS A MUCH MORE POWERFUL DETERRENT THAN THE LAWS THEMSELVES. Following that logic, eventually marriages between an adult parent and an adult child should be permissible. Which without a doubt would diminish the near universal taboo of child incest.
On the Middle East is a long but very good article on why Islam failed to keep up with the West after the Renaissance. One of the three reasons, he argues, is the continuing influence of tribal kinship ties which strongly encourage men marrying their female first cousins. This stultified structure, while it resists outside influence effectively, also prevents societal changes that made possible the Renaissance and the centuries of scientific and cultural advancement which followed.