Next Step, Exogamy?

Integration seems one of the great political issues of our era. That is, people express great concern about factional favoritism based on race, ethnicity, religion, class, gender, age, etc., and push for laws and policies to prevent it, or to encourage mixing and ties across factional boundaries. I’ve tended to assume that such policies have been sufficient, and perhaps even excessive.

But a student, Randall McElroy, wrote a paper for my grad law & econ class, that got me thinking. He wrote about how the Hopi indians dealt with mass immigration in part by defining newcomers as a new clan, and then forbidding within-clan marriage. Such “exogamy” has apparently been a common strategy in history: force mixing and friendly ties between factions by requiring all marriages to be between factions.

I was reminded of Cleisthenes redesigning the political system of ancient Athens to break up the power of region-based alliances that had caused endemic political conflict. He created ten equal tribes, where a third of each tribe was taken from a different type of region, plain, coast, or hills, and made these tribes the main unit of political organization.

Cleisthenes’ approach had seemed drastic to me, but its costs were small compared to the Hopi approach. After all, the costs of substantially limiting who people can marry must be very high. So many societies must have perceived even higher costs from factional divisions. Which makes sense if, as I’ve suggested, coalition politics is central to human sociality. So I’ve raised my estimate of the costs induced by factional favoritism.

I still expect that our factional divisions are mild enough for mild policies to be sufficient. But if I’m wrong, we might consider at least a mild form of exogamy: financially subsidizing marriages between distinct defined factions. We could similarly subsidize other close relations that mix factions, such as roommates, or interacting closely in the same church or workplace.

How would people would react to such suggestions? I see very different reactions depending on the faction in question. Many are quite ok today with requiring marriages to be between genders, but not out of concern for factional politics. Many would be ok with subsidizing marriages between races and ethnicities. But many would object to subsidizing marriages between ages or classes, as they see existing examples of this as exploitive or disgusting, and try to discourage them via informal social pressures.

Many would object to subsidizing marriages between religions, seeing it important for couples to share a common religion. Relatedly, the US today is becoming increasingly split geographically by a “red vs. blue” ideological divide, and I’d expect many would object to subsidizing marriages across this divide. After all, many live where they do because they want to live with their own kind, and don’t like to mix with “those people.”

Our lack of interest so far in exogamy solutions makes me suspect people don’t think our factionalism problem is especially serious. Expressing concern about ethnic or religious factionalism is probably often used as a way to say “rah the liberal faction,” as that faction is seen as caring less about ethnic or religious factions. I suspect this is a general pattern: policies to reduce factionalism along some dimensions are usually pushed because they favor particular factions along other dimensions. Which doesn’t mean such policies can’t have net benefits.

Overall, my guess is that factionalism in our society will have to get a lot worse before we are willing to consider solutions like exogamy that other societies have used to deal with such problems. We don’t now see a big problem.

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    Many people (including myself) do support a form of subsidized mixing, it’s called “public education”.

  • Joshua Fox

    About 50 years ago there was an idea, developed under the influence of the struggle against miscegenation laws, and expressed for example in some of the more progressive science fiction, that races would interbreed to the point that all humanity would end up a neutral coffee-color.

    • Robert Koslover

      Hmm. I wonder if you might be referring to The Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula K. Le Guin? (See ). Everyone becomes light gray.

      • Joshua Fox

        Yes, though in that book, everyone becomes homogeneous colored as a sort of supernatural wish-fulfillment. But there are other stories. This is on TVTropes

      • Sigivald

        Hell, in Banks’ Culture books, “human” is so loosely defined as to include thousands of species that aren’t even capable of interbreeding without genetic manipulation.

        (And, in the quality-SF tradition, this isn’t just assumed for convenience or out of laziness; it’s explained with a panspermia argument in-universe, just as an aside.)

    • guest

      Skin color is a discrete trait, so even extensive mixing would not lead to any kind of literal uniformity. You can see this in such places as Brazil and other countries in Latin America, where such mixing has been going on for centuries. And yes, skin color does play a role in social ties, status etc. even in such places, albeit perhaps a remarkably weak one.

      • adrianratnapala

        Skin colour is influenced by many small genetic contributions, so children of parents with different skin colour usually (not always!) have intermediate skin colour. That’s why so many Brazilians have exactly the kind of “coffee-colour” that is J.Fox. seems to be referring to. Of course not everyone in a given society has the same mix of ancestors.

      • VV

        Skin color is a discrete trait, so even extensive mixing would not lead to any kind of literal uniformity.

        So is eye color, but, among white people, it cannot be used to reliably assess ancestry or membership in any socially meaningful group. At most, it is weakly correlated with broad geographical areas.

        The same thing occurs for hair color, stature, and so on.

        The point is that, after a few centuries of substantial interracial mixing, people wouldn’t have all exactly the same skin color, but skin colors wouldn’t strongly correlate with identifiable groups.

        You can see this in such places as Brazil and other countries in Latin America,

        IIUC, in Brazil the upper class elites tend to be white because they mostly descend from wealthy European landowners who didn’t mix to any significant extent with anybody else. The rest of the population consists of a mix between the descendents of poor European immigrants, African slaves and natives.

  • If factionalism gets bad enough to need (more) correction, how do you propose to get the factions to agree to a change that will mitigate their advantages?

  • Sam Dangremond

    “We could similarly subsidize other close relations that mix factions, such as roommates, or interacting closely in the same church or workplace.”

    Isn’t this one of the explicit goals of “going to college”?

  • Doug

    In developed countries the least exogamous groups: Mormons, Orthodox Jews, Hutterites, and just conservatives in general, tend to have by far the highest birth rates. At least in our present evolutionary situation exogamy seems like a recipe for extinction. I’d expect given a hundred years or so our society will be significantly less exogamous, simply because of Darwinian pressure.

    Given the stark difference in birth rates it would take serious and fast coordinated effort to counterbalance this trend.

    • Sigivald

      Except … aren’t Orthodox Jews prone to their children giving up Orthodoxy?

      Likewise Mormons, in my experience (plus they seek converts; they’re not exogamous directly, but it’s not the same kind of rejection of exogamy as an ethnically-based rejection, or even the convert-rejection of the Orthodox Jews”).

      I don’t know about the Hutterites, but I don’t see any reason to worry about them “taking over” by out-breeding everyone else.

      (Why assume less exogamy in the future? It’s not like less-exogamous groups than the current cultural standard in the West are new; what has a history of growth and vitality is exogamy itself.)

      • Doing some googling, Mormon retention rates were 92.6% 1970-2000, but have dropped to 64.4% since. The trend for orthodox Judaism is the reverse, they have a retention rate below 50% if you include those who came of age between the 1950s and 1970s, but 83% of those currently between 18-29 are still Orthodox.

  • Faze

    Most men my father’s age never forget the regional, ethnic, class and religious mixing they experienced as draftee soldiers in World War II. Also the many personality types encountered. (My father even got his first exposure to homosexuals in the Army.) These guys didn’t just meet each other over coffee. They experienced fear, boredom, and elation at a high level of intensity together. My father continued marveling at the experience into his 80s. Our generation jokes about the old war movies their multi-ethnic bomber crews, but those seems to have had some basis in reality.

  • dmytryl

    I’m Russian, living in EU, my girlfriend is American. The current global situation is an opposite. Immense fraction of tax money is spent on border control, to minimize mixing.

    The paperwork requirements for international marriage are insane – we would have been married already for a while if not for all the extra idiotic hoops all the way from requiring unnecessary papers (an “apostille” which can not be obtained at embassy and has to be requested from the state) to refusal to take in the papers because of one-letter-difference in transliteration of my given name in my new passport and my old residence card, caused by a well known change in the transliteration rules.

    In essence, immense amounts of capital are spent to discourage any exogamy other than mail order brides.

    • VV

      Is this a generalized attitude against exogamy, or anti-Russian discrimination (I’ve heard some anecdotal evidence that it exists in some places in the EU), or plain old bureaucratic incompetence?

      • dmytryl

        I think it is mostly a part of general anti migration attitude.

        There are specific anti-marriage practices as well – for instance if you come to US on non-immigrant grounds and then marry, you risk going down for visa fraud for not declaring the immigrant intent, and this is a very serious crime in the US, rather than administrative violation – you may be banned for 10 years or even get prison time. Instead you must get a special visa.

        Then, there’s the affidavit of support from the US citizen, which makes a lot more sense when said citizen is older and male, and foreigner is younger and female.

  • Cambias

    It sounds to me that a society which feels it necessary or proper to tell its citizens who they should reproduce with has problems worse than ethnic factionalism.

    If tyranny is the cure, you might just prefer the disease.

  • “Our lack of interest … people don’t think our factionalism problem is especially serious.”

    But there’s a completely opposite explanation for the same lack of interest. Namely, that the current factional groups each think their way is “best”. Exogamy is an attempt to reduce the power of the current factions, to elevate the good of the larger organization, over the good of the faction. Is it any wonder that current factions would oppose such dilution of power?

    You already mention that red vs. blue don’t want to mix with “those people”. Isn’t that already sufficient explanation for lack of interest in exogamy?

  • Sigivald

    After all, the costs of substantially limiting who people can marry must be very high.

    Well, that depends on the society.

    To our modern “love-marriage” standards, yes.

    To a culture where marriages were arranged for economic or political benefit, perhaps not so much.

    (Related to Cambias’ comment: And likewise to my libertarian sensibilities – which also reject the group/ethnic/tribal factionalism the tactic is meant to erode.

    But … if my sensibilities aren’t the majority or a serious minority, it might be “temporary marriage authoritarianism” vs. “factional authoritarianism AND civil war”.

    In the real world, we can’t just establish even a Hayekian utopia from any arbitrary starting point, in one step; eliminating faction might well be the lesser libertarian evil, and hasten the possibility of ending tyranny faster.)

  • alexander stanislaw

    I think that this is a good idea. One specific case I have been thinking about is changing the law so that if you are born in the US you are only an American citizen if at least one of your parents is also an American citizen. This is a pretty big incentive I think for immigrants who want to have children and it should prevent the sort of enclaves you see in Europe from developing in the US.

    • VV

      Actually, unlike the US, many EU countries don’t have the jus soli, and this is generally recognized as a barrier to integration.

      • alexander stanislaw

        In that case, oops.

  • SocialEngineering is evil

    There is no part of a person’s life that is so personal, private, or sacrosanct (if you are religious) that some social engineer, usually some coffeehouse academic, won’t want to control it. This is the end result of the diversity worship of the left. I guess no one has heard of civil wars between people belonging to the same ethnic, linguistic and racial group. There is always religion and politics that cannot be “bred out” of people. See how the intellectuals just assume that the rank and file humanity are farm animals that they can just arbitrarily breed, send to slaughter, and manipulate to achieve some artificial Utopia.
    This idea is not well intentioned. It just shows how much contempt pseudointellectuals have for people in general and free human life in particular. It’s just evil and rotten to the core. Any people that would tolerate forced or coerced exogamy from their government deserve whatever else that government dishes out.

  • bscook111


  • Ronfar

    In medieval Catholic-dominated Europe, the Catholic Church mandated exogamy by making it illegal to marry anyone related to you up to fifth cousins. (It was relaxed somewhat when people ended up having no idea if someone was a fifth cousin or not.) After a while, it pretty much ended clannish tribalism in Europe.

  • weareastrangemonkey

    “many would object to subsidizing marriages between ages or classes, as they see examples of this as exploitative or disgusting”

    Between classes? Where do you get this from? Between class marriage is the classic love story, whether “Cinderella” or “The Lady and the Tramp”.

    There are certain examples of this that people do not approve of, relationships which are essentially about one person’s wealth and another person’s looks and not about some “deeper” appreciation of the other human being e.g. Anna Nicole Smith to Howard Marshal.

    I think what you are capturing here is a general disapproval of the idea that marriage should be for reasons other than a deep emotional attachment to another, i.e. it should be for a love. An attempt to treat marriages as serving some other end offends modern western sensibilities (rightly or wrongly).

    I think people would be more amenable to policies that subsidize interactions between groups rather than subsidize mating. For example, pushing to have greater diversity (wealth or ethnicity wise) within schools. Forcing high quality schools to take quotas of low and middle income children would be a way of subsidising inter-class marriage.

    • IMASBA

      “I think people would be more amenable to policies that subsidize interactions between groups rather than subsidize mating. Forcing high quality schools to take quotas of low and middle income children would be a way of subsidising inter-class marriage.”

      Most people in the world don’t think there should even be such a thing as a “high quality school”, at least in principle (there will always be local, natural variations in student and teacher quality, but systemic causes, like American schools depending on highly localized taxes, can be tackled). The same education for every child, no matter how much dough their parents have, and yes, that’s an excellent way to get mixing between all sorts of groups and create more of a shared identity.

      • weareastrangemonkey

        My thoughts exactly.

  • A dictatorship is the solution

    What would you social engineers do about people breeding out of wedlock? Who would want to have a marriage if it was something that the state regulates like this? It would just go underground. Would you have abortions or infanticide of “racially homogenous” children? Who would be chosen to breed? You need a vicious dictatorship to put your scheme into action. Even with the Chinese dictatorship, they could only achieve a 1.5 or 1.6 child fertility rate even though their intent was for women to have only one child. Human beings aren’t farm animals and they can choose their own mates without the “help” of the state.
    Another aspect of this forced “exogamy” is that it’s a good way to get rid of the Jews. But, I’m beginning to suspect that eliminating Jews is on the wish list of the left. Is your goal or is it to get rid of white people in general and pesky religious minorities in particular? This is just another means of genocide without the death camps.
    The left is irredeemably evil.

    • SouthOhioGipper

      Please. “Get rid ofwhite race”? I’m conservative but even I know that the European American population would easily subsume at least the black population and in 3 or4 generations there would be no more black people. The mixed kids would slowly become whiter over time as there would be no more black people to mate with within 2 generations. They are only 15% of the pop. That is easily diluted out.

      • John

        Are you a moron? White people are less than 10% of the world’s population (and probably account for only 3-4 % of the newborns). No one cares about America because with widespread migration every demographic issue is a global issue.

        I, for one, do not want to live in a brown country and a brown world. Hopefully, genetically targeting weapons will help at least mitigate the issue.

      • SouthOhioGipper

        Well I hope my mixed son never meets you for your sake, I taught him to swing first on idiots like you and let the lawyers sort it out later.

      • Zimmerman

        He may end up in the morgue. Don’t assume that a fistfight won’t end as a one-sided gunfight.

      • SouthOhioGipper

        Yes. That is a possibility. But unlike the Martins, I won’t call lawyers, press, NAACP. Instead, said person will just quietly disappear, be dismembered, and disposed of in a friend of mine Alabama hog pit. I wouldn’t want to draw national attention to my revenge or let the state take the vengeance that is rightfully mine to take.

      • John

        Oh, I love impotent liberals spinning out empty treats.
        Good luck, you may need it as you already made sure your genes will disappear from the pool soon enough.

      • SouthOhioGipper

        Hey dummy, ever hear of hybrid vigor? Mongrels are superior to pure breds. Scientific fact, unlike your science fiction fantasies.

      • Simone Simonini

        Ever heard of outbreeding depression? “Hybrid vigor” is not guaranteed.

  • thesafesurfer

    It seems odd that the author would choose examples from societies that failed to sustain themselves by being able to grow large. In particular the Hopi tribe is a tribe that never grew large and has been dominated by larger societies. Athens lasted less than a century after Cleisthenes reforms.
    The professor’s agenda in the piece is social engineering and not the growth and survival of a republic.

  • SouthOhioGipper

    I’m a white man who loves dating interracially. You mean if I can get not only EITC subsidies, home mortgage subsidies, various small business subsidies, but now I should get to claim a “miscegenation” subsidy too according to your student?

    Who pays? Oh that’s right, the old standy… The old rich white couple.