Clearly, I'm all for arresting Jeffs. Does he deserve to be on the same list with Usama bin Laden? Probably not.
There are also many, many things that Jeffs should be arrested for, but it says a lot about this country that the only charges they are really pursuing him for involve sexual activity and minors. It's a good thing Tony Soprano's ilk never got into that, or the Mafia would've been long gone. But this case suggests that you can apparently commit just about any other sort of "victimless crime" in the name of religion and get away with it.
Jeffs is believed to keep on the move between FLDS communities in Eldorado, Texas, Mancos, Colorado, Hildale, Utah, Colorado City, Arizona, Bountiful, British Columbia, Pringle, South Dakota, and a recently discovered agribusiness farm in Nevada (see below).
N.B. I believe the location of the Nevada hay operation to be the set of dark and light green circles in the center of this satellite image. Click the plus icon at the top left twice to home in on that location. The operation is known as Atlanta Farms, the circles shown here are on Atlanta Rd. leading to the old Atlanta Mine on Atlanta Peak. Some reports place the operation near Coyote Springs (about 110 miles to the southwest between Alamo and Moapa) but I believe this location near Coyote Wash north of Pioche is the correct one. Coyote Springs is in the Mohave desert, and is pretty desolate and only suitable for the occasional free range cow - although it is not far off of I-15 and within an hour of suburban Las Vegas. Coyote Wash is in the Great Basin desert, a few thousand feet higher, and actually a fairly scenic and pleasant location within sight of Great Basin National Park. It is also quite a bit further off the beaten track (2 hours to Cedar City, 3 hours to Las Vegas).
FWIW: The vXspouse's first bout of morning sickness occurred driving the Kane Springs Valley Road out of Coyote Springs Valley.
This is occasioned by the premier of Big Love on HBO last week - the fictional story of a polygamist family trying to go mainstream in contemporary Utah.
Frank asserts that since women voluntarily enter into polygamous relationships, the criteria for judging the merits of this institution should be whether or not they do "unacceptable harm to others".
This is a problematic assertion because one of the women in a polygamous relationship did not voluntarily enter into a polygamous relationship at all. The (chronologically) first wife entered into a monogamous relationship, the terms of which were later changed.
This is a hold up problem - the idea that once a contract for a bundle of goods is entered into, that it may be advantageous to one party to change the contract, and that the second party (though hurt) may agree for the sake of maintaining as much of the contract as possible.
Thus, one could argue that Frank is only correct if the husband and all the (potential) wives marry simultaneously. Clearly the world doesn't usually work this way, so I don't think this is any more than an intellectual curiousity. This suggests that the husband does harm to the first wife in a polgyamous relationship, and therefore we have grounds for making this illegal.
You could also argue that the first wife knew what she was getting into. No doubt this is sometimes true (if not, we're back to the hold-up situation). Options theory is informative about the effects in this case. The first wife is in the position of a writer of an option held by the husband (the writer has the obligation to fulfill the option exercised by someone else - in this case the first wife is expected to stay in the marriage when wife #2 shows up). Again, this works, provided that wife #2 is on the scene initially. If not, she is a third party who has changed the value of the option to the husband and first wife. In and of itself this is not illegal, but it is generally held to be illegal if you not only change the value of someone else's option but stand to gain by doing so. So in this case, the later wives are guilty of causing unacceptable harm.
Of course, the Coase Theorem now applies: if harmed the first wife should be able to correct the inefficiency resulting from these externalities. Anecdotally this is confirmed in practice, and is on display in Big Love where the first wife is pejoratively called "boss wife" for fairly clear reasons (I can also personally confirm having seen boss wives in action around my town).
If the inefficiency is completely and voluntarily corrected, I think we may be back to no harm no foul. Personally, I have my doubts that this is the case, but the evidence is circumstantial so bear with me while I speculate. Within the FLDS polygamist sect, my understanding is that only men are admitted to heaven; women enter heaven only when invited by men they were sealed to as a mortal (Mormons may object to my use of the term sealed, but FLDS members use it in much the same way). Could this belief influence the willingness of a first wife to have the value of her marriage contract reduced? My guess is that it could. In support, we have the case of polygamy in Moslem cultures where the cooperation of first wives is ensured by the removal of their rights outside the family. Again, it seems that this might make them more amenable to reduction in the value of their marriage contract.
In sum, I think Frank has missed an important economic argument against polygamy, and hasn't even mentioned the evidence that might lead in this direction.
FWIW: The wide open question about all this is why the group in America most associated with polygamy (the FLDS sect) is also heavily engaged in a variety of criminal activities (see my Polgamy - FLDS subject category for details).
Disclaimer: I get some flack about polygamy posts, so let me note once again that I don't have a dog in this fight: I'm not LDS, FLDS, pro-polygamy, or anti-polygamy ... I just happen to live in an area where I have more occasions to think about the issues than the average blogger.
Don't get me wrong - I do think there is some merit in their arguments.
However, economics is more about the actions that people do take rather than the actions they might engage in. You guys know better than to not do your research. What brighter and more widely cited economists like Tyler, Alex and
Tim need to focus on is not why polygamy might make economic sense, but
why the holders of a belief that for good or bad is currently illegal,
are also broadly engaged in a wide variety of actions whose illegality
is not open to discussion!
The FLDS sect - which practices polygamy - has a strong presence in 3 states and a Canadian province, and membership running into the mid 5 figures. It has engaged in bank fraud, mortgage fraud, welfare fraud, misallocation of tax dollars, blatant theft, and a host of other activities. It's leader is on the FBI's most wanted list, and has been on the run for over a year. It maintained a police department and local judicial system in which violaters of the law were allowed to keep jobs - just this morning a polygamist judge who had been on the bench for over 20 years was removed from office. Sect members also systematically looted a school district of both physical and more intangible wealth. All of this is summarized in my subject category - and I don't include everything I see or hear about in the local news. Please note that my argument carries considerable weight without the need to be extended to the murkier but widely known mistreatment of women and children within this sect.
N.B. The FLDS sect is an offshoot of the LDS church, but these groups consider each other apostate. It is relatively common for members of the latter to disparage the former. While I live among an LDS majority, I am not LDS, and I hope that my position is not viewed as a knee-jerk response based on faith.
Jeffs is the leader of the FLDS polygamist sect. He is wanted in Arizona for two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one
count of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor, and by the feds for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
Jeffs also took leadership of the sect outside of their normal protocols, ostracized members who complained, and has now not been positively identified by anyone outside the sect in two years. A Mohave County (Arizona) official does not think this reward increase is enough:
"It (the reward) would have to be a
life-changing amount of money," Engels said. "For the most zealous,
this is their salvation, their prophet, and no amount of money is going
That's the recommendation of a by three law professors from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario: decriminalize polygamy.
The libertarian in me couldn't care less about polygamy.
But I have two issues with this.
1) The polygamous group in question - based in Bountiful, British Columbia, is a branch of the FLDS polygamist sect formerly based in my area. This group is little more than a criminal racket using religion to cover up their illegal activities. Decriminalizing one of the things that they can be prosecuted for would be like moving for weaker tax evasion laws before Capone was captured.
Just in case we're missing the point here, tolerant people should recognize that polygamy means that the husband gets to choose when additional wives get added to the relationship. We need to recognize that this would allow one party of a contract to unilaterally decrease the property right of the second party in favor of an as yet uninvolved third party. Most people view that as a form of fraud.
This time there was a report he was in the area of Beryl, Utah (pronounced Burl). Beryl is a very down on its luck hamlet out in the desert, whose only reason for existence is that it is closer to the Union Pacific tracks than other places with more water.
There are polygamists of different stripes all over this area, but this is the first I heard that there were FLDS members in Beryl.
Apparently a call was made that Jeffs and others were in Beryl. When they eventually pulled over the suspects they found 13 men dressed in black suits riding in a van together.
They had a police scanner, but no Jeffs. Obviously this creates a suspicion that he was in another vehicle and the one that was caught was a decoy.
This is somewhat odd, since there's are not many roads intersecting the road from Beryl to the location of the pullover just north of St. George. In this map Beryl is the topmost T intersection above Enterprise (click the hybrid link on the map for a view of how desolate Beryl is). The suspect van was heading south - presumably to go to Hildale/Colorado City, about an hour east of St. George. The third east-west road from the top is the only one that is paved.
Seth Jeffs was arrested carrying documents addressed to "The Prophet", and admitted that he was a courier going from one FLDS community to another.
He was initially pulled over for suspicion of intoxication. Later he was charged with prostitution and solicitation after the man he was arrested with admitted to accepting money for sex - that probably explains why the car was weaving.
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