Keeping cousins apart:
One of the myriad down sides to being alone in the field, lacking both friend and foe, is the difficulty of thinking of even obvious things.  I have, all unwittingly, been sitting on a contradiction that any competent skeptic should have pointed out to me.

It turns out that people tend not to fall in love with other suitable members of the opposite sex that they have grown up with.  “So,” the challenge might have run, “We have always married cousins.  But kids don’t fall in love with their playmates.  You’re wrong.”

I could only have mumbled, “I’ve got my evidence so they worked it out somehow.”

“Some-what-how?”  And I would have fallen silent.

But evidence piles up.  Obstacles melt.  There is new work.  (Bernard Chepais The Deep social Structures of Humankind SCIENCE vol. 331 no. 6022 March 11, 2011 page 1239 and Kim R. Hill et al. Co-Residence Patterns in Hunter Gatherer Societies Show Unique Human Social Structure page 1286 same issue) 

Almost all societies have preferential cousin marriages.  One must be careful, of course.  Almost all of humanity now lives in a single high-tech, rich communication, very mobile, globalized society.  But that’s only one.  It uses a mate-with-anything-that-moves mating strategy shared only with the Inuit, whose traditional life already precluded anything but a highly restricted social pool.  All those other societies, and there are a lot of them, seek kissing cousins. 

Now it stands to reason that if hunter gatherer societies live in isolated bands and if hunter gatherer societies mate with cousins, those isolated bands are in fact extended families.  And so it may be.  But they have gone in and asked just who is related with whom and the answer seems that the group of residence is a bunch of “just friends.” 

Life in such a band cannot provide a lot of privacy.  The children must all be playmates.  Playmates don’t marry.  So the arrangement they make works just fine.  Those playmates aren’t cousins anyway. 

At the other end of the power scale would be Victorian Britain.  They had enormous power and were, I am told, in direct control of one third of every human living on the planet.  They were able to govern India, let’s say a hundred million souls at the time, with a hundred thousand administrators.  Of course they were well paid relative to the locals, let’s say paid ten times what everybody else was.  That would mean ten houses, ten servants, thirty meals a day or the equivalent.  Livable, I say.  That still means that one, count them one, percent of the gross domestic product went to the government.  Imagine paying one percent of your income on taxes.  Of course there were other costs but still that was an impressive accomplishment.  The Brits could come up with a lot of capable people.

And they did it by marrying cousins.  The playmates issue was dealt with by sending the boys off to boarding schools and instituting very prudish behavioral norms.  You could probably see more flesh of the other sex by taking a stroll down the street these days than those British lads saw before they married. 

Cupid likes the fruit to be forbidden.

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