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• Applies to both “king and peasant” — each can have only one wife (at a time). This creates a basic equality among men.

• Ultimately ends men’s competition with each other for wives. This, in turn, “decreases the tendency for males to tightly control their wives and daughters” and may even lead to “more egalitarianism in the household.”

• Encourages men, who know they have a good chance to marry in their lifetimes, to “redirect” their energies in socially productive ways, resulting in lower crime rates and other positive social outcomes.

Monogamy seems to end up “dissipating the pool of unmarried males that were previously harnessed by rulers in wars of aggression,” Mr. Henrich wrote.

Of course, even in monogamous cultures, people — especially high-status males — engage in extramarital affairs and “serial monogamy.”

But when practiced faithfully, monogamy seems to benefit humanity far more than any kind of “big love.”

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at