Marriage should be incentivized through the tax system.
The conservatives have pledged to introduce tax breaks for married couples if they are elected. There has been much confusion around the policy, and has been roundly dismissed by Labour and the Liberal Democrats as "social engineering"
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Society is falling apart
We, as a society have suffered from many epidemics, and here we are not talking about swine flu. Teenage pregnancy, truancy, crime, school drop outs; we have all seen the increase. It is of no surprise that these phenomena started to increase dramatically as the institution of marriage started to decline. There is a direct correlation between these events and rising divorce rates. Therefore, if we could lower the divorce rates, we could lower the level of all these malignant effects.
Apart from these fanciful correlations, where is the proof that rising divorce rates are causing these effects. I would contend that the stimulus behind these bad phenomenon occurring are due to the distribution of societies wealth and how visible it is to all. People in the poorest sections of society, due to the media and over population, can now see how the wealthy live. They drive past suborbital mansions, they see wealthy boutiques, they watch programmes about millionaires. Upon seeing all of this they feel frustrated and they turn to crime, they turn to pregnancy to get meaning in their lives and they drop out of school feeling disillusioned. The poor are also the least likely to get married. This is why the statistics may seem to show that the decline of marriage is causing these negative effects. But we need to look behind the statistics and se what is really going on.
Marriage is beneficial for society
At the moment our tax system encourages not being married as much as it does being married. Marriage is significantly better for society than being unmarried. Children born to married parents have better chances than those born to unmarried parents. For example just 8 per cent of married couples split up within five years of the birth of a child, compared with 25 per cent of those who marry after birth and 52 per cent of cohabiters. Children from cohabiting households are also 33 times more likely to suffer serious abuse than those living with married parents, and children under 2 have a 100 times greater risk of being killed by step-parents than by genetic parents.[[http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article3253795.ece]]
There are multiple benefits to communities as it leads to higher rates of healthy citizens, better educated citizens, lower domestic violence rates and Lower rates of juvenile delinquency with a result of lower crime statistics. The list goes on. [[http://www.acf.hhs.gov/healthymarriage/benefits/index.html]] The benefits of marriage means that it makes sense for the state to want to encourage it as in the long run the tax breaks would be repaid.
The idea is a waste of tax-payers money
Iain Duncan-Smith the original architect of the plans to introduce tax breaks for married couples had to take a hard look at the idea again when it the numbers did not add up. Cameron initially declared that all married couples would be eligible however this was prohibitively expensive. A transferable tax break of £20 a week would still cost the tax man almost £5 billion. It has now been downgraded from a policy to a hope. David Cameron said “We are having to look at different ways of introducing a recognition of marriage into the tax system which will not impose the same burden on the public finances. Ideally you’d look for a way of doing it that is affordable initially and can be expanded later as the public finances allow."[[ Philip Webster and Francis Elliott, David Cameron looks for ways to save his wedding vows after tax break row, The Times, 6/1/10, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6976929.ece%5D%5D In the current economic climate and with public finances in such a cinch, giving money to married couples many of whom may not necessarily need it smacks of profligacy.
This money would actually be retrieved back from society in the long run. Children brought up in marriages are less likely to drop out of school, go to prison and become part of the long term unemployed. Also, if we give a small amount of money to those who are married, it saves us paying out large sums of money for single parents. If we were only looking at financial reasons, subsidising marriage to keep people together is a sound investment in society.
Marriage should not be a financial decision
Marriage is a contract between two people who love each other that says they are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to each other. To create a financial incentive may push them into making such a decision when they don't really feel that way about each other, can't carry out the promise and/or wouldn't ordinarily want to make the decision. It is inappropriate for the contract to be a financial decision as the spirit of it is nothing to do with money.
Even before this tax system was introduced, marriages stayed together due to financial constraints. Before women could work the same hours and employment roles as men, women stayed with partners as they feared not being able to support themselves. This tax incentive is a much more sensitive financial consideration than that of the past. It is not there as a bribe but as an encouragement. It is not enough money for couples to stay in awful marriages, but it is enough money to make a couple reconsider breaking up.
Why is marriage seen as socially more desirable?
Why is the value judgment that a married couple is preferable? It is just as important and valid a decision to love someone without making them commit to a life-time that lasts the rest of their life, or to refrain from such things altogether, if it is a well thought out decision.
Financially, people can work as hard and earn just as much when living apart or living together in a non-marriage contract as they can as a married couple.
The Government are not promoting marriage as the best means of showing love, or the best way to achieve happiness in life. They are stating that marriage is the most stable relationship to bring children up under. Statistically, marriages are 5 times more likely to stay intact as opposed to cohabiting partners or any other arrangement of a relationship[[http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7005840/Marriage-is-good-for-us-its-time-to-support-it.html]]. And children brought up in two parent families tend to be more well rounded individuals. This benefits society. Therefore the Government are only encouraging what is statistically better for society.
The Government should not manipulate how we live!
The Government should not morally be able to change the way people want to live their lives! The family domain especially is one in which the Government should not interfere with. They already exert influence on the way in which we live our lives by taxing highly that which they want to discourage and giving tax breaks for things they want to encourage. This is thought of as acceptable when dealing with alcohol and orange juice comparison – however, when it comes to the family, how can the Government try to manipulate how we choose to organise or relationships and our family life? It simply is none of their business.
A meagre sum of money will not help
Marriages end with great distress caused to the children and the parents themselves. There is already financial loss as one parent has to move out, so two sets of housing costs have to paid; new bills to be paid, now mortgage or rent, new furniture and the legal costs of getting a divorce alone is enough to dissuade most people. However, some people decide to get divorced despite all of this. Surely, a meagre tax allowance for married couples is not going to keep these people together. The system does not work! The only way Cameron could fight this argument off was to retort that at least the Government would be sending the right ‘moral message’. This is not what the policy was first sold under.
What do you think?