Sunday, December 6, 2009

Malthus and marriage

Wonderful little article by Catherine Bennett in today's Guardian/Observer. As well as pointing out the vacuousness of the Conservatives' proposal to give married couples a tax break (just what is needed with a £175 billion budget deficit), she makes the simple yet rarely made point that marriage for life has meant something different for nearly all of its history:

"For much of its history the length of the average union, before it was ended by the death of a partner, was the same as it is now, before being terminated by divorce: 11 years. If Cameron wants to make marriages last for ever, he is expecting them to last three times longer than they would have done before the institution was threatened by the democratisation of divorce, women's rights, sexual liberation, secularisation and – some think most damaging of all – the concept of enduring marital love."

The Conservatives may claim to have modernized, but they are still living in a fantasy world where 'old maids cycle to holy communion through the morning mist'. Their tax proposal is not only pointless, but perverse. A monogamous non-married union is penalized in favour of a marriage of (potentially pluri-) divorcees. Where is the moral incentive in that?

If this is the kind of thinking behind the future government, God (or the flying spaghetti monster ) help us.