Why The Government Can’t Get Out of the Marriage Business

As the US continues it’s “national conversation” on same sex marriage, it’s fairly standard for someone to suggest that it’s time for the state to get out of the marriage business and have marriage be a strictly religious/personal arrangement. This seems like a fairly neat way to sidestep the issue of having to reach a state consensus on what marriage is, with the inevitable one-side-tramples-the-other problem that suggests. However, I’d like to suggest that it’s an impractical and illusory solution.

To start with, I think we need to look at why the state is involved in marriage in the first place. I’d suggest that the reason has little to do with managing morals or family values, it has to do with the essential function of government: being an arbiter in disputes, primarily about property. In this regard the state ends up needing to define marriage and know who is married in order to answer two questions: who owns what and whose kids are whose.

Say two people have been spending a lot of time together for the last five years. Now they’ve had an argument and want to not see each other again, but one of them claims that some things in the possession of the other are actually his. Are they? The state gets pulled into these questions because its job is to arbitrate disputes rather than leaving people to solve them the old fashioned way (which was by raising themselves up on their hind legs and bashing each over the head with flint axes.)

Marriage is a relationship in which property and resources are shared, and so when one breaks up the state ends up negotiating the breakup. People who are not married own the things that they themselves hold title to, and if they have a fight and stop seeing each other, the that shrugs its shoulders. My wife can claim title to a portion of the car or the house even if it is my name that appears on the deeds. My friend cannot.

Since the state also likes to tax people and make sure that they’re taking care of their dependents, it also needs to know who is married in order to know who can claim to be a household for the purposes of taxes, child custody, etc.

For this reason, any state which isn’t borderline anarchic is going to have to know who forms a household, which traditionally has meant knowing who is married. Despite this, “civil marriage” is relatively new. In the past, figuring out who was married was pretty easy: someone went down to the church register and checked to see if a couple were married, or you just asked the neighbors, “Were these people married?”

As cultural consensus has broken down and society has become more mobile and impersonal (and also as the state sought to replace religion and culture as the primary context of people’s existence) civil marriage was instituted to give the state a clear and easy way of knowing who formed a household: If you were married, yes. If not, no.

And here is where we run into the problem: In our modern world, living arrangements have become more complex than ever. Almost everyone has enough property to fight over — as anyone who’s ever been stuck watching Judge Judy in a waiting room knows — and due to changing morals and the affluence that allows people to turn their attention away from the basic “survive and produce the next generation” household structures which have characterized most prior societies. (For instance, despite all the talk about homosexuality in the Classical world, even men who preferred their own sex were expected to marry and produce children, whatever their extracurricular activities. In our modern world, this expectation no longer exists.)

The state cannot duck the situation, because arbitrating property disputes is one of its most basic purposes, and determining who constitutes a household is one of the basic elements of resolving property disputes. And yet, any modification to the definition of marriage/household as recognized by the state is necessarily fraught with cultural and moral significance because it effectively means changing the definition of what a recognized or proper family is.

33 Responses to Why The Government Can’t Get Out of the Marriage Business

  • M.Z. says:

    You have made a good argument for bourgeois gay marriage. This seems to be the argument for keeping marriage and allowing homosexuals to partake in it.

    I’m not sure I buy your Judge Judy argument. It seems child support has obviated the necessity of marriage. The poor typically don’t have any real financial burdens or assets after that. Most assistance programs have accounted for the absence of marriage. They account for household income and define the household as anyone living under a common roof. The only tangible thing a marriage gets a poor couple is the opportunity to spend money on a divorce attorney at dissolution.

    I’m not really sure of the historical argument for marriage. From all appearances, most cultures made marriage a private arrangement for the poor. The Church doesn’t crack down on the practice itself until Trent, and the reasons behind that crackdown have little to do with the poor.

  • I don’t think it’s an argument in favor of bourgeois gay marriage — just that the issue can’t be side-stepped.

    On the Judge Judge argument: I’d say that the extent to which courts end up settling child support and property issues of people who aren’t married pretty much underscores that the state invariably gets involved in issues of who does and does not have a relationship, regardless of whether we change the definition of marriage or not. The fights exist, and the state ends up intervening in fights as a preferable alternative to letting people hash them out themselves.

    From another viewpoint, this might point the way towards how things will work out if we don’t legally recognize gay marriage: the world won’t end for people in same sex relationships, they’ll just fight out their disputes in courts exactly the same way other people who have relationships but not marriages do. Arguably, this is probably what would happen most of the time anyway, since even in European states in which same sex marriage does exist, most people in same sex relationships don’t choose to get married.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    Mandatory civil marriage was first introduced on 9 November 1791, in France, by the same National Assembly that had just converted 10 million landless peasants into heritable proprietors. This was not a coincidence. No wonder that, in France, the Pécresse Report on the Family & the Rights of Children (2006) noted that “in this country, the model has long been the peasant family, structured around a patriarch and expanding from hearth to hearth. Children were raised within an expanded
    group and not by two parents.” I fancy the same was true in the United States, at least until 1914.

    In his evidence to the Pécresse Commission, André Burguière observed that “as the officialisation of an alliance between a man and a woman, but more than that between two families … marriage exists
    in practically all societies.” The Archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois, gave a summary of the Christian understanding, “Even though it has not taken the modern form familiar in our civil legislation, there has always been a means of handing things down from generation to generation, which is the very basis of continuity and stability in a society. This transmission between generations is primarily effected by the family. It is the legal framework of family life that structures the transmission of life and shapes the future of society.”

    Interestingly, Martine Segalen told the Mission, “Studies show that when a member of a family lives with a partner outside marriage, that person is considered to belong to the family only from the birth of a child on.”

    Witness after witness stressed the vertical dimension of the family.

  • Art Deco says:

    It seems child support has obviated the necessity of marriage. The poor typically don’t have any real financial burdens or assets after that.

    Most people are not poor at any given point in time. The abidingly poor are a small minority.

    Most assistance programs have accounted for the absence of marriage. They account for household income and define the household as anyone living under a common roof. The only tangible thing a marriage gets a poor couple is the opportunity to spend money on a divorce attorney at dissolution.

    Your argument is that we repair poorly structured programs by larding on another layer of ill-wisdom?

  • “From another viewpoint, this might point the way towards how things will work out if we don’t legally recognize gay marriage: the world won’t end for people in same sex relationships, they’ll just fight out their disputes in courts exactly the same way other people who have relationships but not marriages do.”

    Bingo. Heterosexuals don’t get married but do have kids: paternity cases explode over the past four decades and are precisely as hard fought and contentious as divorce cases. Heterosexuals don’t have kids but are shacked up and acquire property in common: legal fights over property. About 23 states recognize palimony arrangements for unmarried couples based upon a contractual agreement of the parties either oral or written, and either express or implied. The idea that people can simply walk away from a living arrangement without legal consequences if they are not married is a charming fiction for those who have little to do with courts.

  • Foxfier says:

    Donald– isn’t that why the concept of “common law marriage” exists? I know not everywhere has it, but it is out there.

    The idea that people can simply walk away from a living arrangement without legal consequences if they are not married

    As I understood it, that isn’t the idea– as much as something so big can be “an” idea. The idea was that there’s not the assumption that everything they have is co-mingled, no matter whose name is on what; just because people can go to court about something isn’t the same as it being part of the basic splitting up.

    The palimony thing is interesting, but I must wonder if it’s tied in to common law marriage, or the depressingly common long engagements that are closer to decades than months, or the bed-and-business partnerships, etc….

  • M.Z. says:

    Your argument is that we repair poorly structured programs by larding on another layer of ill-wisdom?
    No argument was offered. That is how benefit programs operate in my area.

    Most people are not poor at any given point in time.
    I qualified poor previously as having “[almost no] financial burdens or assets [except children.]” That would be more inclusive than grinding poverty and hit a number of people we consider middle class. A couple making $60,000 combined gross with under $5,000 in liquid assets and two vehicles worth a combined $25,000 is not considered poor by other measures, but they don’t have a financial situation that screams court intermediation required.

    Darwin,
    While courts are brought forth in property disputes, I would speculate that the preponderance of private relationship dissolutions are handled outside of the courts. As for courts and children, I have my own views of remedies in this area that aren’t germane to your post. But I will say I do think it is a problem that the courts helping mediate the lives of so many children.

  • Art Deco says:

    I qualified poor previously as having “[almost no] financial burdens or assets [except children.]”

    No, you described them that way, you did not qualify anything. (And the description is not accurate, either).

    That would be more inclusive than grinding poverty and hit a number of people we consider middle class.

    Who is the ‘we’ doing the considering? There are salaried employees and small proprietors who are net debtors, but they generally do have assets as well as liabilities (and bar a modest minority generally do not have haphazard domestic arrangements).

    Wage-earners are commonly net debtors, those with lower income streams more than higher income streams.

    they don’t have a financial situation that screams court intermediation required.

    People can fight over bloody anything and there are still custody issues and the distribution of earnings to consider.

  • WK Aiken says:

    The obvious point has been missed by the entire debate. Anything having to do with property or wealth – Mammon – is the province of Caesar. This can be shelved under “equal protection,” i.e., it is of no consequence with whom one shares a home or a bed – the law says that all citizens have an equal right to self-determination and equal contractual obligation.

    Taxes? Everybody ought to be taxed individually anyway – is there a “married rate” sales tax? A “married rate” capital gains tax? A “married rate” excise tax? No – therefore a “married rate” income tax is hypocritical. The state has no need whatsoever to know “who forms a household” unless it has designs on that household’s wealth. All it needs to know is whose signature is on the deed, lease or other contract.

    Arbitrating disputes entails a much larger set of circumstances than those which could ever be considered “marriage” so to say that such a responsibility gives sanction to The State to dictate that arrangement is illogical. If that were so, The State could also dictate who were neighbors, landlords, salesmen and business partners.

    There is nothing at all in a State-defined marriage regarding property or familial obligations that a State-defined civil union could also not entail, Thus, none of that provides any cause to regard State intrusion into marriage as legitimate. When one considers the equally glaring fact that people of the same sex cannot be natural parents of the same child, such contrivances become even more flimsy. There MUST be some kind of legal manipulation to construct a scenario wher two people of the same sex are “parents.” The argument destroys itself recursively.

    Per se, the responsibilities of The State are exactly as you describe them; on that count, you are perfectly correct. But none of that existed before Cana, so it is irrelevant to the estate of marriage; the only exceptions would like those in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but in these cases it was God’s law and not a government of men calling the shots.

    Saying that the government has no business getting into defining marriage is sidestepping nothing. It is stating the most obvious fact available: Marriage is an estate ordained by God. It is a Holy estate, created to conjoin Man and Woman in order that Life be brought forth under His design. It existed before any kind of “state,” and therefore no “state” has any business trying to impose its paltry will upon the Estate of Marriage.

  • “Per se, the responsibilities of The State are exactly as you describe them; on that count, you are perfectly correct. But none of that existed before Cana, so it is irrelevant to the estate of marriage; the only exceptions would like those in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but in these cases it was God’s law and not a government of men calling the shots.”

    Actually it did exist long before Cana. Almost all human societies have heavily regulated marriage. Roman marriage law was very intricate for example. The idea that the State can ever be gotten out of this area is amply refuted by history.

  • WK Aiken says:

    Alright *sheepish grin* – point given, and mea culpa on exuberance.

    But by that same token, because we include traditions of Roman law, should we also include traditions of Roman morality?

    The question at hand is: What, essentially, defines our Western Christian concept of marriage? What is its raison d’etre? If it is, at its core, a purely civil construct, made only for the ease of The State in its efforts to govern and control, then we cannot discriminate against anybody, for all are equal under law. All are equally able to appoint hiers, spokespeople, representatives and executors. They are free to give to whom they wish, what they wish. They cannot be prohibited from moving into a house together and calling themselves anything they want, except by what amounts to either legal fiat or tyranny of the majority.

    On the other hand, if, at its core, marriage is a sanctified estate, made by God at the same time that He made Man and Woman, then it does predate any “Imperial” formula. If so, then certain applications cannot be made regardless of whatever any assemply, cuncil, Congress, Duma, or Parliament may decree, popularly or otherwise.

    If I tape cardboard wings to my back, wear a white robe and put a ring of aluminum foil around my head, it does not make me an angel. Angels and Men are created by God, and no law, saying either that I can be one if I want, or I can’t no matter what, will change that.

    Quite simply: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” To whom does Marriage belong, Caesar or God?

  • Bonchamps says:

    ” My wife can claim title to a portion of the car or the house even if it is my name that appears on the deeds. My friend cannot.”

    Well, if you and your friend had bought the car together and had signed some sort of agreement stipulating joint ownership of the car, wouldn’t that suffice?

    I don’t understand why these things can’t be worked out privately. Properly married men and women have the privilege of presumption, of course – they share all things, unless otherwise stipulated by some sort of agreement like a pre-nup.

    Unmarried men and women, and gay couples, are not entitled to such a privilege – but they are not denied the right to enter into contracts stipulating joint ownership of property, if they so desire.

    Given the extremely high rate of “divorce” among gay couples, if they ever get their wish and force the rest of us to regard them with the same honor and prestige as actually married couples, they may find that to be a significant drawback. All of the sudden they can’t just take off and start over with someone else – they have to worry about the kind of things that really ought to only concern dedicated families, and not adults throwing temper tantrums because not everyone approves of their lifestyles.

  • Gail Finke says:

    M.Z. Where did you get the idea that the Church didn’t care about marriage for poor people until after Trent? That’s simply not true.

    I don’t understand this discussion at all. Western societies have always regulated marriage, long before Christianity came on the scene. Regulating marriage is one of the basic functions of government. Any government. Getting government “out of the marriage business” will not work.

  • Anzlyne says:

    I recently heard someone say that families with children should not be able to have a tax deduction for their dependants.. said that the family is none of the State’s business, why should the State subsidize kids, if parents want to have kids, that is their personal choice and responsibility.
    Reading this post makes me think of that– like there is someway the State can disavow the family…or another way, like a State could disavow it’s future. Marriage and families are what the State is made up of,

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    Bonchamps

    Civil marriage is obviously something more than a contract, for it creates rights and imposes obligations on third parties.

    As le doyen Carbonnier, rather amusingly explained, “No doubt, marriage can be viewed as an agreement between the spouses, but there is nothing contractual about the obligation of a (solvent) mother-in-law to aliment her unemployed son-in-law It is an obligation imposed by Article 206 of the Civil Code, based on the mere fact of marriage and nothing else. She may detest the man and she may have opposed the marriage, but her duty arises from the mere fact of his status, as her son-in-law, a member of her family. Now this obligation ceases, if her daughter is dead and there is no issue of the marriage alive. Why? Because he is no longer a part of her family, extending through time. The same, of course, holds true of the reciprocal obligation of the son-in-law to aliment his mother-in-law.”

    Why the obligation should exist in the case of an intrinsically sterile union is not easy to justify.

  • Art Deco says:

    I recently heard someone say that families with children should not be able to have a tax deduction for their dependants.. said that the family is none of the State’s business, why should the State subsidize kids, if parents want to have kids, that is their personal choice and responsibility.

    Aficionados of libertarianism are often adepts at a sort of reductionism that triggers a saving gag reflex.

  • Phillip says:

    “Why the obligation should exist in the case of an intrinsically sterile union is not easy to justify.”

    The nature of the being exists even if its actualization is frustrated. A severely mental retarded person remains a person, even if he has no rational abilities. Just as a fetus is a rational before there is the neurologic framework for rationality.

  • WK Aiken says:

    “Marriage and families are what the State is made up of”

    In all decorum, I must respectfully disagree. The State is made up of bureaucrats, politicians and, most importantly, sanctioned force. The State is the reservoir wherein we keep those aspects of our society that are too uncontrollable to be allowed access by all; prior comments amply describe the “dispute resolution” aspect, to which would be added criminal law enforcement and defense. Roads, education energy policy, etc. can be argued elsewhere, as can health care.

    “Marriage and families” are an integral part of what constitutes The People. We live our lives and go about our daily tasks, informed, ideally, by a moral structure that guides us in our interactions and pursuits. We are guided by laws not written by human hands, but rather by the internal guidance that has long been inculcated by tradition and participation in civil society. Until quite recently, and with, church and community sufficed to bring about the necessary behavioral mores that precluded State intervention in daily affairs. We have seen, with much consternation on our parts, this structure weaken and list.

    So to be clear, the People and The State are NOT the same. The statement “We are the government” is a false, empty, baseless and indefensible notion whose origins are in Marxist philosophy. It runs completely counter to the idea of the American Republic, wherein Government – The State – is removed, enumerated, limited and quarantined from the lives of The People but for that small list of circumstances wherein it must be employed.

    To reiterate: the strength and breadth of a society’s moral structure determines the extent to which a State must impose order. A moral and just society needs little State imposition. An amoral, selfish and imbalanced society will require the imposition of harsh rules. It is the strength of a society’s morals that keeps The State at bay. A nation of citizens who can govern themselves as individuals does not need a State to govern them as a mass.

    The Progressive Left has long sought to supplant traditional American morality with a State-centered, humanist order. Thus, over generations, it has infiltrated education, entertainment and government so that we, as a people, no longer perpetually reinforce our moral standpoints through familial and community inculcation. Thus eroded, they give way to the imbalance that yields to the Progressives’ goal of a fascist, top-down, humanist State. Since it is the nature of The State to perpetuate itself, to gain power and to become Leviathan if left unchecked, by yielding more and more moral questions to legal answers, Leviathan grows, ounce by ounce. So to say that “marriage and families are what The State is made up of” is to fly the Progressive flag and proclaim that Caesar is the center of our lives. It has abrogated what should be the business of The People, and placed it under the dictates of The State.

    I very much doubt that was the intent of the statement, so I am not making that accusation at all. I would simply point out that even innocent confusion of State and People represents just how far the lines that were once so clearly known among even the dustiest of workingmen in this country have blurred.

    If we are to regain our heritage, we must return to the rule set that generated it in the first place. “Who can marry whom?” or perhaps more accurately, “Who can be considered married?” is a question for The People to answer, and not The State. All of what I said previously about God and Caesar applies right here, so I won’t repeat it all, but to believe that The State has the power to assume control over what God has made for The People is to lose the very foundation of our rights, our responsibilities and our souls as Americans.

    PS: “Aficionados of libertarianism are often adepts at a sort of reductionism that triggers a saving gag reflex.”

    Such aficionados are called “Libertarians” and if one believes that reductionism involves defining the boundaries between Fascism and Liberty, then so be it. The State can only subsidize kids by either giving back what it has already taken from the parents, or by giving to the kids what it took from somebody else’s parents, or from kids not yet born who survive State-sponsored eugenics. If The State didn’t confiscate wealth to such an enormous degree by taxing, deficit spending and over-regulation, there would be no need for either deduction or subsidy, as there would be no income tax to begin with. Shall we defend the candy given to us by the tyrant who with his other hand takes the bread from the tables of others? “As long as I get mine” is a morally indefensible strategem for citizenship.

    The time has come to declare – there is no more room for obfuscation or waffling – one is either with Caesar or with God, and to defend defend Caesar’s toe is to defend Caesar’s right to stomp you with it.

  • DarwinCatholic says:

    Foxfier,

    another wrinkle occurs to me, which is unique to marriage: children. That makes inheritance and financial responsibilities a lot more complicated!

    Yeah, I’d originally hoped to tackle that as well, as determining who is responsible for children and who inherits is also one of the major historical purposes of marriage, but the post was getting too long and wandering so I cut that.

    WK Aiken,

    I don’t think the radical distinction you’re seeking to make between “the People” and “the State” works. Certainly, it would be inaccurate to reduce the people in a state to the state, suggesting that they are nothing more than a part of the state. (This was one of the many evils of national socialism, to hold that the folk were the state and the state the folk.) That said, “the state” is simply the exercise of a certain set of powers and functions over the people in the state. In a representative or democratic state, it is fairly accurate to describe “the people” as being the ones who, at least by proxy, wield this power, and thus the state is something owned and run by “the people”, not some outside force imposed upon them. From a more traditional point of view, this would be applied even in non-representative forms of government. Thus, Aquinas does not see the monarch’s power as being an outside or parasitic force imposed upon society, but rather the necessary governing function of society executed by those members of society suited to do so.

    On taxation and dependents: I think it’s entirely reasonable and just to base a household’s tax liability on some balance of that household’s income and its reasonable expenses. One of the key elements of this is obviously the number of people in the household. A family of seven with a total income of $60k/yr is obviously in a very different financial situation than a single person making $60k or a couple with no children living off a shared income of $60k. Even if one thinks (as I do) that the government as a whole should be smaller and taxes should be lower, I think it’s far more just to tax people in a way based on their ability to pay (some formula of income divided by size of family) rather than taxing each person equally. (And the old fashioned approach of trying to make all the state’s money of tariffs is an even worse idea, since it hurts everyone by slowing down trade.) In this regard, while the whole system of deductions and per child credits is complicated, it’s honestly a pretty good system.

  • DarwinCatholic says:

    The time has come to declare – there is no more room for obfuscation or waffling – one is either with Caesar or with God, and to defend defend Caesar’s toe is to defend Caesar’s right to stomp you with it.

    I think this falsely suggests that one can (per the progressive Catholic dream) create the City of God here on earth. Again, the proper way to understand Caesar is as a legitimate exercise of authority within society for the good of society.

    As you rightly point out, there are other ways that society organizes and and polices itself: subsidiary organizations which guide behavior in a more human way. When families, churches, neighborhoods and other subsidiary levels of society break down or abandon their responsibilities, the state starts to step in to try to tamp down the chaos that forms in that void — and when the state moves in it tends to squeeze out those subsidiary actors.

    But while the over-growth of the state is a problem, and also a symptom of problems, the state is not an enemy in and of itself.

  • Foxfier says:

    In this regard, while the whole system of deductions and per child credits is complicated, it’s honestly a pretty good system.

    I think it could be simplified greatly by removing the value of what someone has from the figuring, and only taxing when things are bought or sold, based on the actual amount bought or sold. Also, simplifying deductions.
    “Married families with children” is about the least controversial deduction I can think of!

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    Hegel points out that
    “If the state is confused with civil society, and if its specific end is laid down as the security and protection of property and personal freedom, then the interest of the individuals as such becomes the ultimate end of their association, and it follows that membership of the state is something optional. But the state’s relation to the individual is quite different from this. Since the state is mind objectified, it is only as one of its members that the individual himself has objectivity, genuine individuality, and an ethical life. Unification pure and simple is the true content and aim of the individual, and the individual’s destiny is the living of a universal life. His further particular satisfaction, activity and mode of conduct have this substantive and universally valid life as their starting point and their result.”

    This is what Aritotle meant, when he defined man as a political animal; the polis is to man what the hive is to the bee.

  • T. Shaw says:

    “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force; like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” George Washington, Farewell Address

    And, politics essentially is coercion, force, and fraud.

    Foxfier: I’m putting on my Obama-worshipping idiot tin-foil hat: “If you think you pay enough taxes, you hate jesus! Why do you think the governments money should subsidize you and your children?”

  • Foxfier says:

    THAT’S why it sounded familiar! Hegel is the guy Marx ripped off, right? (Well, “the” guy might be a bit too generous to Marx….)

    From that quote, Hegel could be right, or he could be horrifically wrong, depending on the definitions used and the assumptions brought to the table. Sometimes both… the idea of the state as a separate thing from those in it can be a useful fiction, but it’s still just collective action. (here and now, anyways; European gov’ts these days give me a headache, let alone way back when)

    From the boots-on-the-ground view, the idea that a person is only truly free, good and right when he’s subsumed into the gov’t is freaky, wrong and a perversion of religious impulse to the state. I’m sure Hegel intended something different from that, though– I’m just over sensitive to loopholes that big for fascism. (speaking of words that depend on how you define them)

    Darwin-
    I forgot to share my purpose-of-civil-marriage reasoning! I know you’re heart broken, so let me fix that:
    Marriage is the best way to make high quality citizens, so the gov’t has an interest in promoting it.

  • Foxfier says:

    T. Shaw-
    I’ve been practicing for when we eventually have more than just the two girls:
    Be nice! My kids will be paying for your retirement!

    (Which has the grain of truth that, even without SS and Medicare, they are the future, and I hope my girls are good enough to help even those who were horrible.)

  • anzlyne says:

    yes WH A marriage and families are the basic ” building block cells” of the community that forms the state

    and i also think of Pogo again with a little adaptation “We have met the State and it is us.”
    I know this is horrifying for some of you– may make your gag reflexes go, but I find it difficult to reconcile being truly libertarian and being Catholic… you can help me out with that

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    Not all jurisdictions link income tax, either to marriage or children.

    In the UK, married person’s allowance was abolished, except for couples where at least one of them was born before 6 April 1935. Where the couple were married before 6 April 2005, the husband qualifies; if they were married after that date, the higher earner qualifies.

    Their reintroduction was part of the Conservative party manifesto. The legislation would have had to address the question of polygamous marriages of citizens or former citizens of countries where such marriages were lawful, at the time they were contracted.

    Parents or other carers do not receive a tax allowance for a child, but all carers do receive Child Benefit, a universal cash benefit paid regardless of income. The amounts are trivial, about $32 a week for the first child and $21 a week for each subsequent child.

    Children with their own income (under a will or settlement) are taxed in the same way as adults, except where the income is deemed to be a parent’s income, under some very complicated anti-avoidance provisions.

    This is before we get on to means-tested benefits, such as working tax credit.

    The French system, by contrast, reflects Republican Natalism. Income tax is steeply graduated in five bands from 0% to 41%. Total household income is divided into a number of parts ( parts familiales.) or shares, one share each for the spouses or civil partners, half-a-share for the first and second child and a full share for each subsequent child. The graduated rates of tax are applied to a single share and the tax payable is that amount, multiplied by the number of shares.

  • Anzlyne says:

    Hi again WH A! Thank you.
    L’etat c’est moi! just kidding…

    I have made this mistake before! a bit of a slow learner… the other related mistake I made was to use my kitchen table terms when talking with people who are more careful with their words than I. In the other instance I mistakenly said that Mary acquiesced in her fiat– I had no IDEA!
    I hesitate to speak of a small part of a body as a cell because of the Marxist implications :) a word like “progress” can be misunderstood; but we can use the word phrase that B16 uses: “organic growth”

    I want also to say how much I enjoy the opportunity to discuss these important matters with you all! Hard to find thinkers like this just anywhere!

    “So to be clear, the People and The State are NOT the same” prob right – not the same, but still, made up of many of the same people. The “government” is not a group of people somehow sequestered from the rest.
    Our idea of hierarchy sometimes upside down– the state gets its life from the people. We can take the reins; not withdraw, not capitulate, not give up what Christianity has wrought in the western world and, in fact, in politics.
    I agree that our State in this time and place has assumed WAY too much… and we need to take back our position of authority over it. In our historic American Republic the participation of the people is necessary and is protected from what may (prob) go awry since government is run by concupiscent people.
    The state is not our enemy, but can be our useful tool. I don’t think of Caesar the way you do because is Caesar was a foreign occupying force, not self governance.

    I am not flying a progressivist flag on purpose–my thinking about life and human societies is conservative… that is because I am Catholic. When I think of good governance, I look to what we can learn from our Faith.
    I do recognize progress in the sequence of history, and also in the growth in our understanding of our relationship to God and with each other. God first covenanted with Adam, (an individual), then Noah (family) Abraham (tribe), Moses (the people of Israel), David, (the nation).
    These various levels of human relationships have varying levels of organization, and there seems to always be a necessary hierarchy. The Bible shows us order and the necessity of authority, at the same time it teaches personal love and responsibility. Of course also the primacy of a good conscience. All the way through we are called to grow individually, socially, morally. You and I agree: society can’t be moral if the individuals aren’t.
    The obedience of faith that St Paul talks about is obedience to Truth… which always works out for our good. like obedience to gravity. That obedience to truth would, as you say, make an extraneous government unnecessary.
    Government bureaucrats too are an integral part of what constitutes The People. That part of our body politic that we entrust with sanctioned force- the bureaucrats, politicians, judges, police etc– probably need to be the BEST among us. wise, prudent, good.

    here’s a quick interesting essay.
    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/06/hegel-and-john-paul-ii

    .

  • Art Deco says:

    Such aficionados are called “Libertarians” and if one believes that reductionism involves defining the boundaries between Fascism and Liberty, then so be it. The State can only subsidize kids by either giving back what it has already taken from the parents, or by giving to the kids what it took from somebody else’s parents, or from kids not yet born who survive State-sponsored eugenics. If The State didn’t confiscate wealth to such an enormous degree by taxing, deficit spending and over-regulation, there would be no need for either deduction or subsidy, as there would be no income tax to begin with. Shall we defend the candy given to us by the tyrant who with his other hand takes the bread from the tables of others? “As long as I get mine” is a morally indefensible strategem for citizenship.

    1. The reductionism I refer to was seeing children as consumer goods.

    2. ‘Liberty’ is a characteristic of a political order that exists in degrees. ‘Fascism’ is a descriptor of a particular type of political economy (albeit a fuzzy descriptor). There is no ‘boundary’ between them. Nor is ‘fascism’ a threat to you and yours that you need to have an interest in apart from a general interest in history or political theory. There are only a short list of countries which ever had that sort of political economy, mostly during the interwar period.

    3. As for the rest, I cannot figure your hostility to a tax exemption or general credit computed as a function of family size, given that an undifferentiated exemption is as old as the income tax itself.

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