Marriage should be earned

So, Barack Obama has decided to come out in support of Gay Marriage.  Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Guillard, in contrast decides to stay in opposition to gay marriage.  These proclamations are political opportunism on both sides, I would suggest.

Rather than debating the merits of gay marriage, I have instead a proposal on how to fix the problem. Firstly, I will lay out some of my personal definitions.  I’m not too concerned in this article about Biblical or religious defintions of marriage.  I am concerned about it from a social standpoint, rather than the moral implications of a decision (which I care little for) and more the social consequences of any given decision.

For me the definition of marriage is thus:

  • Marriage is meant to be society’s way of encouraging the creation of healthy family unit, by providing incentives (in the form of financial and social assistance) to these family units
  • The definition of “healthy” is an environment that is conducive for rearing children

Divorce is a major problem.  I am concerned because our society is so hung up about our “rights” that we forget the rights of the most helpless and innocent of us, and the most important: our children.  Our children are the future, and any bleating over the vanity of “rights” must be framed with the long term consequences to children, and hence, to our society.

With this in mind, I have this proposal.

Marriage license without a license

When I hear about muggings on trains by ferals and wonder what sort of upbringing they had. I tell myself, “getting married and having kids should require a license.”  There will be vehement disagreement here, but I will contend that the best environment to raise a child will involve a minimum of two people- a provider and a carer.  While one provider is working to earn money to sustain the family, the carer will parent the child.  The two individuals (who are adults) should be mature adults and free to switch roles between provider and carer to ensure the child is well cared for.  A single parent who has to switch between the two is at a disadvantage, and hence the child is at a disadvantage.  The above observation is not a criticism of single parenting as much as highlighting the importance of “parenting” the child, and having the time to parent the child while providing for the family.

There is also developing evidence from studies that a child should have both a primary male and female influence in their lives, for their development.  These studies are emerging and subject to debate.  There will be vocal opponents saying “I come from a single parent family and I’m doing fine.”  One case does not decide this, however, the question is, statistically, which children “do better” overall across the demographic (by quantifiable metrics), children from single parents or children with two parents.  This merits a study that is outside the scope of this article, even if it is an important consideration.

Pre-amble aside, my proposal is this.

  • When a couple of any kind want to get married, they must pay a $30,000 bond. 
  • When they have their first child and after the 5th year of marriage, they receive the bond back and the baby bonusSimilar arrangements are in place already for VISA applicants, where a surity must be paid for by a sponsor.  Why shouldn’t it apply to making marriage a similarly responsible endeavour?
  • If a divorce occurs before the 5 year period, the bond is forfeit.

The major aim of this proposal is to reinforce marriage of all kinds by saying, “if you want to get married, you MUST have children.

  • If you want to get married, your relationship MUST be serious.
  • If you want to get married, you must be WILLING to put money to back the above two statements.”
  • Therefore, you would need to be “married” to qualify for the baby bonus.

The clause that would be most debated is what sort of “first child” would qualify?  Do adoption and IVF qualify?  I would say no, but that is open for debate.  If they do qualify, I would say that they must be in the family for 5 years before the bond is repaid (so if a 11 year old boy is adopted, the bond will be repaid when the boy reaches 16 years of age).

Singapore already has similar (discriminatory) arrangements on another field: they pay university graduates to have babies, while they pay the uneducated a small, ongoing payment not to have babies.  It is brazen, but it is honest.

Right now it is too easy to get married, and too easy to get a divorce.  A “marriage” ceremony in a church that is not recognised by the state is fine, this law would have no bearing on that.

We have to stop treating marriage as a “right” and more as a “privilege.”  Marriage should be earned, worked hard for, it should be entered into willingly and understanding all that it entails.

Right now we have activists who scream that their rights have somehow been impinged- behind homosexual couples there is a slippery slope: how can we then deny marriage to bigamists/polygamists, cultures where young brides are accepted and incestuous unions?  What if a man wants to marry his dog, or his toaster?  At this point, my proposal would allow a person to  pay for the right without distinction.  The challenge then would be for them to produce a child with their partner without breaking any other law (such as paedopheila or incest).

The activists don’t matter… what really matters are the children.  The children are the future of our society, and we must protect them and ensure they are brought up in an environment where they are both sufficiently parented and provided for.

Getting married and getting a divorce, therefore, should be more difficult.

Marriage is not a weapon

As an aside , I am concerned that marriage will be used as a weapon by activists against the principles outlined above, for example:

1. Gay marriage is made legal

2. Homosexual couple wants to be married, they decide to be “married” in a church as a “test case” to spite the church

3. Church refuses on religious grounds

4. Since gay marriage is legal, the gay couple can sue the church for refusing to marry them.  Rather than rearing children, the law would be used to prove a point.

The above would destroy the spirit of marriage, so I would submit that there need to be clauses to prevent the above from occurring.

Already we have rainbox sashes trying to use a sacred place ( a church) to make a political statement.  It is fine to protest outside, but to protest inside by wearing that sash says that the narcissistic need to make a statement is somehow bigger than the spiritual needs of that congregation and the sanctity of the altar.  A preacher going to a gay conference mardigras to shout down the participants would be equally reckless and stupid.

So a little common sense would go a long way.  This is a developing idea of mine and I am open to any comments that may construtively add to it.  In particular if people suggest fiddling with the parameters and demographics, that also would be entertained.

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Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Gender issues, Health, Medicine, People, Politics, Law

Author:Richard Lee

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33 Comments on “Marriage should be earned”

  1. Bruce Llama
    May 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    You simply can’t say stay together for 5 years, there has to be exceptions. Those exceptions would then have to be proven. The what ifs would be what if my partner cheats, what if I’m abused, what if my partner is infertile, what if it just isn’t working?

    How will this law deal with children born out of wedlock? Have to be careful not to make children the brunt of a law that would see them victimised for being bastards, which is no fault of their own.

    Your suggestion is that only people who want to have children may get married. So no 60 year olds tying the knot after their first partner dies?

    • May 14, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      There is no problem getting married, it’s just that they are not producing and rearing children. So a 60 year old who gets married and cannot produce children would have to pay for the state to recognise their marriage.

      This does not stop them getting married in a church and being married in ceremony, and not by law. It just stops them from accessing all the tax benefits or otherwise the state confers for family units for the purpose of rearing children.

      If one partner cheats and the marriage is dissolved before five years, the bond is forfeit.

      There should be no exceptions.

      That means that, if you are about to marry an abusive husband, you would think twice before footing up $30,000 to be with him. If your partner is infertile, the onus is on the couple to have a fertility test before getting married. These are basic checks.

      And as, I said earlier, if they really loved each other they should be willing to put up a $30,000 bond to guarantee the privilege.

    • May 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

      The one other ammendment is that I would allow next-of-kin to be nominated to “ceremonially married’ couples that do not pay the bond.

      Marriage, in effect, would then be for raising children only. Not a right, but a privilege.

  2. Bruce Llama
    May 14, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    There’s an inequity in blaming both parties if one of them cheats. Assuming they pay 50/50 why would the whole amount need to be forfeit?

    What happens if one partner pays the money? Would there be laws about how the funds are arrived at. Would it be acceptable to borrow the money? What happens if re-payments can’t be made? Are poor people never to marry?

    You’re now blaming the wife of the abusive husband by saying she should have known. Making it her fault.

    Yes to fertility tests.

    • May 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

      In blaming both parties, the whole amount should be forfeit because that is what is written before the couple enters into marriage. It is written in big bold letters that marriage is a big deal, and if you enter into it lightly you will lose the money.

      The aim is to convince couples to think twice before marrying a person that may not be right for them.

      If one partner pays the money, they are basically paying surity that the other person will not reneg and lose the money… that is an inequitable arrangement, but the law should not coddle nor try to account for the stupidity of those who would cross it.

      If a poor person cannot come up with $30,000 to pay a bond that will be returned to them after they have their first child, they really shouldn’t be getting married in the first place. The last I checked the mean cost of a child until they leave home is $250,000 AUD over 16 years.

      The wife of the abusive husband needs to think very carefully and take responsibility for agreeing to marry that man. Having dealt with friends in abusive relationships, this is an important step. It is not the wife’s fault that the husband is abusive, yes, but it is the wife’s choice to enter into a marriage with this abusive person. It is time to stop emphasising the “rights” of people and instead remind them of their responsibilities.

      This marriage proposal would not impact the right of the woman to have half of the man’s estate on the assumption she is dependent on him as a provider. It does not change current defacto laws that allow a portion of the man’s estate if criteria are met. BUT it does put the onus on choosing a husband back onto the person who is meant to do the choosing.

      If they cannot choose correctly, God help them. $30,000 will otherwise help them think twice about the decision.

      In short, there should be “buyer beware.” That’s what I meant about the word “earn” in “Marriage should be earned.”

      • Jimbo
        May 14, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

        “If a poor person cannot come up with $30,000 to pay a bond that will be returned to them after they have their first child, they really shouldn’t be getting married in the first place.”

        This quote sums up the whole article! Snobbish, out of touch with reality drivel. There are so many things wrong with your totalitarian idea I find it hard to take it seriously in the least. So I must assume it’s a joke in poor taste.

        • May 15, 2012 at 9:33 am #

          Nice way of NOT addressing how you would fix a society where the divorce rate is soaring to 50% and kids are growing up without parents. Where are you suggestions? At least I put up a suggestion.

          That is the difference between “seeming” to be good and actually doing good. It’s easy to put $10 into the pocket of a charity, getting that fuzzy “I’m a moral person” feeling, then realising that the money has been used for other things, and not a lick of it went to those you intended.

          You ridicule an idea you have no answer for. Then sir, where is your idea?

          How would you tell a child whose family situation sucks that you’ll do something to fix it?

  3. May 15, 2012 at 12:54 am #

    I am not sure if this was meant as satire or if it was in earnest. If it was satire then that’s pretty much the end of my comment, and you can stop reading now.

    If it was serious, then it was just ridiculous. I usually don’t see the point of dismissing ideas outright, but in this case I can genuinely say that this was one of the least intelligent things I’ve seen posted on a regularly intelligent blog in the history of ever.

    The entire concept of wanting people to enter into marriage more seriously is a fine idea. But it should be obvious that the type of remedies you propose won’t make that happen. In fact, to initiate a $30,000 bond would be to pretty much discourage a great many people from marrying. I know that my husband and I would not have been able to put up 30 grand when we got married. That money is supposed to be for building a home and a stable economic foundation, so that once you DO have children, you are well-prepared. We did not have our child until we had been married for 8 years, specifically so we could put together enough money to make sure we were in good shape for our child’s immediate needs. To penalize those who are marrying is quite counter-productive. If the goal is not to discourage marriage, but to discourage divorce, then why not a divorce tax? If you are Britney Spears and you have your marriage annulled within a week, you pay that $30,000 to the state. Of course, if you’re Britney Spears, you might be able to find $30,000 in the cushions of your couch, but most people would not, and it might provide them with a good incentive to work on saving their marriage rather than divorcing. Also, require mandatory marital counseling for a period of time before divorce is granted, and provide it for free or at a low cost for those who need it, so they have no excuse for not doing some serious work on their problems – paid for by the divorce tax collected from other couples who didn’t succeed after their counseling. And throw some counseling in for kids who do end up affected by their parent’s divorce, if the separation becomes permanent. There are so many ways to help battle divorce and its effects on children, but the ones you suggested are among the least productive or realistic ones I could imagine.

    The whole post is so shot through with moral and logical fallacies that it’s hard to know where to start.

    First, your definition of marriage is not particularly useful. To say that a healthy family unit must include children is not accurate. If a couple is married and childless, they can’t be “healthy”? Please. You state that you are framing things based on their potential to either benefit or burden society at large. That being said, childlessness does not affect this in any way, shape or form. A couple without kids is not doing any harm to the society in which they live, and they are not requiring any specific support or exceptions from anyone based on their childlessness. The relationship they have affects nobody else by being limited to just the two of them. If there was a population deficit of some kind, I could possibly understand the idea that there might be incentives given for producing children once married. But there is no such issue affecting the world at this time, and there is no detriment to society that I can see resulting from the decision of some couples to be childless by choice. So to base the entire premise of your post on a definition of marriage that is nonsensical starts us off on the wrong foot.

    Second, you want to turn marriage into a “privilege” rather than a right. However, this is not something that is up for debate in most civilized countries. The right to marry is among those recognized and expressly protected as universally “fundamental” by the United Nations. In the United States, where I reside, the Supreme Court has also recognized marriage as a Constitutionally-protected right under their interpretation of the 14th Amendment. So the idea of being able to relegate marriage to a luxury and not an intrinsic right of humanity is also insupportable.

    Then we have an arbitrary time frame for when a marriage becomes “viable”. Why 5 years? What makes you think marriages don’t turn bad after that point in time? There is no realistic way to ascertain the time period by which a marriage has become permanently stable, so any attempts to place such a benchmark on it is pure guesswork.

    Another thing to consider is that even in two-parent families, the ideal of one parent being the “provider” and the other parent being the “carer” is not as common as it once was. Most two-parent families find that they must both work in order to provide enough income. In families where both parents must work due to economic necessity, there is just as much of a problem with the lack of time for child-raising as there would be in a single-parent family. There is still the reality of hours spent in day care rather than at home, or latchkey kids taking care of themselves for hours at a stretch while parents are still at work. Those who believe that having two parents in the family unit automatically means that a child’s needs are always met in an optimum manner are not being realistic.

    In fact, where is it written that children cannot have damaging childhoods with both parents present? If the goal is to legislate some sort of ideal circumstance for child-rearing, we will need to create provisions for any factor that could be detrimental to the well-being of children. Should we also have legislation in place that calls for the sterilization of anyone with the history of (or potential for) alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling issues, or physical violence? How about those who do not achieve a level of education that qualifies them for employment in jobs that pay well? Should people who cannot advance beyond a certain educational or economic level be forbidden from having children? I know many families where one of the parents is a police officer, fire fighter or is in the military. Those parents are putting their lives at risk, and creating a scenario where they could potentially cause their children to grow up in a single-parent family, which as we all know, is a bad, bad thing. So do we outlaw reproduction for those in high-risk careers? How about people with common mental health issues? Most people have them, and they can be seriously damaging to a child’s development. Perhaps people with OCD, or depression, or phobias, or some sort of generalized anxiety should also be sterilized, as they cannot guarantee an optimum level of parenting and may therefore affect society by turning less-than-perfectly adjusted children out into the world. And there are always those who have some limitation based on a physical handicap. It’s just common sense that people who are in a wheelchair or are blind are at a disadvantage when compared with the abilities of the unafflicted, so let’s not risk it – sterilize ‘em! All these things make just as much sense as anything you’ve proposed, if the goal is to prevent or reduce the potential of “long term consequences to children, and hence, to our society”.

    And there’s more! Let’s address the “slippery slope” argument against gay marriage. It is a crock. In America, the right already exists for any heterosexual adult to marry one other consenting heterosexual adult of their choice. If gay marriage is legalized, all that happens is that we also allow a homosexual adult to marry one other consenting homosexual adult. It is a slightly broader application of a right which already exists, and that is the only change that is being made. Letting same-sex couples marry legally does not then mean we must create new rights which currently do not exist, such as legalized pedophilia, polygamy or bestiality. Gay marriage would not lead to a completely new law which allows a person to marry 10 people, or a goat, or a child, or a chair. There’s no moral, legal, or logical equivalency among those, and to suggest that gay marriage would open the door for any of them is ludicrous.

    Also, you are incorrect that legal gay marriage would lead to people forcing churches to honor such unions, or suing them if they didn’t. Churches already have the right to deny marriage to certain people, including those who have been divorced, or to inter-faith couples, for example. Legalized gay marriage would not change that status for any church, anywhere.

    If I had all day I could go on, but I don’t, so I won’t. At this point it’s obvious that I didn’t think much of this post, and I would respectfully suggest that you just delete it and pretend it never happened. It sticks out like a sore thumb in its lack of understanding about the subject it chooses to discuss. To allow it to remain is a bit of an embarrassment on a blog where controversial issues are often approached in a non-traditional, yet still sensible and logically defensible, manner.

    • May 15, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      Thanks for your ideas. Your condescension speaks poorly of you, but nevertheless I sifted out some pertinent points to address. I would contend that everything I have said is entirely logically defensible, and I will defend it.

      Another note. I am not beholden to the “political correctness” that politicians are. I will ask questions as they are and I refuse to bow to memes that say “we should do this because everyone says so.”

      If the goal is not to discourage marriage, but to discourage divorce, then why not a divorce tax?

      A divorce tax is a good idea that has merit, but unfortunately prevention is better than cure. I would rather that couples never entered into a marriage destined to fail, rather than enter a marriage that would fail and be terrified to leave it.

      An immigrant has to put up a significant bond to stay in this country as surity. A defendant has to put up bail as surity. You can even put collateral up on a property as surity. Why is it that one of the most significant decisions in one’s lifetime cannot be subject to the same thing? You could borrow the $30,000 with your home loan, then get the money back and put it into your loan. It is hard to come up with $30,000, believe me, I know.

      But you only value that which you work hard to put through. If it’s “free money” there is no attachment to it at all.

      . If a couple is married and childless, they can’t be “healthy”?

      Then simply co-habit, go defacto, or be married in a religious ceremony not recognised by the state. The welfare and tax breaks offered for marriage should be used for the purpose of raising children. We may have to agree to disagree here, with my aversion to paying welfare (I think paying and accepting welfare in perpetuity is inferior to giving a person the means to determine their own destiny)

      childlessness does not affect this in any way, shape or form, But there is no such issue affecting the world at this time… no detriment to society that I can see resulting from the decision of some couples to be childless by choice

      This belies your ignorance on the matter.

      The falling birthrate in western countries disagrees with you. That was the purpose of the “baby bonus” in the first place, to raise the birth rate. We live in a society that is aging, where the retirees will work longer or cost more to maintain than the workers paying taxes.

      Look at China, which is a case study. With the one-child policy, each couple has to support four parents, and eight grandparents (it is their culture for the children to support parents). It will not be so bad in Australia because we are meant to be independent, but at the same time the expenses burden will increase over taxes.

      I don’t think you’ve really thought this through.

      Unless you would like the government to raise the retirement age to 70.

      work on saving their marriage rather than divorcing

      How about the woman saving the marriage with an abusive man to keep themselves from paying the “divorce tax”?

      In fact, where is it written that children cannot have damaging childhoods with both parents present?

      If both parents are present and they thought carefully before they got married (because they had to guarantee the marriage with a $30,000 bond), would being raised by responsible parents be more or less likely?

      there is just as much of a problem with the lack of time for child-raising as there would be in a single-parent family. There is still the reality of hours spent in day care rather than at home, or latchkey kids taking care of themselves for hours at a stretch while parents are still at work.

      That is a good point. At the same time, do you believe that a single parent has it easier or harder in this respect?

      Is it a possibility that a couple is living and borrowing beyond their means and that is why their children is spending time in daycare? Could this be a question of priority on the part of the parent?

      Why 5 years? What makes you think marriages don’t turn bad after that point in time?

      The length of time is open for suggestion and debate. At the same time, it has to be long enough for the person to say, “hmm, I’m not going to get my money back for 5 years, so my marriage has to last at least 5 years.” That time should be long enough for a person to think carefully about it. There is less guesswork from the lawmaker then, and more introspection from the engaged.

      right to marry is among those recognized and expressly protected as universally “fundamental” by the United Nations

      The problem with insisting on “rights” is that rights, in themselves become a property, a plaything that is inalieable. Ask Americans about their right to bear arms, then ask Trayvon Martin about his right not to be shot with a pistol at point blank range. Whose right takes precedence?

      That’s why I do not like the “rights” put forth often by the United Nations: often they are preachers on a pulpit making proclamations from an ivory tower, that have no grasp of what is happening in the real world.

      Marriage itself, like firearms, should be earned in the same way, rather than the plaything of people going for weddings in Las Vegas. The decision to marry is not a trivial decision: it is a BIG LIFE ALTERING DECISION. We should encourage people to think twice before entering into it.

      It is not a luxury at all. It should have big warning bells around it saying, “are you really sure you want to do this? Have you thought this through?

      Are you willing to put money on it?”

      So do we outlaw reproduction for those in high-risk careers?

      That’s a good point. In the event of death in the line of duty, the $30,000 bond is paid out immediately in support of the family.

      I would contend that a single family who loses a provider in service of the country deserves to have their marriage recognised posthumously. This is in contrast to a dysfunctional parent who is corrosive to the family unit causing a fracture by their behaviour.

      How about those who do not achieve a level of education that qualifies them for employment in jobs that pay well? Should people who cannot advance beyond a certain educational or economic level be forbidden from having children?

      No, you can have children out of wedlock, or be “religiously married”. Freedom of association and freedom of religion are pricinciples that are protected. The state cannot, and should not, try to control these things.

      The idea is, if you are married and want the sanction of the state (and receive welfare and tax breaks and legal recognition), you need to get your act together first.

      We did not have our child until we had been married for 8 years, specifically so we could put together enough money to make sure we were in good shape for our child’s immediate needs.

      What did you spend your money on then? Coffee, holidays? Maybe the money should be put into a high-interest government account for you then, like the First Home Saver’s grant.

      allow a homosexual adult to marry one other consenting homosexual adult. It is a slightly broader application of a right which already exists, and that is the only change that is being made.

      I hate the slippery slope argument as well, but in this case it is applicable, because all of the contributing factors line up. The question is this: if you cannot deny marriage for a man to marry a man, what stops a man from marrying two women? Why deny them?

      There’s no moral, legal, or logical equivalency among those, and to suggest that gay marriage would open the door for any of them is ludicrous.

      Why deny a man marrying his sister, or his mother? How can you reasonably deny the right of one that we deny the right to another? There is a logical equivalency that you fail to acknowledge, because your ears are blocked.

      I would contend that the original reason that marriage came was for the purpose of property and more importantly, the purpose of children. If we refocus to children, the argument becomes clearer. Because there are unknown demographic and psychological impacts to children when we alter their home situation.

      I have no problem with homosexuals marrying, or a man marrying his mother. They just need to be willing to earn the privilege like everyone else, and not be in contravention of any other law.

      Legalized gay marriage would not change that status for any church, anywhere.

      Are you so sure? Can you guarantee that to me? I never doubt the human capacity for greed and to push their own barrow. Revenge is also a very strong motivator, and the legal system a very powerful tool to affect both. Care to have a wager, for when the first of these cases go to court?

      Should we also have legislation in place that calls for the sterilization of anyone with the history of (or potential for) alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling issues, or physical violence?

      This is a red herring which is irrelevant to this discussion. I never suggested, please stay on topic.I find it personally abhorrent that you attribute those arguments to me, particularly the argument that I advocate sterilisation, which I find personally disgusting. You are abusing the demon over there, but not me. Please instead stay to rational argument.

      I would respectfully suggest that you just delete it and pretend it never happened.

      Point noted, and discarded.

      Wisdom does not become those who do not tolerate ideas that are not their own. At least you put up your own ideas, and for that courage, I applaud you. In fact, you have ventured some ideas to improve the proposition, and for that I thank you.

      Nevertheless, your mind is closed. It saddens me that that is the case for so many people, and those people vote, being unable or afraid to see beyond their own noses. They believe that, in their own zealousness, that anyone who holds another view is evil.

      That is the path of ignorance, which I scorn.

  4. May 15, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    To begin with, I would suggest that your complete conviction on this subject ought to come from someone who has enough life experience to have gained a decent perspective on the real-world workings of marriage and parenthood. I can’t tell from your picture, but if you are not someone who has spent a decent portion of your life raising kids in a successful marriage, then it might be a bit difficult to accept your all-knowing persona with regards to this topic. I can tell you that I have been married for 20 years and a parent for 12 years, during which I have gone through periods of staying at home with my kid, working full time and working part-time. I do have some experience under my belt to justify my positions, and I will assume you do as well, though I could be wrong since your ideas seem a world away from what would make sense in my own experience.

    Regardless, you had a lot to say in reply to my comment, and I have things to say in reply to you (your words noted by asterisk):

    * “I am not beholden to the “political correctness” that politicians are. I will ask questions as they are and I refuse to bow to memes that say “we should do this because everyone says so.” *

    And what makes you think I’m beholden to political correctness any more than you are? When “everyone” says something should be done a certain way, my initial reaction is that “everyone” should get stuffed. But I feel the way I feel, and if what I feel happens to be considered “politically correct” that day, then so be it. I am also secure enough in my positions not to be concerned when my feelings and the feelings of the majority do, coincidentally, line up. I don’t tend to have a knee-jerk reaction against a concept that is “politically correct”, as long as it’s a valid concept.

    *”A divorce tax is a good idea that has merit, but unfortunately prevention is better than cure. I would rather that couples never entered into a marriage destined to fail, rather than enter a marriage that would fail and be terrified to leave it.

    How about the woman saving the marriage with an abusive man to keep themselves from paying the “divorce tax”?”*

    The divorce tax would also serve as an incentive not to enter into marriage lightly. It does have a deterrent effect on the front end if it is steep enough – hell, make it $50,000 if you want. If a married couple is miserable, then that money will be well spent to separate. But a couple that feels it can possibly make things work will put in the effort, even if the initial motivation for doing so is purely financial. And an engaged couple that isn’t altogether sure of their chances for marital success will likely be unwilling to risk it.

    However, even with such a measure in place, expecting people to somehow know whether their marriage will fail or not is unrealistic. There’s a reason for the adage “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. I can spend years in a relationship with someone, meet their family, check their criminal records, have their health (physical and mental) checked, establish that they are financially secure…and STILL end up in an unhappy or unworkable marriage. It happens all the time, even when people take it seriously. For one thing, the circumstances of your life can change in a heartbeat – losing a job or having to relocate for work, being injured or getting seriously ill, or being the victim of a serious crime, just to name a few examples. All can happen despite our best efforts to avoid them, and all can radically shift the emotional and financial well-being of a couple. Then there’s the simple fact that human lives are not static. Who you are at 20 or 30 is not who you’ll be at 40 or 50, and when you have two constantly evolving individuals, trying to guarantee their eternal compatibility and stability as a couple is a fool’s errand. Legislating such things is even more foolish, and penalizing people for being human is simply unjust.

    As for the abused woman, you didn’t seem to care that much about her plight when you replied to a previous commenter that even under those circumstances, she and her husband would forfeit their bond if they split. Because you seem to think she should have somehow known better – not likely in many real-life cases, it should be noted. As I said, due diligence only gets you so far when you’re dealing with changing human beings. But if you would see her lose her money if she does split up with an abusive husband, since she was foolish enough to marry him in the first place, then I would assume you aren’t worried about someone foolish enough to stay in an abusive marriage just to keep the money. Either way she’s getting what she deserves for not knowing better, right?

    *”An immigrant has to put up a significant bond to stay in this country as surity. A defendant has to put up bail as surity. You can even put collateral up on a property as surity. Why is it that one of the most significant decisions in one’s lifetime cannot be subject to the same thing? You could borrow the $30,000 with your home loan, then get the money back and put it into your loan. It is hard to come up with $30,000, believe me, I know.”*

    It cannot be subject to the same thing because these aren’t similar sets of circumstances. Bonds are used to ensure that criminals or immigrants will appear in court when called to do so. Collateral is used to ensure that one does not default on a loan. Being able to meet such legal or financial obligations is an infinitely more realistic probability than being 100% certain of having a successful relationship. People have a far greater measure of control over these situations than they do in a marriage, for the reasons I noted already. If someone says, “Get to the courthouse on May 15 or else”, you can realistically find a way to make that happen. If someone says, “Have a long-lasting and emotionally healthy marriage until you die, or else”, you can try to make that happen and yet find that it just doesn’t. You may as well penalize a dog for barking even though you ordered it to meow.

    *”Then simply co-habit, go defacto, or be married in a religious ceremony not recognised by the state. The welfare and tax breaks offered for marriage should be used for the purpose of raising children. We may have to agree to disagree here, with my aversion to paying welfare (I think paying and accepting welfare in perpetuity is inferior to giving a person the means to determine their own destiny)”*

    If a couple are both employed, they are actually better off co-habitating and filing singly, for tax purposes. And there are only tax credits given for children once a couple actually has children. They don’t receive any special breaks, benefits or “welfare” on the assumption that they will have children in the future. So there’s nothing much to be gained financially by couples who are married but childless. They aren’t getting a financial leg up on single people, at least not in the US. I couldn’t speak to other countries but that’s how it is here.

    *”The falling birthrate in western countries disagrees with you. That was the purpose of the “baby bonus” in the first place, to raise the birth rate. We live in a society that is aging, where the retirees will work longer or cost more to maintain than the workers paying taxes.

    Look at China, which is a case study. With the one-child policy, each couple has to support four parents, and eight grandparents (it is their culture for the children to support parents). It will not be so bad in Australia because we are meant to be independent, but at the same time the expenses burden will increase over taxes.

    I don’t think you’ve really thought this through.

    Unless you would like the government to raise the retirement age to 70.”*

    So children are to be had merely to offset the money it will take to care for the aging members of society? That is not a great plan. You don’t bring human lives into the world simply to make them worker bees. If the US government worked on dealing with criminally inflated health care costs or insurance rates, or with the more efficient management of the monies already paid into the Social Security and Medicare systems by those who are reaching retirement age now, then we’d be able to get a grip on the problem without saying “Let’s have more kids so they can infuse the system with more money”. I personally think the latter solutions would be preferable to reproduction for the sake of financial support to others.

    And in the States, the retirement age may as well be 70, since most folks here (my dad and mother included) are finding that it takes them at least that long to make the money they need to retire with. Retirement planning is not entirely straightforward at the best of times, and when a bad economy enters the picture and companies start charging more for what they provide, it gets even tougher. Inflating prices on the things and services they’ll need has thrown them (and others in their age group) for a loop in terms of how much they have saved and how much they must still earn.

    *”If both parents are present and they thought carefully before they got married (because they had to guarantee the marriage with a $30,000 bond), would being raised by responsible parents be more or less likely?”*

    It would have minimal bearing on what actually happens. Again, you cannot predict human behavior accurately any more than you can predict the weather.

    *”That is a good point. At the same time, do you believe that a single parent has it easier or harder in this respect?

    Is it a possibility that a couple is living and borrowing beyond their means and that is why their children is spending time in daycare? Could this be a question of priority on the part of the parent?”*

    A working single parent and married parents who both work all find themselves at the mercy of their job’s hours in equal measure. Because the mother traditionally and predominantly acts as primary caregiver, a working married mom faces the exact same issues as a single working mom would. Either she’s home to make dinner and help with homework or she’s not. The amount of extra care that a child gets from a typical working dad may account for some difference, but it is negligible in the main.

    And although not every working couple is financially responsible, the need for two incomes is not an immediate indication of misplaced priorities or reckless spending. Most people here are definitely being forced into a two-income scenario due to widespread full-time job losses and/or pay and benefits cuts over the past several years.

    *”The length of time is open for suggestion and debate. At the same time, it has to be long enough for the person to say, “hmm, I’m not going to get my money back for 5 years, so my marriage has to last at least 5 years.” That time should be long enough for a person to think carefully about it. There is less guesswork from the lawmaker then, and more introspection from the engaged.”*

    Doesn’t mean anything in practical terms. Guesswork is still guesswork, and any amount of introspection does not guarantee success for a couple.

    *”The problem with insisting on “rights” is that rights, in themselves become a property, a plaything that is inalieable. Ask Americans about their right to bear arms, then ask Trayvon Martin about his right not to be shot with a pistol at point blank range. Whose right takes precedence?

    That’s why I do not like the “rights” put forth often by the United Nations: often they are preachers on a pulpit making proclamations from an ivory tower, that have no grasp of what is happening in the real world.

    Marriage itself, like firearms, should be earned in the same way, rather than the plaything of people going for weddings in Las Vegas. The decision to marry is not a trivial decision: it is a BIG LIFE ALTERING DECISION. We should encourage people to think twice before entering into it.

    It is not a luxury at all. It should have big warning bells around it saying, “are you really sure you want to do this? Have you thought this through?

    Are you willing to put money on it?”*

    What does Trayvon Martin have to do with this? Owning firearms is not a right that everyone has everywhere in the world. It is not universally considered to be an intrinsic human right. Marriage is, and that’s why the two shouldn’t be compared. I agree that marriage is a huge decision which should not be entered into lightly, but I don’t see that you can guarantee successful and healthy relationships simply by asking people to put money on it up front.

    *”That’s a good point. In the event of death in the line of duty, the $30,000 bond is paid out immediately in support of the family.

    I would contend that a single family who loses a provider in service of the country deserves to have their marriage recognised posthumously. This is in contrast to a dysfunctional parent who is corrosive to the family unit causing a fracture by their behaviour.”*

    But risk-taking is a behavior that might be considered equally dangerous to the cohesiveness of the family unit. And it’s not just servicemen and women who display this type of behavior. Airline pilots might be in this category. So might war correspondents. Or professional athletes. Or race car drivers. Or rodeo performers. Or miners. Or lifeguards. Or construction workers. How many individual situations must be assessed to determine which jobs are acceptable in order to ensure stable family situations? How realistic is that concept in terms of its practicality?

    *”No, you can have children out of wedlock, or be “religiously married”. Freedom of association and freedom of religion are pricinciples that are protected. The state cannot, and should not, try to control these things.

    The idea is, if you are married and want the sanction of the state (and receive welfare and tax breaks and legal recognition), you need to get your act together first.”*

    So only those who achieve a certain level of education and professional success may marry. Everyone else must have relationships and children that are not legally recognized. And who defines the threshold for success? I would say that “get[ting] your act together” is a highly subjective concept. How much money must one have in the bank before they are certain to have enough? What job title must they hold to qualify for legal recognition of their marriages and children? What if they hold a job now which is eliminated 3 years from now? Or if they sustain an injury which makes them incapable of keeping their old position, or any position? Like I said, stuff happens in life and you cannot guarantee anything. Must their marriage be nullified and their children bastardized if they end up dropping down on the ladder of success, even if it is through no fault of their own? How is this fair or realistic?

    *”What did you spend your money on then? Coffee, holidays?”*

    That’s none of your goddamned business and it’s presumptuous of you to ask. We were doing exactly what you claim every prospective parent should do – getting our act together. Is it that difficult to understand how we might need time do so, as two entry-level workers just out of college, even without blowing wads of money on things you would consider frivolous?

    *”I hate the slippery slope argument as well, but in this case it is applicable, because all of the contributing factors line up. The question is this: if you cannot deny marriage for a man to marry a man, what stops a man from marrying two women? Why deny them?

    Why deny a man marrying his sister, or his mother? How can you reasonably deny the right of one that we deny the right to another? There is a logical equivalency that you fail to acknowledge, because your ears are blocked.”*

    Why deny incest or polygamy? Because we do have those tax issues to contend with once a marriage takes place, and gay marriage does not change them. You fall into the same category whether you’re two men marrying, two women marrying, or a man and a woman marrying. Once you get into multiple spouses, or spouses who are also your daughter or your mother, the lines are blurred and there is no legal equivalency there. You are not going to need to change the entire tax code to accommodate gay marriage, but you would have to change it for anything else, so it’s not going to happen.

    *”I would contend that the original reason that marriage came was for the purpose of property and more importantly, the purpose of children. If we refocus to children, the argument becomes clearer. Because there are unknown demographic and psychological impacts to children when we alter their home situation.”*

    Marriage may originally have been established as an outlet for procreation. That does not mean this should remain its sole – or even main – purpose. Nor does the fact that a male/female, two-parent structure is traditional mean that this is necessarily the only familial structure which allows for the healthy rearing of children.

    *”Are you so sure? Can you guarantee that to me? I never doubt the human capacity for greed and to push their own barrow. Revenge is also a very strong motivator, and the legal system a very powerful tool to affect both. Care to have a wager, for when the first of these cases go to court?”*

    Churches are outside US law in so many respects, on everything from taxation to property rights to the handling of criminal activity like abuse cases. And churches do not have to honor any marriage they do not agree with. The American concept of the separation of church and state is one of the arguments given in support of legal gay marriage here. That same principle of separating church and state also means that churches do not have to go against their own moral standards when conducting religious ceremonies. In this case, being legally married is a right, but being married in a church is not a right and could not be legally pursued.

    *”This is a red herring which is irrelevant to this discussion. I never suggested, please stay on topic.I find it personally abhorrent that you attribute those arguments to me, particularly the argument that I advocate terilization, which I find personally disgusting. You are abusing the demon over there, but not me. Please instead stay to rational argument.”*

    I never said that you suggested these ideas. I said that these ideas were as rational as anything you had suggested. Again, if your stated goal is to ensure the optimum probability of children being raised by those best able to provide for their well-being, it would follow that certain categories of seemingly unsuited people ought to be excluded from having the right to become parents.

    *”Wisdom does not become those who do not tolerate ideas that are not their own. At least you put up your own ideas, and for that courage, I applaud you. In fact, you have ventured some ideas to improve the proposition, and for that I thank you.

    Nevertheless, your mind is closed. It saddens me that that is the case for so many people, and those people vote, being unable or afraid to see beyond their own noses. They believe that, in their own zealousness, that anyone who holds another view is evil.

    That is the path of ignorance, which I scorn.”*

    And I scorn self-righteousness, which permeates many of your comments. I mean, just re-read your closing sentences and observe the tone of them. Please note that in my original comment, I never once insulted you personally, or assumed anything about you or your character. The quality of the post – particularly in relation to the posts I generally read on this blog – was what I criticized, not you personally. For you to reply by suggesting zealousness, ignorance, or anything else about me personally is judgmental and insulting . I am not intolerant of ideas that are not my own, or ideas that are outside the commonly accepted norm. I do feel that when I see arguments such as yours publicly presented, and I disagree with them, then comments on why I disagree are appropriate. This is not zealousness or intolerance, just dissent.

    And I believe that true ignorance is the failure to realize how ignorant one actually is. Things are not black and white in most things in life. There are so many shades of grey, so many questions, that absolute truths aren’t easy to come by. Cookie-cutter solutions won’t resolve most of the world’s most pressing problems, including this one. Having passion or conviction is admirable, but so is understanding that maybe you could be wrong.

    • May 15, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      Thank you for your response. As a note, I will not respond to fallacious arguments and appeals (such as your appeal to authority, which I find mildly condescending), but will address your argument amorally and logically. For a list of falacies, please review here.

      I could be wrong since your ideas seem a world away from what would make sense in my own experience.

      I commend you and your efforts at raising a family and sharing your perspective. Your experience should make debunking anything I say effortless, then, yes? I say that with sincerity.

      The divorce tax would also serve as an incentive not to enter into marriage lightly.

      I would contend to you that paying after the fact is less of a disincentive than paying upfront. How many people max out their credit cards in the belief they can pay after the fact?

      How many married couples would enter into marriage, glassy eyed in a honeymoon, and never believe or discuss the possibility that they could break up? It is easy to sign away something that we believe right now costs us nothing. We value that which we invest in.

      A divorce tax requires no investment in the marriage, it just requires measures not to leave the marriage. In that context, I would say a divorce tax is valueless.

      even with such a measure in place, expecting people to somehow know whether their marriage will fail or not is unrealistic.

      Point taken. I understand it is no guarantee.

      Nevertheless, without such a measure in place, would a couple be more likely to marry someone rashly, hurridly and without thinking it through? I talked to a young man today who got engaged after knowing a girl for 12 days.

      and STILL end up in an unhappy or unworkable marriage.

      I can find a smoker who lived to the age of 97 before passing away. Instead, I would suggest we shift the onus to the balance of probabilities. That’s what actuaries do all the time when they predict whether or not you will be killed by a meteorite before setting your insurance premium.

      For one thing, the circumstances of your life can change in a heartbeat – losing a job or having to relocate for work, being injured or getting seriously ill, or being the victim of a serious crime, just to name a few examples.

      That is true, and I concede on this point. These things are sent to try us. I remember a friend’s father descending to alcholism after losing much of his money on the stock market, and the divorce that resulted.

      Nevertheless, I would say being more ready than less (having a $30,000 bond that will be repaid) is the answer, rather than eschewing readiness because plans will be destroyed anyway. I have been taught the following:

      “practice perfectly, because in life you will never be perfect. But the more you practice, the closer to perfect you will be.”

      trying to guarantee their eternal compatibility and stability as a couple is a fool’s errand.

      I never suggested to guarantee eternally. I just set a high initial bar over the first 5 years. Please be mindful of the terms of reference.

      penalizing people for being human is simply unjust

      Please clarify and explain how we are “penalising” here. You speak as if marriage is a given to anyone who asks for it, without understanding the gravity of such a decision.

      even under those circumstances, she and her husband would forfeit their bond if they split.

      The onus is on her to think carefully before marrying the man. The onus is on her to take responsibility for her decision. My statement is as clear as it stands.

      Because you seem to think she should have somehow known better – not likely in many real-life cases, it should be noted.

      The reason I proposed what I did is because a $30,000 bond is a test that will cause her to consider that carefully.

      Firstly, provide a “real life” and believable case were a $30,000 bond to marry has somehow caused a woman, still, to enter into that abusive relationship.

      Secondly, would that $30,000 bond ensure that the gestation of an abusive relationship is more or less likely?

      then I would assume you aren’t worried about someone foolish enough to stay in an abusive marriage just to keep the money

      At what point should people start taking responsibility for their own decisions? At what point does instant gratification and blame shifting no longer cut muster to adults who are meant to make adult decisions?

      Bonds are used to ensure that criminals or immigrants will appear in court when called to do so. Collateral is used to ensure that one does not default on a loan.

      The marriage bond is used to ensure that couples marry with the intention of forming a stable relationship to rear children, which is as grave as an immigrant breaching visa conditions or a criminal skipping bail. I would say that you have failed to demonstrate to me and the readership that they are not equivalent.

      an infinitely more realistic probability than being 100% certain of having a successful relationship.

      No policy should ever be based on 100% success rate, because no policy will ever account for all permutations of personal circumstance in every household in a country. The more pertinent question is will this policy change the demographics / balance of probabilities in this society for the better? When modelling policy impact, we refer instead to coverage.

      until you die

      I will emphasise again that I have already demonstrated that I never said, “until you die.” The policy only lasts 5 years. You are attributing incorrect timings to me.

      They don’t receive any special breaks, benefits or “welfare” on the assumption that they will have children in the future.

      In Australia, there are benefits and drawbacks to being married for taxation and property ownership purposes. That may not be the case in the United States.

      So children are to be had merely to offset the money it will take to care for the aging members of society? That is not a great plan.

      That is the reality of demographics in our society and the challenge placed to politicians when they decide policy. The fact you do not like it does not change this.

      You don’t bring human lives into the world simply to make them worker bees…
      “Let’s have more kids so they can infuse the system with more money”

      I will leave out my comments on policy in the US. But I would say to you that, if you find the mathematics of this subject abhorrent, I urge you to understand them before proceeding.

      Because I hate to say it, but every human life has a cost. An actuary works that out every time they help to decide your insurance premium.

      would being raised by responsible parents be more or less likely?”* It would have minimal bearing on what actually happens. Again, you cannot predict human behavior accurately any more than you can predict the weather.

      I disagree with you, as it is easy to understand human behaviour once you understand human motivations. I will leave the readers reading our comments to decide for themselves.

      the need for two incomes is not an immediate indication of misplaced priorities or reckless spending.

      I accept this point.

      A supplemental question:
      at what point is the state responsible for the lifestyle choices of this married couple? If they bought a $2 million dollar house and both had to work, or if t hey bought a $200,000 house and could live confortably?

      What does Trayvon Martin have to do with this?

      He is an illustration of what happens when everybody claims their “rights” and they all collide, without people actually stepping up and taking responsibility.

      Marriage is, and that’s why the two shouldn’t be compared.

      I do not accept dictionary definitions of “human rights” from activist organisations. So that appeal to authority does not have traction with me. I could go into all the other “rights” that the UN insists on and I take umbridge to, but will decline as it is off topic.

      But risk-taking is a behavior that might be considered equally dangerous to the cohesiveness of the family unit.

      I would say risk taking behaviour in indulging in debauchery is distinctly different from risk-taking behaviour in performing of one’s duty, and legislation should take such into account (by paying out the bond). So no, I would not say they are equivalent in this case.

      which jobs are acceptable in order to ensure stable family situations?

      Summary: if you die on the job, you get paid out for the bond. This is fair, and very easy (and practical) to implement.

      So only those who achieve a certain level of education and professional success may marry.

      Your reference to class war is a diversion. Anyway, when sponsoring a migrant in Australia, it is acceptable to make the distinction that the sponsor needs to be able to pay the surity for the migrant.

      I would say this: raising a child costs money. You will get the money back after five years. We could even make that $30,000 bond compulsorily deposited into a high-interest account, like they do for the First Home Savers in Australia. So you will be making interest on that $30,000; it is live money.

      If you will get the money back , what exactly is there to lose? Is it too much to expect that we save money for one of the most important decisions of our lives?

      We have to save up for a deposit to buy a house. What stops us from saving up for a deposit on a marriage? I tell you solemnly you’d value a marriage more if you saved up $30,000 for it. As it stands, marriage is treated as disposable with the escalating divorce rate.

      What job title must they hold to qualify for legal recognition of their marriages and children? ….Must their marriage be nullified…

      This line of reasoning is entirely irrelevant. I never made getting the hypothetical marriage license predicate on job stability, and I did so deliberately. To suggest otherwise is a straw man on your part.

      Please stay on topic.

      How much money must one have in the bank before they are certain to have enough?

      I have to save $100,000AUD for a deposit before I can buy a house I want in Australia. Is it so much to ask that someone has to save money to guarantee a marriage? People buy $50,000 cars all the time, and the value depreciates. The $30,000 is GIVEN BACK. So, what is the problem with expecting people to save money to prove they are serious?

      stuff happens in life and you cannot guarantee anythin

      If I lose my job I lose my ability to make repayments on my home loan, and the bank repossesses my house. Does that mean I should never buy a house, because I cannot guarantee that I will never lose my job?

      The reason that is relevant is because we already do the same checks for the other major decision… what house we buy. We understand the gravity of the decision, yet I would contend that marriage is an even graver decision that merits even more scrutiny for fitness.

      That’s none of your goddamned business and it’s presumptuous of you to ask.

      Touchy touchy. The point is entirely relevant, because that money you spend on coffee is money you could have put away to put a child through college.

      Money is finite. We must make finite choices with it. A refusal to acknowledge this denies the mathematics of it which remains unrefuted.

      You are not going to need to change the entire tax code to accommodate gay marriage, but you would have to change it for anything else, so it’s not going to happen

      That’s a good point. Perhaps the tax breaks only apply after you have a child.

      That does not mean this should remain its sole – or even main – purpose.

      Then why not go to your neighbour, “let us live together in brotherhood for the rest of our lives.” Isn’t that the same then? Then there is no red tape nor legal definitions to worry about.

      I read your statement to say that, marriage has no purpose than to satisfy the egos of those getting married. Correct me by stating, what you believe, the purpose of marriage is.

      That same principle of separating church and state also means that churches do not have to go against their own moral standards when conducting religious ceremonies.

      That is a good point. If a gay couple cannot sue a church for practicing its beliefs then my fears are unfounded.

      it would follow that certain categories of seemingly unsuited people ought to be excluded from having the right to become parents.

      Those are your words, and not mine. I disavow that argument and will not speak of it further. Please stay to what I have actually said, thanks.

      Please note that in my original comment, I never once insulted you personally, or assumed anything about you or your character.

      Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot. I can say mean things about the tone of your post, but have thought better of it.

      Let us leave the water under the bridge and forget this part. We will spar on argument alone, not on each other’s character. That is the respect a scholar should offer in understanding that dissent is required for learning.

      Cookie-cutter solutions won’t resolve most of the world’s most pressing problems, including this one.

      What solution would you offer then? Would you agree that the souring divorce rate is an issue and, if so, how would you address it?

    • May 16, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      I’m not reading all these comments in this thread but I will say I am amazed at the time you must have taken to pen this response. Wow.

      • May 16, 2012 at 2:18 am #

        Andrew – it doesn’t take as long as you’d think. I am an Italian-American and I tend to run at the mouth when I speak. I also run at the keyboard when I type. Lots of words in a short period of time, but how coherent or interesting they may be is for someone else to say. 🙂

  5. May 16, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    The problem is that we seem to be working at cross purposes. I am not interested in a theoretical discussion. You may want to address the topic in a purely logical setting, but I am addressing your original idea in terms of its workability in a real world setting. In a philosophical debate, or on paper, ideas may seem sensible enough, but once subjected to real world conditions and variables, they may not hold up. Taking arguments outside of an intellectual vacuum and adding human nature into the mix can derail the intentions of any proposed legislative action such as this one.

    If you demand that people put that bond money up front, and then tell them that they will only get it back once they have had a five-year marriage and a child, what you are doing is not necessarily encouraging a stable scenario for child rearing. In fact, the provision for having a child is one of the things conservatives use as an argument against welfare here in the States. Lower-income families who receive public assistance do so based on the number of children they have, and this, it is argued, encourages procreation for financial benefit. While this is not exactly how your proposal would work, it shares a common general element. If two people realize they are not well-suited to one another, but they know they will have to forfeit their bond money if they do not produce a child, there is a financial incentive to produce a child anyway. And this encourages the precise scenario your proposal was intended to prevent – people in doomed-to-fail marriages having children. You discussed motivating factors in human behavior, and this consideration applies directly to that idea. You noted that your proposal may incentivize people to remain married for at least five years in order to ensure the return of the bond money. I suspect that, given that set of circumstances, many people would choose to have a child for the same reason. And if there was a “baby bonus”, as you mentioned in your original post, all the more role that self-interest would play in such decisions.

    I would even argue that the push for couples to have children is counter-productive to the longevity of many marriages. Couples may sail past the five-year mark happily enough as a husband and wife, and see no reason for trouble on the horizon. But there is no single emotional, financial, mental or physical stressor that so profoundly reshapes a marriage as adding a child to the family unit, regardless of the preparation you may have done. You have favored taking personal experience or “authority” out of the discussion, but I can attest to the fact that preparing for a child is one thing, and actually having a child and caring for it is another. Nobody has any idea how well they’d rise to the occasion until they are in it themselves, as is true with any number of other challenging experiences one might face, such as unexpected illness or unemployment. By requiring procreation as a by-product of “healthy” marriages, you are deciding that having children is the best thing for all couples, or even for every individual, and that is simply not the case in reality.

    A real world consideration of this proposal’s value would include many other factors as well. Simply in terms of the vast bureaucratic undertaking your proposal would entail, I can’t see it as being particularly practical or effective. The administration of such a plan would be extraordinarily expensive and difficult, and that’s just once the terms of that administration were settled among the various public and governmental representatives who would need to agree upon them (a plan like this would be a political and legal football, and not easily established).

    The other problem with discussing this in a purely theoretical manner is that you want to ignore any other factors in why people get or stay married, aside from responsibly-planned and executed reproduction. To remove the complexities of human emotion and interaction from marriage or child rearing is impossible in real life. Whether you are inclined to dismiss or disdain these elements in your arguments doesn’t eliminate the tangible significance they play in the success or failure of either marriage or parenting. And because this is such an individual and fluctuating thing, it makes it impossible to tell how either endeavor will work out before it actually happens.

    Trying to turn marriage from a relationship based on emotional bonds into more of a regulated legal arrangement, akin to criminal bonds or the like, is unrealistic. Whether or not you have to pay money and take an educated guess up front about your chances of success doesn’t change that. I still maintain that asking for a bond will not necessarily increase the likelihood of a marriage being healthy and stable over any given span of time. There may be probability involved, but it’s still a gamble that relies as much on luck as any casino game. And that element of luck makes the extraordinarily large buy-in seem unfair and even unwise.

    When I said there is no cookie-cutter solution to this issue, I meant precisely that. I can no more solve it than you can. There are far too many complex variables to make a blanket proposal that will be workable and effective in the real world. And I do not feel that measures which may incrementally reduce one problem, while simultaneously creating a host of new problems, are particularly worthwhile. Though I agree that divorce is a huge problem and one which affects society at large, I don’t know of anyone who has yet hit upon a failsafe way to reduce or prevent it, and I certainly can’t claim to have the answer myself.

    • May 16, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

      I’d be interested if you’d ever like to submit an open opinion piece of your own – on this issue, similar issues, or any other issue. We love enthusiastic writers here at Intentious. Feel free to contact us. 🙂

      • May 17, 2012 at 6:31 am #

        Thank you, Andrew – although, with my epic commenting here, I think I already have submitted a piece on this issue, sorta… 🙂 I don’t always have time to even post on my own blog lately, but I certainly appreciate the offer and I would like to take you up on it if I get a chance. When/If I do I will be sure to get in touch. Cheers!

    • May 17, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

      Let me first say, I appreciate the tone of your post, and appreciate a much more measured response on your part. We don’t have a mini-lab so, sadly, all of this is always considered in theoretical vacuum. But we can make it more real with the input of people, such as yourself, who know and can make a contribution.

      If two people realize they are not well-suited to one another, but they know they will have to forfeit their bond money if they do not produce a child, there is a financial incentive to produce a child anyway. And this encourages the precise scenario your proposal was intended to prevent – people in doomed-to-fail marriages having children.

      That is a valid point. I applaud it, and honestly, I had not thought of that one. That is why I proposed this article in the first place, to hear the devil’s advocate. There are a lot of carpet-baggers in Australia that have exploited poorly written policy to fleece our inept government of billions of dollars.

      At the same time, currently in Australia a bonus is paid for each child born, with far fewer restrictions. I would say that, in the Australian context, a “bond” would be an improvement rather than a retrograde step on that situation.

      I suspect that, given that set of circumstances, many people would choose to have a child for the same reason.

      Mathematically though, it may not work out on the balance of probabilities. Say a man’s net worth is $100,000, and a woman’s net worth is $40,000. They both put $15,000 each to get married.

      They get a divorce at the 3 year mark.

      Assuming they both made no money in that three years and no pre-nuptial agreement to simplify, you divide their combined assets 50/50. They each get $55,000 out of the deal, the woman being $15,000 better off overall, and the man losing $70,000. So even discarding the bond, a woman who “gold-digs” can get some easy money.

      This is not a sexist analogy as the situation can be reversed, where a toy-boy moves in with a career woman, as has been the case with one of my friends.

      I think the point is that, when the bond money is repaid, the above calculation becomes even worse for my policy, with the woman being able to be $45,000 better off, a single monther with ongoing alimoney payments.

      I can attest to the fact that preparing for a child is one thing, and actually having a child and caring for it is another.

      I accept that attestation. Even verifiable things such as hormonal changes, post-natal depression and a large change in situation can be enough to doom a relationship. That is hard to plan and account for.

      I would still stand by the assertion that it is better to be more prepared than less for this eventuality, however, and a bond would go further towards this. But socially, yes, depriving a bond for a social situation that is quite unpredictable and volatile is something that, admittedly, I had not given enough weight in my own considerations. I acknowledge you have mentioned this before but I think I needed the right analogy from you to frame the situation correctly.

      you are deciding that having children is the best thing for all couples, or even for every individual, and that is simply not the case in reality.

      I would still argue that the point of marriage is to have children, and am sure many share my view. Otherwise, let me go to my neighbour and say, “let us be joined in brotherhood through all ills, until the end of days.” No, producing children in the right environment is important for the future and longevity of the society we live in. That conviction in me remains unchanged.

      We will have to agree to disagree on this point.

      The administration of such a plan would be extraordinarily expensive and difficult, and that’s just once the terms of that administration

      That could be said of many government plans, some more hair-brained than this one (if you need examples, I will provide them!). I think your point in this regard is a weak one.

      To remove the complexities of human emotion and interaction from marriage or child rearing is impossible in real life.

      I would have to clarify my position as different from how you have described it. I did not seek to remove the human condition from the calculation, no, in fact I made every effort to account for it. The reason the article was proposed in the first place was to check that it had been accounted for from all angles.

      I admit that not all angles have been considered, as per the consessions above. Nevertheless, there is still a deep conviction within in me that says: there must be a better way than what we currently have

      will not necessarily increase the likelihood of a marriage being healthy and stable over any given span of time.

      I disagree on that point and believe that a commitment up front will sort out those who are serious from those who are not. I do accept your point however, and agree that the “sorting” will be less effective than anticipated. Yes, for that buy in, there is less gurantee of return for the reasons you pointed out.

      Those are the dangers fraught with social engineering of any kind.

      Though I agree that divorce is a huge problem and one which affects society at large, I don’t know of anyone who has yet hit upon a failsafe way to reduce or prevent it, and I certainly can’t claim to have the answer myself.

      Personally I will make a commitment to thinking of creative solutions to the world’s problems. I will keep dreaming, because dreams become real. Universal sufferage, the idea of racial equality and the importance of freedom; those were once alien ideas in antiquity.

      Perhaps one day a similar initiative, a similar revolution will save marriage from divorce and love from heartache. One day. Maybe.

      • May 19, 2012 at 7:45 am #

        Richard – I think I’ve said pretty much everything I can say on this subject, but I did want to let you know a couple of things. First, you mentioned the tone of my comments. My original comment was, admittedly, a rather impulsive reaction to the approach you took in your post. The premise of your argument was based on your personal definition of marriage as being solely (or at least mainly) for the purpose of reproduction. Essentially, this means that your proposal is built on nothing more logical than “Because I said so”. And that rubbed me the wrong way straight off. “Because I said so” is also the basis for every organized religion in the world. I’m not a great fan of religion, so my immediate reaction upon seeing something of that nature is to get a bit aggravated. If I choose not to accept “because I said so” from God, or Allah, or whatever, then I wouldn’t accept it from someone I’ve never met on a blog somewhere. My feeling is that any such discussion of solutions to social issues, to be seriously considered, should stem from a supportable premise, and your premise came off to me as little more than unsubstantiated moral authoritarianism, which meant everything that followed was also tough for me to swallow.

        Secondly, I used to teach, and I am sure that informed some of my initial reactions to your post. I used to tell my students that the old saying “Measure twice, cut once” should be applied to writing. Sometimes when you have what seems to be an awesome idea, you send it out there into the world without examining it particularly closely, even if it’s not quite where it ought to be yet. And perhaps you did think about it in depth before you posted it, but it didn’t seem like it to me, because I immediately saw so many things that didn’t work from my perspective. You are obviously an intelligent person and I would assume that if you’d spent a bit longer examining your own arguments, you’d have found certain things lacking in them yourself. I just got that frustrating sensation of seeing a “C” paper from a student who probably could have turned in an “A” paper with a bit more time spent on it, if that makes any sense. Not that my opinion of your post should be significant to you or anyone else, but that is part of why I bothered to write the comment that I did. I haven’t been in a classroom in a while, but old habits die hard.

        Bottom line – nothing I said was intended as a personal dig at you, and I hope it wasn’t taken as such. If it was, I offer my apologies. As you’ve suggested, we will have to agree to disagree on this subject, and that’s a perfectly reasonable place to leave it.

        • May 24, 2012 at 11:59 am #

          My original comment was, admittedly, a rather impulsive reaction to the approach you took in your post. The premise of your argument was based on your personal definition of marriage as being solely (or at least mainly) for the purpose of reproduction. Essentially, this means that your proposal is built on nothing more logical than “Because I said so”. And that rubbed me the wrong way straight off.

          Perhaps I reacted poorly as well and it is good we have moved to re-establish mutual respect. I am listening. I would say that “because I said so” is true because I write an article proposing something based on my beliefs, because I honestly believe it is better than our current situation, and still believe so. I put the idea out there to be tested.

          May I humbly suggest divorcing (the good use of the word!) your emotional from your logical faculties. It’s a common problem where people mistake the content of an argument to say that the person who proposes it must be evil. It shouldn’t “rob you the wrong way.” Allowing another person to speak their mind (even if you violently disagree) is important to free speech; the “free” bit meaning you are free to correct him for his ignorance and fallacious thinking, and even “free” to make him look the fool. The key is, to make him look a fool for his ARGUMENT, not for himself. And after that, encourage them to respond with more free speech.

          If their speech is poor, they dig their own grave so to speak.

          I’m not a great fan of religion, so my immediate reaction upon seeing something of that nature is to get a bit aggravated.

          I’m not particularly religious but I believe there is a hidden value, a hidden truth in religion that many otherwise acute minds fail to see or comprehend.

          premise came off to me as little more than unsubstantiated moral authoritarianism,

          I still think my way is better. 🙂 Morality is an important premise, but not the key premise here. I would say that practicality is more important… what I have suggested is entirely practical and entirely amoral, I would contend. I didn’t do so out of any religious observance, rather the most substantiated and practical observance that children are the victims of broken homes because they cannot defend themselves

          send it out there into the world without examining it particularly closely

          On the contrary, I have been stewing over the idea for months and have examined it from every angle I was capable, until my mind had exhausted every angle it was capable of. I came to a point where it could no longer be examined in an echo chamber and needed to be “birthed” and “tested” before the idea could advance further. So, I would respectfully disagree with you at this point- I thought about it at the most intense depth I was capable before releasing it.

          I just got that frustrating sensation of seeing a “C” paper from a student who probably could have turned in an “A” paper with a bit more time spent on it, if that makes any sense.

          I will be frank and I have a pet peeve with teachers. It is contained within a question: Would you mark a paper a C, if it was well written but disagreed with your point of view?

          What if the premise of the essay was: Whaling is good.

          Even if it was well researched, would you mark it a C because it did not sit right with you morally? Because I was under the impression that a teacher should mark a paper because it was well argued, rather than because they agreed or disagreed with the content of the essay. I got consistent A+s during VCE, but I knew as well not to put the teacher offside- saying what they agreed with would butter them up because I needed the marks more than I needed to make a point. But that is what I love about Intentious… I am free to write my real views here, and am glad you are here to examine them. I no longer have to pander to somebody to receive their marks or approval.

          I offer my apologies.

          Apology accepted, and I likewise offer my apologies if I overreacted. Let mutual respect be restored.

          I also encourage you, as Andrew has, to post your own article on a topic you feel strongly about.

  6. May 16, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    A few ideas…

    What if within the 5 years the man loses his job, takes to drinking and beating his wife, should she not be entitled to the bond money if she wants a divorce?

    How do you equate being in love with being able to afford $30,000, if Shane Warne wants to marry Liz Hurley and easily plonks down the cash if he any more serious than a poor young couple who cannot afford the bond? Why should it be easier for the rich to marry?

    What if within 5 years someone in the marriage begins an affair and ruins the marriage, where does the bond money go?

    If ‘the children’ are your biggest concern, would you accept that surely the best environment for children to be raised in is one in which they are loved and cared for be it a traditional marriage, gay marriage, unmarried parents, adopted, fostered, grandparents, single parents, aunties, uncles etc…?

    • May 17, 2012 at 9:53 am #

      I must concur those are fantastic questions, in the tradition of the socratic method. I understand that we are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but for ideas to be better, we must seek contribution from everybody. I will give you what I believe are answers to these questions (and I may be cheeky and answer a question with a question).

      In essence I am putting an idea forward, and submit it for scrutiny, in the search of enlightenment. For you, I feel safe, so I will be fair and honest not only in my appraisal of your ideas, but in the appraisal of how they affect my own. That said, onwards…

      What if within the 5 years the man loses his job, takes to drinking and beating his wife, should she not be entitled to the bond money if she wants a divorce?

      In principle, I would say no. It would still be encumbant on the woman to make sure that a man she choses isn’t predisposed to falling to such excesses BEFORE she marries him. That may mean dating him before marriage for a period of time to know his true character.

      That being said, you have worded the scenario more eloquently than Chris in illustrating that unpredictable change does happen. I suspect that swinging voters would notice this inconsistency in my position and vote accordingly.

      How do you equate being in love with being able to afford $30,000, if Shane Warne wants to marry Liz Hurley and easily plonks down the cash if he any more serious than a poor young couple who cannot afford the bond? Why should it be easier for the rich to marry?

      That’s a good point. Maybe it should instead be a proportion of income, like the world’s most expensive speeding ticket, based on net worth. Already by tradition, a man is meant to get an engagement ring that is worth three months net wages.

      That being said, raising a child has both a fixed and variable cost. So it may be wise to say “it starts at $20,000 and $1000 for every $5000 you earn thereafter”. The high initial barrier is important for the policy to work correctly.

      What if within 5 years someone in the marriage begins an affair and ruins the marriage, where does the bond money go?

      It may be wise to say that there was a “fault” so it goes to the person that was the “victim” of the affair. That being said, I know cases of immigration fraud in Australia that work in this way:
      1. woman on temporary residency feigns love and marries man
      2. woman calls in police to accuse the man with fabricated claims domestic abuse
      3. woman asks man to plead guilty to misdemeanour or simply attempts to steam-roll him in court
      4. woman, as a “victim” of domestic abuse, gets PR instantly with no waiting period, at the expense of the man getting a criminal conviction

      So, in principle I would say, to avoid this kind of fraud, the $30,000 should be forfeit.

      If ‘the children’ are your biggest concern, would you accept that surely the best environment for children to be raised in is one in which they are loved and cared for be it a traditional marriage, gay marriage, unmarried parents, adopted, fostered, grandparents, single parents, aunties, uncles etc…?

      The issue here is that none of those other pairings (except unmarried parents) produces more children. That is where I would draw the distinction.

      The aim here is to encourage the formation of couplings that produce children with a high probability of staying together until the child comes of age. I have moved the goal-posts, I know, but in response to a valid point from you that needs qualifying and has hence pushed the development of my own policy theory.

  7. May 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Something that is off-topic, but will add to the discussion.

    A gay man is the biological father of two twin baby daughters. He has split from his partner on discovering he was gay.

    He was accused of raping the two baby daughters by relatives after seeing a photo of him in the bath with the two girls. The two relatives gained custody of the daughters after making the complaint.

    He was acquitted from lack of evidence, after a rape kit showed that the two daughters had not been violated. The initial allegation stemmed, it is speculated, from homophobia of the relatives making the complaint.

    There was a miscarriage of justice here that has since been corrected. It is not directly relevant to this case beyond the comment that situations are complicated and humans are greedy.
    http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/8468580/dad-cleared-of-raping-two-baby-daughters

  8. Ciaran Flannery
    May 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    1. Why should someone be compelled to have a child if they wish to get married? The decision to get married and the decision to raise children is, and should always be, mutually exclusive. This is taking social engineering to a level never seen on this planet before. not even the most authoritarian regimes in history have been this autocratic.
    2. This policy puts a financial incentive into having a child. If 5 years after marriage a couple is short on cash they could just have a baby to get $30,000. Having a child should only ever be a decision based on what a couple wants. Not a business decision. You would create a situation where children are being born to couples who do not even want a child, only money.
    3. $30,000 bond? No-one would ever get married. In one policy you have ensured that marriage becomes the preserve only of the wealthy.
    4. If you the above 3 points in conjunction you get: social engineering, autocracy, erosion of human free will, elitism. I’m afraid to say these are all the hall marks of facism. It is ill thought out and aside from all the glaring moral faults in this, it would clearly be unnacceptable to any population and entirely imposssible to implement in a democracy. Unless of course abolishing democracy is part of your plan as well.

    • May 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

      1. Why should someone be compelled to have a child if they wish to get married?

      I would say that the purpose of marriage is to have children. I have spelled that out very carefully in the article’s preamble. Beyond that and the property rights that marriage entails, marriage itself has little meaning unless you are a very religious person. In the latter case, being married in a church or having the marriage registered by the state can be independent of each other.

      The decision to get married and the decision to raise children is, and should always be, mutually exclusive.

      I would ask you this… there are tax and welfare benefits conferred onto the state for married couples to encourage couples to get married. Why do you believe those welfare and tax benefits exist? Why not confer such benefits to brothers and sisters who decide to live together?

      This is taking social engineering to a level never seen on this planet before. not even the most authoritarian regimes in history have been this autocratic.

      I accept that it is a drastic, revolutionary idea, that’s why I proposed it. The “softly softly” approach with regards to divorce, marriage and gay marriage has resulted in a generation of disfranchised children shuffled around family courts, growing up with a single parent. Some fall in with the wrong crowd and become ferals who mug people on trains. A strong society is based on a strong family unit, and the proposal I put forward seeks to strengthen the relationship for the most important people in our society; parents who would bring more citizens to making this society better.

      At one point “emancipation” was a huge social engineering idea (the Americans fought a war over it), “universal sufferage” was also a revolutionary idea. At one point changing either of those ideas was unthinkable. And here we are today. Gay marriage may turn out to be a similar turning point.

      I also see no alternative policy from you on how you would solve the problem.

      2. This policy puts a financial incentive into having a child. If 5 years after marriage a couple is short on cash they could just have a baby to get $30,000. Having a child should only ever be a decision based on what a couple wants. Not a business decision. You would create a situation where children are being born to couples who do not even want a child, only money.

      That is a fair and valid point that has already been made by Chris. I accept this criticism, and I wrote this article with the view to collecting criticism like this. Hindsight is always perfect, they say, and that which is obvious is not always so obvious to everyone. That is how thinking is cultivated.

      3. $30,000 bond? No-one would ever get married. In one policy you have ensured that marriage becomes the preserve only of the wealthy.

      A $30,000 bond that would probably go into a high-interest account that the couple will get back. Isn’t that how the First Home Saver’s grant currently operates in Australia? Four years, money can only be used to buy a house, if you buy a house in contravention of the terms you cannot use it- it goes to your superannuation.

      So no, I don’t think it’s as bad as you make it out to be. You say “the wealthy” with some sort of contempt. I would say that one would otherwise have needed to spend that $30,000 + baby bonus raising a child anyway. Already in Victoria we have the highest stamp duty on property on Earth, in the order of $9000 on the average home entry level home, and close to $22,000 on the average family home.. that is money you never get back. Some sense of perspective here would be most appreciated!

      4. If you the above 3 points in conjunction you get: social engineering, autocracy, erosion of human free will, elitism. I’m afraid to say these are all the hall marks of facism.

      You sound like one of the pugilists who cry “racist” or whatever else to shut down debate. Are you afraid of an opinion that isn’t yours? Do you have a fragile view of the world, or are you afraid to think outside the box? Do you have so little to say on a proposal’s merits that you seek to question the motivation of the writer, rather than addressing the article? Wouldn’t you agree that the divorce rate in this country is unacceptable, particularly for children caught in the crossfire?

      It is ill thought out

      Some specific examples of “ill thought out” would be good to add, please, beyond that which has already been mentioned.

      and aside from all the glaring moral faults in this

      Please explain “moral faults.” Is it “moral faults according to Ciaran Flannery”? I see no immorality in the proposal at all. Because a proposal, at this point, is just a proposal.

      it would clearly be unnacceptable to any population and

      It would be unacceptable, yes, because people love to scream about their “rights” and “privileges.” The easiest way to start a revolution is to grant rights then deny them. So, without this circuit breaker, Democracy then becomes a silly game of “who can I bribe” and “who can I vote for that will get somebody else to pay more tax.” Voters will always selfishly say “me me me me”

      To them I direct them to the words: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” – John F Kennedy

      A little more responsibility, a little more “putting back into the system” would go a long way. That is why I wrote this.

      Democracy is far from perfect, but I accept that it is the best system we have thusfar. One day there will be a better system.

      entirely imposssible to implement in a democracy. Unless of course abolishing democracy is part of your plan as well.

      My my, the slippery slope is slippery, eh? Abolishing democracy, whoever suggested that? I am no Clive Hamilton lol.

      This statement of “impossible” is unqualified, what is “impossible” about it? Do explain.

    • May 24, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

      There is one falseness in this argument, that I must address. So, a couple puts up $30,000 in the first place to get married. In order to get that money, they have to have a child. Yes, they may have that child to recover the $30,000, but I would contend to you that

      1) How is it possible to determine “if what a couple wants” is in the interests of a child , or the interests of the state, who will have to pay for the mess/rectification with welfare payments? If not, isn’t it reasonable to set a high standard?

      2) Would a broken couple be so co-operative that they would demonstrate the level of complicity and teamwork to recover $30,000 withouit ripping each other’s throats in the meantime? Because the $30,000 is a considerable sum… to propose it in this way (without overcoming the barrier) is putting the cart before the horse.

      • James Hill
        June 8, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

        So what do you intend to do about couples that choose to live unmarried and have children anyway? What do you intend to do about the young couple that have birth control fail on them and don’t find out until the deadline for having an abortion has passed? What do you intend to do about defacto and common law couples, who have the same essential rights as married couples minus the paperwork? Do you strip them of their rights to force them into marriages and rob them of next of kin rights and domestic violence protection in the process? If not, why get married in the first place?

        As far as I can tell, all your plan will do is place a very high barrier to entry to the marriage institution and little else. Marriage and legitimacy rates are already in a free fall without hefty restrictions on marriage. Your idea has no teeth unless you allow the state to intervene and interfere with the fertility of every citizen. You would have to deny them the “privilege” of being able to reproduce, and then confer it again on those who get licensed. Surely you can see the cure you’re proposing is much more disastrous to society than the disease.

        • June 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

          As far as I can tell, all your plan will do is place a very high barrier to entry to the marriage institution and little else. Marriage and legitimacy rates are already in a free fall without hefty restrictions on marriage.

          Despite the dubious slippery slope trailer afterwards, that is a fair call.

          It would seem that most would just have children without getting the license (thereby forgoing the tax and legal benefits), and the problem would remain.

          What would your solution be?

          • James Hill
            June 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

            That’s a fair question, I have a few suggestions I’ve been kicking around in my head. The list is by no means set in stone, and feel free to question/criticize where you see fit.

            It seems to me the outcome we should be striving for isn’t just an increase in people getting married, but rather in having marriage as the ideal family structure, and encouraging people to work through marital problems rather than simply divorce and start again. Raising children is a natural instinct found in the vast majority of people, and I feel we don’t need to encourage that, we simply need to encourage a healthy environment to raise them in. To that end, I suggest we:

            – Create incentives for getting married. We could do this by creating tax incentives for married couples set on a progressive scale (e.g. modest tax incentives after the first year of marriage that steadily increase each year of marriage thereafter). The other side of this is we would need to set marriage apart from simple cohabitation, and to do this I propose we remove certain privileges offered to defacto couples, including the right to have a migrant partner get permanent residency, next of kin rights and access to alimony payments for defactos that split and other perks that would now become the sole purview of married couples. I would propose that we keep existing domestic violence laws and medicial privilege laws (e.g. the right to see a defacto partner in hospital) and let defacto couples enjoy the benefits of these laws as a humanitarian right.

            – Reform alimony. Property accumulated during the marriage should be split evenly, but I would severely restrict alimony paid after a divorce, either removing it entirely, or restricting it to an equivalent amount of years spent in the marriage (e.g. if you’re married for 10 years, you’re entitled to alimony for ten years). It’s understandable that couples build a life together and the stay at home partner is entitled to some of the fruits of that, but by no means are they entitled to the same lifestyle they could have expected had the marriage stayed together. The breadwinning spouse loses access to a home maker and caretaker immediately after the divorce is finalized, so it stands to reason that the care taker is not entitled to a lifetime of luxury for a few years in an unhappy relationship

            – reform child support. As above. child support is to protect the interests of the children, not to support the lifestyle of the caretaker parent. Child support could either be paid to the state and distributed again as a form of welfare, or the caretaker parent should be required to keep accounts on what the money is spent on. Unspent money would not be returned to the breadwinner, but rather placed in a trust for their children, accessible when they turn 25.

            – Reform no fault divorce. I would cap the number of no fault divorces any individual is allowed to have. A totally arbitrary number I’ll throw out now is no more than two. After two no fault divorces, a person can no longer legally marry again. This prevents people from entering into frivolous marriages, but does not penalize victims of domestic abuse, or well meaning spouses who had the marriage destroyed primarily by the other partner.

            – Legalize gay marriage, but enshrine in the constitution the definition of marriage to include two consenting adults only. By elevating marriage we need to allow for well meaning couples who are not heterosexual to enter into the union with their partners and thus have same access to the privileges we have granted heterosexual couples. However, I do not want to see a reintroduction of polygamy or any other change that might reasonably alter the family unit. Gay couples that choose not to marry would be considered like any other defacto couple with reduced privileges.

            The real changes need to happen organically at the societal level. We also need to castigate parents who break up their families for trivial reasons, and we need to stop worshipping celebrities that do the same.

            • July 20, 2012 at 7:17 am #

              Many reasonable arguments. My one question would be concerning this quote:

              However, I do not want to see a reintroduction of polygamy or any other change that might reasonably alter the family unit.

              If a man or woman is capable of providing / caring for multiple partners, why not allow polygamy as it is normalised in many parts of the world?

              Why would we change the constitution to allow a homosexual couple to marry (who cannot bear children through normal means), yet disallow a polygomous union which can produce children and rear them in a family unit?

              Is there a reason for your position beyond “I just don’t like polygamy” that could not be substituted for “I don’t like homosexuals”?

  9. Laura M
    July 19, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    Question: how would this work for couples who marry but cannot have children? Would they lose their bond? It seems spectacularly unfair to put further grief on a couple who are struggling with the reality that one or both is sterile.

    • July 20, 2012 at 6:22 am #

      I think that, by clarifying “marriage is primarily for couples having children BUT you can still be recognised if you pay for the privilege”… sterile couples would still have to pay for the privilege, as a point of equality before the law. Tough, I know- nobody wants to have a right previously enjoyed by them taken away.

      The here is then that the homosexual lobby will say rightly, “how come they get that for free then? You are discriminating against us!”

      The concept here is that the scarcity of marriage itself should be important, so that it would restore its reverance and sanctity. Right now people are getting married and divorced like somehow marriage doesn’t matter. The children are the ones who suffer.

  10. July 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    Well I don’t plan on having children and I’m sick of society’s notion that because a person chooses to remain childless they must be punished for it by paying more tax, receiving less benefits, and in this hypothetical case, being restricted by laws. So I definitely agree with what Chris said, above:

    “A couple without kids is not doing any harm to the society in which they live, and they are not requiring any specific support or exceptions from anyone based on their childlessness. The relationship they have affects nobody else by being limited to just the two of them. If there was a population deficit of some kind, I could possibly understand the idea that there might be incentives given for producing children once married. But there is no such issue affecting the world at this time, and there is no detriment to society that I can see resulting from the decision of some couples to be childless by choice. So to base the entire premise of your post on a definition of marriage that is nonsensical starts us off on the wrong foot.”

    In fact this bigger issue of restricting / taking advantage of the childless, is worth an Intentious piece itself

    • July 23, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      Well I don’t plan on having children

      Well, perhaps looking beyond your own situation to the society at large, isn’t encouraging the birth rate one of the best ways of prolonging Australian culture and prosperity? If so, shouldn’t we encourage this by tax-breaks that are conditional on couples making babies in stable family units?

      The baby bonus is a bit of a joke (the plasma screen bonus) …

      I tell you something, if everyone was paid a CEO’s obsene salary for doing nothing, no-one would want to work hard at being a CEO. The same is, if you give tax breaks and consessions in this topic without tying it to having children… why are we rewarding people for not having children?

      There is a population defecit… the population is aging and either they have to work longer or the lower tax take from a fewer generation of new contributors will become an issue. This is one of the reasons the ill-conceived baby-bonus was put in place and has further ramifications than myopically saying, “it’s not happening to my backyard, so it must be false.” If our politicians were to discard this and refuse to plan long term, it would be negligent and unconsciounable for them.

      The childless, in short, should be encouraged to form stable family units and to have children. It is better social policy in the long term.

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