Two pieces of marriage-related news;
i) Labour MP, Frank Field, has discovered that Gordon Brown has been pursuing a policy of hostile discrimination against married couples in the UK. He has shown that for a lone parent to take home £487 per week, he or she must work for 16 hours on the minimum wage; for a married couple to take home the same amount, that number is 116 hours. Such are the punitive rates of marginal tax that have arisen under Brown's attempts not to discriminate against single parents.
ii) The Law Commission, the government's legal reform body, is to publish new proposals to give divorce-rights to non-married but co-habiting couples. The extraordinary implication of this is that if a relationship ends, one partner can sue the other for a significant part of their estate. No weddings required for the gold digging to start.
Fifty years ago, 90% of 16 year-olds were still living with both of their parents; today that number is 62%. Ian Duncan Smith's think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice, has produced a raft of data showing the harm this does to children. He said that,
"Family breakdown is one of the great drivers for under-achievement in children".
He is right.
But with the Law Commission doing their utmost to prevent relationships from starting, and the government furiously trying to prevent those who do hook up to actually walk down the aisle, is it all worth it?
The Pros and Cons of Getting Hitched
i) In the UK, spouses are exempt Inheritance tax. This kicks in at £300,000 at the rate of 40%. However, in Australia, there is no Inheritance Tax.
Net - get married if you're a wealthy Brit.
ii) Divorce laws are highly beneficial to the non-working spouse.
Net - get hitched if you are a gold digger.
The UK Courts will now even award you a share of your spouse's future earnings if you are very lucky.
iii) Married couples are more likely to remain together. 50% of cohabiting couples split up before their child's 5th birthday; that number is just 1 in 12 for married parents. Though, it is probably more likely that cohabiting parents reflect uncertainty in each other rather than in the institution of marriage.
i) Married couples can only have one principle untaxed residence - unmarrieds can have two.
ii) For those on lower incomes, marriage is excessively punitive (see Frank field example above).
Net - never ever get hitched if you are a low wage earner or a welfare claimant.
iii) The average cost of a wedding has risen to £12,000. Not to mention that African Safari honeymoon for another £8k - call it a round 20 'G's.
iv) British Divorce Laws favour the diggers of gold over the producers.
Net - if you are a Producer, never ever get married in England. If you a Freeloader, insist on a charming English Country marriage.
Not exactly being recommended by the State is it?
The History of Marriage
Some background reading courtesy of the LDP site on Personal Choice,
The oldest evidence of wedding ceremonies date from about 2,300 BC in Mesopotamia. By 2000 BC the concept of committed partnership had spread to the Hebrews, Greeks and Romans.
Contrary to popular belief, the origins of marriage are neither religious nor related to the raising of children. Anthropologists theorize that most primitive marriages were polygamous and had little to do with love, monogamy or religion. Rather, they were a means to expand the land or other assets of a clan, either through the receipt of a dowry or the merger of two clans' assets.
With ownership of property by individuals rather than clans, marriage also became the principal means of ensuring the legitimacy of heirs to whom the property could be transferred. Through marriage a woman became a man's property and her reproduction controlled.
Religious guidelines around marriage were first used as a means of preventing different religious groups from losing wealthy followers by restricting them from marrying into other religions.
As the Church gained power, a priest's blessing became required. By the 8th century, the church used marriage as a ceremony to confer heavenly grace while consolidating earthly power. Only in 1563, at the Council of Trent, was marriage promoted as a holy sacrament.
In Western Europe it was not until the Middle Ages that marriage in churches began to occur. However, church marriages were not the norm until the 17th century and then only for the nobility. Marriage was also used as a tool to unite different royal families' bloodlines, creating alliances that were instrumental in enabling the European monarchies to colonize much of the rest of the world.
A new ideology of marriage arose in industrial countries in the 1800s. Longer life spans, working out of the home, urban living and ideals of equality allowed young couples to experience a period of marriage without young children. This encouraged new criteria for successful marriages: romance, companionship, emotional satisfaction and compatibility.
The role of the government in marriage was negligible until it took on the role of maintaining a register of marriages, a function previously performed mostly by churches. Births and deaths were similarly recorded. In the nineteenth century this began to take on a regulatory aspect. For example, laws that set the minimum age for marriage, stipulated parental consent in certain cases and prohibited bigamy and the marriage of siblings were introduced.
In the twentieth century the government's role in marriage increased dramatically with legislation to manage the ending of marriages, particularly relating to custody of children and division of property.