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Family breakdown — so the emphasis is on changes on tax and benefits so families come together and stay together

If DC thinks a good family is one where the parents stay together for a tax break then he's surely mistaken. I'm all for removing the perverse incentives of the benefits system (e.g., by replacing it with a negative income tax) but the idea that the problem of family breakdown will be solved by taxing single people to provide a handout for married couples is absurd.

With respect, friedmanite, I don't think that's what he's getting at at all. It is far more the fact that many people choose not to actually get married - and therefore often live apart and do certain things seperately - because the tax system encourages them to do so. Cameron's point is that they want to be together, which is better for children, but stay seperate because they get more money.

I'm sorry David, I don't buy it.

Some people may choose not to get married because of the tax implications (though I don't think many people fall into this category) but I don't believe anyone chooses to "live apart and do certain things separately" for this reason--the vast majority will just cohabit, which implies marriage in all but name.

As I said, the situation with the benefits system is different, and I would support root and branch reform there. But you can't get around the fact that using the tax system to incentivize marriage is (a) stupid, and (b) unfair on single people.

In the words of President Bartlet:
"marriage incentives: what a load of horse manure!!!"

Apologies, I am not reading things properly - I'm about to do what appears to be a Gordon-esque U-turn. I fully agree with you on the benefit side of things (which really needs dealing with), I just didn't catch the fact that he specifically mentioned tax. Yes, there needs to be some balancing going on there, and I hope that's all he means. But I'd agree that tax incentives for marriage is a bit off, and as single chap myself, it just seems a bit mean.

Study after study shows marriage to be the best way to bring up children. So I hardly think it is stupid to encourage it - if you want to alleviate 'child poverty' (which I believe means children living in households with low incomes).

Neither is it sensible to disincentivise marriage, and encourage single parents which happens today. That is not only unfair on people who want to commit to each other, but it is unfair on society.

And, whilst we are on the question of fairness, it it not fair to taxpayers to expect them to subsidies broken relationships, where children were produced without a commitment to a long term marriage. And I'm going to use that word because whatever you say cohabiting and marriage are not the same. If they were gays would not be so keen to 'commit'.

But there is one more thing I do think needs fixing outside the tax system, and that is that divorced men need to be treated more fairly. I don't know what the answer is to this one, but this too seems to be a disincentive to marriage for quite a number.

Study after study shows marriage to be the best way to bring up children.

No, those studies just show that children do better (on average) when their parents are married. This does not imply that if people who currently do not choose to get married were bribed into doing so they would make better parents.

The fact that marriage is correlated with better outcomes for kids just means that the type of people who get married make better parents, perhaps because they are more traditional, religious, moral, responsible, or whatever. This would not apply to couples who get married for mercenary reasons.

Neither is it sensible to disincentivise marriage, and encourage single parents which happens today.

As I said, that may be true of the benefits system, but it's not true of tax. I would be against a tax on marriage, but the absence of a tax break for married people does not imply a disincentive to get married.

And, whilst we are on the question of fairness, it it not fair to taxpayers to expect them to subsidies broken relationships, where children were produced without a commitment to a long term marriage

It's no business of the state whether a private relationship is broken or not. There are no subsidies for "broken relationships" that I am aware of.

Having children is in and of itself a "long term commitment" (more so than marriage, in fact) and if people can't see that then I don't think pushing them into getting married is going to make them any more committed.

I still dont get the 24 ringtone thing.

The thing which turned most heads was the abolition of the 10p band. Low council taxes would have been a very small influence.

Labour lost the elections, the Conservatives did not win them.

"This distinction between causes and symptom lies at the heart of the new Tory analysis. ‘What you need is a conservative tool to reach the progressive goal. And that is to solve the cause of the poverty, which in many cases is worklessness, therefore vigorous welfare reform. Or drug abuse — so emphasis on residential rehab. Family breakdown — so the emphasis is on changes on tax and benefits so families come together and stay together.’"

There is a misunderstanding arisng by the conflation of 'poverty'and 'deprivation'. Children are deprived when their parents split up whether they are rich or poor. NuLabour has muddied the waters further by classifying poverty as a percentage of average income. What is required is a Social Capital Index - along with the other 7 neighbourhood indices of deprivation - which is based on the main elements which can be used to measure social capital: the married/divorced ratio, domestic violence, abortion, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection, births outside wedlock, single parents, truancy etc.

"‘If you take the local elections, there was no doubt in my mind that it was easiest to campaign in those places where Conservative councils really did have a record of keeping the council tax down, or at least promising to limit the increase,’ he says. ‘I haven’t done the sums. But I’m pretty sure that the areas where we did best were those where we were able to say: look, we’re in government here, we are helping with the cost of living, we understand your problems and difficulties.’"

What a prize donkey. The Tory leader found it easier to campaign in Tory areas? What a surprise. Even less of a surprise is that he hasn't done the sums. That pretty much sums him up.

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