Subsidising marriage is wrong

The Tories propose giving money to median-income voters who are married, supposedly to ensure children are better brought up.

Chris Dillow explains why this won’t work:

New research suggests that the Toriesproposals to encourage marriage through the tax system would be a wasteful bribe to median voters, rather than a way of improving the way children are brought up.

Granted, there’s evidence that the children of married couples do better – on average – than those from single-parent homes. But correlation isn’t causality. It might be that the sort of people who get married are just better parents than the sort that don’t get married. If this is the case, giving financial incentives to people to get married won’t improve children’s upbringing. It’ll just mean kids live with bad married parents rather than bad unmarried ones.

And evidence from Sweden suggests this is the case. In 1989 a change to rules on widow’s pensions increased financial incentives to marry. The upshot was that 64,000 couples got wed in December 1989, compared to an average of 3000 in normal Decembers.And did the children of these additionally married couples do better than those from cohabiting couples? No.

I suspect intelligent Tories know this, and actually this measure is a cynical piece of electioneering aimed at bribing people with their own money.

Does Cameron count as an “intelligent Tory”? I suspect not, at least not in the sense that he understands the effects of his policies. Cameron is probably not lying when he says he believes this proposal will help children. Because to be lying, you would have to evaluate a statement as being true or false, and repeat it even if you think it’s false. Cameron’s thought processes do not, I believe, go as far as that. He thinks of a policy proposal, then immediately evaluates it not on the technicalities of whether it would work, but merely on whether it would make a vote-winning soundbite. In the words of Tony Blair, Cameron seeks “eye-catching initiatives” with which he can be “personally associated”.

In short, he’s a smarmy glib upper-class scumbag. Bit like Blair, really.

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