Thursday, March 08, 2007

We Know Everything

In the UK recently there has been some debate over the state's role in marriage and the family. The leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, recently backed marriage and the traditional family with a proposal to reintroduce the married couples' allowance (because obviously they hold marriage in such high regard they think people will hook up if you knock a few quid off their tax bill).

Then Tony Blair and John Hutton (Work and Pensions Secretary) came out. For the family that is.

So everyone loves the traditional family, the nuclear family.

Well, no. Alan Johnson (Education Secretary) came out in defence of single mothers and modern models of the family (e.g. cohabitation).

My first reaction was, "This again? Leave it alone Dave -- don't you remember the debacle of 'Back to Basics'? Anyway, not all marriage is a good thing. Sure, there is evidence that stable families raise stable achieving children, but there is also evidence for the less traditional models as well. The only thing the state should do is protect our property, our civil liberties, and our rights. And to help the most vulnerable. And to create equal opportunity and equality for all. Oh yeah, and healthcare."

Then I thought, "Y’know, that's a pretty liberal interpretation of the role of the state you've got there. A few years ago in the pub you said the state should exist purely to provide me with all the necessary freedoms that I need to provide for myself, my family, and to have a long and happy life? Anything else, you said, is social engineering."

I continued my conversation and it went like this:

Geoff: Surely it’s not the role of government to legislate relationships, but to provide stability and protection within which people can pursue whatever relationship they want with whomever they want.

Geoff: Yes, but look where these permissive attitudes have got us: look at the apparent social breakdown we are experiencing. Marriage is the bedrock of decent society and the springboard from which all wealth and stability flows. You want a stable society don't you?

Geoff: Permissive is not a pejorative you know. I do want stable society, but marriage as an institution should not be encouraged by fiddling with the welfare system. People will marry if they want to, and more importantly, if they believe in it. Marriage tax-breaks penalise people who want to have a choice!

Geoff: Ah, but children do better in stable environments -- an environment which is inherently absent when two people do not commit to each other. Surely we should encourage that?

Geoff: What? You’re talking about marriage as an institution for the procreation of children! That’s not entirely what marriage is about anymore. What about gay people, hmm? Do you think people should only be marrying to have babies? Gay people should be penalised for expressing their commitment to each other?

Geoff: What? No I’m not saying that at all! Jesus, why does it always have to be about gay people with you? I’m just saying that marriage is a good thing generally and it should be encouraged. Statistically cohabitees separate more often than married people divorce. One in two co-habiting parents separate before their child's fifth birthday, compared to one in twelve married parents.

Geoff: This is true, but only really matters if your argument is about children.

Geoff: Well, as a society the argument surely is about children! Look at the gangs of directionless children terrorising communities. Surely a return to traditional family values can be no bad thing?

Geoff: You read the Daily Mail don’t you?

Geoff: Look, I see where you’re going with this; I’m not against gay-marriage, I’m for marriage -- marriage for everyone! I’m just saying that marriage provides a more stable environment for children, and for society as a whole, and it should be encouraged.

Geoff: You’re missing the point old boy. You can't regulate society into the model that you think best. Change is organic, and healthy. There's no place for the state in the bedroom, my friend.

Geoff: You want social breakdown? You want chaos?

Geoff: No of course not, I'm pro-marriage, marriage is an amazing thing -- I'm getting married! I'm just saying there is more than one concept of society, marriage isn't the easy solution to what you perceive to be society's ills. We should be thinking more in terms of the community than 'me'; we need to reintroduce the idea of civic-responsibility; we need to address the enormous gap between the haves and the have-nots; we need to take responsibility for our children, rather than leave them to the school or the state to look after; we need support from the government for social justice, and the betterment of society generally. Laissez-faire government is irresponsible government sure, but ID cards, proscriptive immigration policies, more prisons, rendition?

And your lecturing us about marriage and sex?

Geoff: I bet you’re gay.

Geoff: What? Nice, Geoff. Real mature.

5 Comments:

Blogger Geoff said...

Geoff, you're a political schizophrenic!

1:53 PM  
Blogger Geoff said...

He's right! Let me know who wins!

2:08 PM  
Blogger Bunny said...

You're a loon. And the apostrophe police should arrest you and take away your keyboard for the third to last line. :P

7:09 AM  
Blogger Geoff said...

What are you talking about? Oh, right. Thanks. So go'ing to fire my copy-editor.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday my favorite Welshman. Happy Birthday to you!

11:35 PM  

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