The Spectator

It will take more than a tax break to restore the sanctity of marriage

It will take more than a tax break to restore the sanctity of marriage
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David Cameron told Jon Snow last night that in proposing tax breaks for married couples — whether straight or gay — he was ‘not moralising, not preaching’. His social affairs guru, Iain Duncan Smith, who inspired Cameron’s new family-friendly policy, made the same point earlier in the week.  'It is not about finger-wagging or moralising.' he said.

Sadly, both men meant what they said. Like all politicians, they look for economic solutions to moral problems, for solutions that won’t cause pain and therefore cost votes. 

But here’s the deal: marriage is not typically a financial undertaking; it is a moral undertaking, a legally binding (and in some cases sacramental) commitment to a person of the opposite sex. Until fairly recently marriage was protected by the belief (or fear) that ‘living in sin’ was wrong and that it was desirable and normal for men and women to get married and have children. Hardly anybody thinks like that any more, however; and those few who do risk being sectioned if they speak too freely. That is why people don’t get married. They can have everything they want, gratify all their physical appetites and emotional needs, without embracing all that medieval mumbo-jumbo. Why would anyone want to be bound in law by a commitment that might cramp his future sex life?

But this seems to be lost on Cameron, who professes to believe he can overturn the permissive habits of the past 40 years without overturning, or even amending, the legislation that sanctified them. He thinks everything can be fixed with tax breaks and benefits bungs. It’s laughable.