The results are in on the great liberal destruction of marriage project and it does not look good. As with most liberal policies the losers are the poor. In both the UK and US, the collapse of marriage has been felt most among low-income men and women with devastating results for them and their children.
The Left claim they care about poverty and growing inequality (these are not the same but a debate for a another day). They claim they would like to fix this problem by taxing stuff owned by rich people – including their homes – and giving this money to the poor. This crude redistribution of wealth has not worked before and is unlikely to be effective anytime soon. The Left cannot bring themselves to acknowledge a key cause of growing inequality – the destruction of marriage in lower income groups.
Marriage has held up well in the middle class, ironically the class that can survive best without it. However, lower income social groups and their children have struggled. This week it was revealed that of the poorest million people, 38 per cent of households are fatherless. Most of this, is not as a result of divorce but couples never marrying in the first place.
Alan Milburn’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty report shows that if you are a single mother you are much more likely to live in poverty than if you are married. Predictably the solution proposed was not to stop penalising marriage in the tax system but to implement a host of further State interventions to prop up these struggling families.
However as James Bartholomew brilliantly explained, it is State intervention in the form of the Welfare State that has caused much of this problem. A safety net for families is needed but when the State starts to replace husbands and fathers in the family unit then this is social engineering on a vast and dangerous scale. This is exactly what the liberal feminists wanted when Harriet Harman claimed it cannot be assumed that fathers are a necessary good for the family.
One of the most depressing statistics released this week by the Marriage Foundation is that for many of today’s teenagers reality will not match their hopes and dreams of getting married. Less than half of today’s 20 year-olds will get married according to the research, although I doubt this will be spread evenly across social groups. But three-quarters of teenagers say they want to get married one day.
Sir Paul Coleridge, the former High Court judge who chairs the Marriage Foundation, called for the promotion of marriage ‘by all who are in a position to make a difference.’ We should not believe that those in a position to make difference means only people in power. Culture matters as much as politics and policies.
It is next to impossible for the ordinary man or woman on the street to influence the self-interested, self-obsessed political elite. But we can shape our own lives and influence our children. I believe any social conservative who is interesting in saving marriage can contribute to a pro-marriage culture.
This means extolling the virtues as well as the challenges of marriage. It means,of course, actually getting married when the time is right, and not stomping around the place saying ‘marriage is just a piece of paper, dear, we are stronger than that’ particularly when you know your girlfriend wants to get married.
Now, I am not holding myself up as some paragon of virtue by any means, but every social conservative who cares about the next generation must invest in a pro-marriage culture with every essence of their being. I don’t want my children to grow up living a lonely individualistic life so I try to instil the importance of marriage in them from an early age.
I mourn the wedding that virtually bans young children from the service as you are depriving the next generation of a golden opportunity of seeing what an important occasion getting married is (I realise young children can be a pain in the butt at weddings, I have them, but we must try). It means not criticising your spouse at every opportunity, or to the neighbours. It means not falling for the constant push by the liberal media such as Woman’s Hour to pour pestilence and poison in your ear over how rubbish hubby is at the laundry (even if he is). It means not taking you wife for granted.
Removing the marriage penalties in the tax system is a must. However, a strong marriage culture starts in families, and with married couples themselves. It is a fight we cannot afford to lose.