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February 17, 2007



We are banning smoking in pubs on even weaker statistical evidence. So lets ban single parents just in case.

Laban Tall

"Economics tells us that people commit crime because the benefits exceed the costs. "

Economics is wrong then. SOME people make that calculation, but not all. The difference between a high-crime and a low-crime society is the percentage of people who make that calculation.

You could probably slip a CD into your pocket when you go to visit a friend, without it being immediately missed or connected with you. You could probably steal from your family when visiting. Why don't you ? After all, the benefits (CD) exceed the costs (none). Could I suggest there's something else involved ? We can call it culture.

Given that some cultures will indeed (unlike you) make that rational cost/benefit calc, we can also distinguish between short-term and long term benefits. The short-term benefits to each of us of thieving (when there's no chance of detection i.e. no cost) are obvious. But in the long term, if we all did it, the decline of trust and co-operation would be (and is) disadvantageous to society as a whole, quite apart of the other costs such as insurance, security etc.

Which is a very good reason for 'society as a whole' to try and keep the numbers making that rational calculation as low as possible.

As for "stigmatizing of single parents, the vast majority of whom are doing a fine job" that doesn't really hit the point. The vast majority of speeding motorists don't injure or kill anyone, yet excessive speed is correlated with accidents and death - hence the desire to reduce the number of people who speed.

My main objection to Cameron's 'make the father stay' rhetoric is that these days its usually the woman who breaks up a family. What does he intend to do about that ?

It'll all fall into place when you have kids of your own. And if not, your non-existent children won't inherit your obvious intelligence (I'm a bit dubious about inherited criminality, too - it's upbringing and the wider culture, surely - or how did law-abiding 20s and 30s Brits end up with scumbag great-grandchildren ?).


Mind you, I suspect that we do detect and record all the broken legs.

Jon McManus

The arguement about poverty & deprivation fails, when you look at the 1930s when there was real poverty (such as where is my next meal coming from. Violent crime & burglary where almost unknown in working class areas plus there was hardly any prohibitions on the ownership of firearms. It is all about culture and commonly held values, which have been destroyed.


Did someone mention the awful education issue (and not just poorer kids, in my opinion, but also some of the more middle-class ones)? I wondered where my hobby-horse had gotten to.

That's the big issue for me. I don't buy this lefty concern about collapse of skilled jobs; people managed not to be committing so many crimes in times of worse personal economic deprivation before. Life's hard, wait while I wipe away the world's smallest tear. As I mentioned in the other thread (or maybe I just linked to it), as an evil conservative, my uncaring and harsh attitude to life's roadkill is predicated on the fact that people make choices, for good or bad, and they get to own them; if kids don't get the chance for a decent education (because local schools are bad, because their parents are useless, whatever) then their choices are limited by more than just their potentials.

It's never been possible to rely on people being good parents, so it's just a matter of how many bad ones there are; it seems that it doesn't take that many horrible ones to create some serious problems. Kids shouldn't suffer a lack of education for the failings of their parents; sucky parents will still screw up their kids in all sorts of other ways, but you can't legislate for that. Access to a decent education, though, provides opportunity (I say 'access', because you can't force people to take advantage of it) for the future, whatever their other surroundings.


Your post starts well but runs into problems when you say policies designed to favour families would encourage families to stay together, as though that would be a bad thing. Yet everything we know about broken homes and divorce, and I think the case has been proven beyond reasonable doubt, is that divorce has a catastrophic impact on children, divorced women are financially worse off than divorced men and that divorce is a major cause of poverty. The outcomes for never-married broken families are worse still.

This isn't a justification for tax incentives for marriage, which have proven remarkably ineffective anyway. Rather, they buttress the case for significant and far reaching family law reform so as to render divorce too difficult and costly for the majority of people.

None of this indicates that fathers would be 'compelled' not to abandon their wives and children to poverty and misery - they are not after all, 'compelled' as adults to found families and make binding promises to their wives and it isn't too much to ask them as adults to maintain their families and keep their promises.

Rather we should consider wives and children - children! - who are genuinely compelled to divorce and loss of at least 50% of assets and income. Bear in mind that people are divorced against their will all the time - a person cannot stop their spouse from divorcing them against their will.

Any serious divorce law reform would have to remedy this injustice.


What injustice are you referring to Maria? The injustice of being divorced against your will? That's rather a sweeping statement is it not? There may well be unjust divorces, but I can't see ALL contested divorces being unjust to the person being unwillingly divorced.



Being forced to do anything against your will is coercive and an obvious injustice. Forcible divorce is no different - if not worse - in that it also involves qualitative financial losses. It should be treated by the liberal left with the same seriousness as forced marriage.
At the moment we have no idea how many people are divorced against their will, not least because divorce law favours those who initiate divorce.
Two reasonable reforms to divorce law come to mind:
First, people should be able to register an official objection to their divorce.
Second, those initiating divorce should not be treated favourably by the the legal process and the courts.
Thus we would have an idea of how prevalent this injustice is.
In light of the overwhelming evidence that divorce harms children, other reforms should also be considered as a first step.
These would include a ban on divorce for parents of children up to the age of 16.
And or
Giving offspring up to the age of 16 a veto on parental divorce;
A mandatory proportion of parental income, say 35% to be required from the non-resident parent for offspring maintenance up to at least 21;
Offspring to be compensated in financial terms by divorce-initiating parents for any health problems (depression, suicide attempts etc) attributed to the divorce by a health professional.
But these, I stress, are only first steps. Divorce is acknowledged to be too easy, harm children and negatitively impact on society. The law must be reformed, not only to reflect the reality of people being divorced against their will, but to iron out all too common but egregious injustices.


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