Saturday, 5 April 2008

Times: Marriage: it's a class act

[...] the truth is that marriage is coming perilously close to being a matter of class, along with church attendance, home cooking and male employment. This was never so before. As Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, never tires of pointing out, one of the defining characteristics of the underclass is that its members do not marry - that requires a degree of commitment, of emotional and financial stability. Think of the difference between Shannon Matthews' mother with her several children by different fathers, and her grandparents, for whom marriage and jobs were the norm.

It matters. Marriage provides a kind of psychic security for the people in it. Living in a relationship that is, at least in principle, permanent and exclusive means that there's a security as you grow older that the unmarried don't have. And unmarried women being more prone to suicide suggests that you lose that ballast at your peril. There are the obvious, proven, statistical advantages of marriage - you live longer, you're healthier, your children are better educated and happier - but the real benefit runs deeper. It demonstrates we can make binding commitments.

Did I say we've never been here before? The Emperor Augustus took a dim view of the flight from marriage. His solution was a tax on bachelors. Read more
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