Melanie Phillips: the UK should reform the Child Benefit to favor marriage

Dina send me this UK Daily Mail article by Melanie Phillips.


I would say that Child Benefit itself was always a really bad idea, and real reform should get rid of it altogether.

This is because it rewards the wrong thing. It incentivises having children, whereas the state should only incentivise having children in circumstances which are advantageous for society. Since Child Benefit is awarded with the birth of every child regardless of circumstances, it has put rocket fuel behind Britain’s astronomical rate – and rising – of fatherless children born to elective lone mothers.

The rationale for this is, first, that welfare benefits should be focused on solving child poverty. This totally ignores the fact that lone parenthood is itself a major cause of child poverty; and no less important, that even more than material goods children desperately need their fathers.

The second great cry that went up when Child Benefit was first introduced was that benefits for children should be given to the mother alone, because men are feckless no-goods and would only blow such money on drink and fags. And then people were surprised that young men felt marginalised and felt no need to anchor themselves to a wife!

The unmentionable fact is that Child Benefit has been a disaster and should be replaced by incentives for marriage in the tax and benefits system — incentives which in turn do not penalise single-earner households. But that, of course, would require courage to face down the shibboleths of the left.  And that is one thing that the Cameron government shows a near-pathological aversion to displaying.

UK conservatives aren’t very conservative.

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