Re: There They Go, Bad-Mouthing Divorce Again

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

From: Jeff Bone (
Date: Tue Sep 12 2000 - 16:03:14 PDT

Lisa Dusseault wrote:

> In Washington, assets are divided equally.

I didn't say equally. In a dual-income case, asset allocation should proceed
according to financial contribution. Better yet: joint finances are a thorny
mess anyway, simply keep separate finances. (Learned that one cold on the first

> I don't believe alimony is
> granted unless one partner can demonstrate that they relinquished or
> diminished their own earning potential in order to help out the other
> partner; or if children are involved. That it is usually the female who
> stays home and transfers her earning potential to the male, then gets
> reimbursed for it upon divorce, is not necessarily written into the law.

Should be a much simpler way to handle it: if one person stays home to be the
homemaker / caregiver, the other person pays them a salary.

> One way of perceiving marriage is as a package of contracts and relationship
> "interfaces".

I have no problem with that, really. It's just that there's so much prejudice
wired into our body of law *against* those who don't want the standard package.

> Now there's no overwhelming reason why the Married interface must be
> standardized by the government. It does make many gov't and legal tasks
> easier if marriage is a standard interface


> (think of how often gov't
> services and legal status do depend on marriage status: welfare, taxes,
> inheritance, power of attorney).

Why are the first two required? There should be one status: "person" status.
Relationships between persons and contractual arrangements between persons
should exist ala carte.

> It would be much more complicated code to
> have to deal with subtly different interfaces like MarriedCatholic,
> MarriedPagan, MarriedJeffStyle, etc.

Well, boo hoo for the government. ;-) Here's a better suggestion: one
interface between gov't and individual: the Person interface. Has methods
figureTaxes, getNextOfKin, getPowerOfAttorney, etc. All of those return objects
that the implementation is free to designate at will.

> Almost every private employer voluntarily recognizes the standard marriage
> in that if it offers benefits to partners, a civil marriage automatically
> grants that magic partner status.

Don't know why that should be the case.

> > What about the following: let's say I'm in what is generally a
> > happy, lifelong
> > relationship with two absolutely wonderful women.
> If an employer offers partner benefits, they have to limit the definition of
> "partner" to protect themselves from unlimited liability.

Would prefer it if there just weren't partner benefits. My partner(s) don't
work for my employer, I do. If I'd like to buy benefits for somebody else, or
some set of somebodies, I should be free to do so.

> The employer
> would be unlikely to extend benefits to your two example women -- what if
> you had three, or four?

Presumably I'm paying for each of them. Don't know why I should expect my
employer to.

> Should you be able to force your employer to
> provide benefits for arbitrary third parties by signing a contract with that
> third party?

No, employers shouldn't have to *provide* benefits free of charge to anyone. If
they want to provide them to me, fine. If they want to provide them to one
other person, fine. This is all a terms of employment negotiation. I don't see
any reason why employers should be forced to recognize and subsidize *any*
particular relationship arrangement that they don't want to.

> Thus, many employers restrict partner benefits to civil
> spouses or some definition which may include living with a single other
> person for a specified time. It's just part of the benefit package which
> you may or may not be able to negotiate with your employer.


> > And why the hell do we treat individuals involved in marriages *in any way
> > differently* from others for tax purposes, either on a positive
> > or negative basis?

> Because the bulk of the population votes that way -- most people think
> marriage is a "good thing" that should be encouraged and rewarded.

Oh, c'mon, don't give me *real reasons* here. Tyranny of the majority an' all
that. This is an ideological group rant, here, innit?

> I personally think it's reasonable for the tax
> code (under current welfare/medicare conditions) to collect less tax from a
> person supporting a dependent, because otherwise that dependent may be
> supported more expensively by spending everybody's taxes.

Flat rate, if you've got to have 'em. Not sure you do, in fact pretty sure you

> Anyway, the decision to do something non-standard does mostly rest with the
> individual. You can in fact sign a contract with each of two women,
> promising various services, assigning various rights, making financial
> arrangements, and perhaps even specifying termination-of-contract processes
> (just like many non-marriage contracts have). However, it is then your
> burden to deal with the consequences of getting your non-standard contract
> recognized if you want any of the benefits which private and public
> institutions may offer based on the concept of a pooling of resources and
> responsibility between two people.

It's that social programming that irks.

> Interestingly, the concept of a "covenant marriage", although the proponents
> think it strengthens marriage, weakens it.

Changes it, anyway. And that's bad because... ?

> This is in effect a drive for a
> second standard type of contract, one with more severity than normal in its
> "termination clauses", one which may even try to prevent termination of the
> contract (although I suspect it may be unenforceable).

There's some standard thing in American contract law that prevents contract in
perpetuity, I believe.

> A second type of
> standard, legally-recognized marriage? well, that could lead to a third,
> and so on. Why not start your own and try to popularize it in order to get
> the benefits of following a standard?

Don't like politicians. Don't need 'em. Don't care whether anyone else
recognizes, etc. my particular arrangement. (Which, BTW, is entirely
hypothetical. In Reality(tm) I have a pretty conventional long-term
relationship with a *one* woman.)

Again, a question: why is "childrearing" a right that only sticks if I happen
to play by the "conventional relationship" rules?

> For a really great rational analysis of marriage (whether or not you agree
> with the basis of the analysis), read Becker -- An Economic Approach to
> Human Behaviour (it also discusses crime, the decision to have children, the
> economic aspects of an education, etc). Among many other points, Becker
> notes that having one spouse provide auxiliary services like child-rearing,
> house-keeping, shopping and entertaining may increase the other spouse's
> earning potential.

I have no doubt that that's true. But (a) there's no particular reason why that
kind of arrangement has to exist inside the standard marriage, and (b) just
s/spouse/partner in the above to see the point.

> But by how much? If a stay-at-home spouse contributes
> more to the working spouse's income than they could have earned on their
> own, is it fair for the government to give a tax break to the working spouse
> in recognition of their support for a "dependent"?

Flat rate first, elimination later.

> Lisa

Date view Thread view Subject view Author view

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Sep 12 2000 - 16:00:48 PDT