Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Wherein Quartz has a bit of an epiphany on same-sex marriage.

And proposes the concept of a solution which helps out with some other issues too.

First off, this is a bit of a broad brush: nitpickers can assume that trivial and minor issues are squared away by clever civil servants.

Same sex marriage is a perrenial subject here, one fraught with many difficulties - what if two straight people of the same sex marry? What about inheritance? And so on.

(Just to expand on two straight people of the same sex entering a formal relationship, consider the examples of two batchelors living together, like Holmes and Watson. Or two old war comrades. Or two brothers. Or two spinsters. Or...)

But I contend that these are all side issues, reflextions of the main issues: tax and tax allowances. How can you be fair to same-sex marriages while retaining advantages for other-sex marriages and promoting family values, so you don't get voted out at the next election? I contend that the answer lies in tax. First off, we seperate marriage from partnership - after all, the partners making up the partnership of a law firm aren't married to each other, are they? So marriage becomes a religious concept for those who so believe, and we have a legal concept of a monogamous partnership (sorry, Mormons and Muslims, that's a seperate battle) restricted to next-of-kin status etc.

Now, the key to what we do is permit tax allowances to be transferred one generation up as long as all are on the same property, or down any number of generations to a minor as long as all are on the same property.

In a typical family, we have parents, children, and grandparents. By parent I mean the legal parent (or guardian), not necessarily the biological parent. Currently, it's quite expensive to have a grandparent in the home, despite the help they can provide with children, because parents can't make use of their tax allowances. Equally, parents may be looking after a grown-up child or grandparent who has become incapacitated. So we're making it fancially easier for people to care for family members, thus reducing the strain on Social Services / Welfare and promoting the family to boot.

So consider the canonical family of a working man, non-working woman, their two children, and one grandparent in an annexe. The woman can transfer her allowance to the children, as can the grandparent, who can transfer their allowances, plus their mother's and their grandparent's, to the man. The family's tax allowances are therefore concentrated in the hands of the breadwinner. Now consider the case of two people in a partnership, no matter the sex, with no children: they are no better or worse off financially than if they were not in a partnership, but still reap the other benefits and have the same responsibilities.Consider now the modern canonical dysfunctional family: a working man and a non-working or low-wage woman in partnership, several children of the woman by different men where the working man is not her legal partner. The woman can get the allowances from her children but the working man - and thus the family as a whole - cannot benefit because he is not the legal partner of the woman and thus not the legal guardian of the children and so much of the allowance is lost. So there is considerable financial encouragement to enter a formal relationship, thus enhancing family stability. This also encourages women who were in highly paid work to take time off to have children because their full allowances are put to good use. Again, consider a same-sex couple who have adopted two children: they are in almost the same situation as the first family (no grandparent). Now, the perspicacious will spot that a couple with children will benefit identically financially whether they're partners or not. This is indeed the case, but the couple will not benefit from being legally considered partners.

Inheritance tax? You follow a similar rubric: instead of a person's estate having a tax-free allowance, each inheritor (including the partner) has an allowance, and related inheritors can give other inheritors all or part of their allowances.

To me, this seems like a simple and elegant solution which not only squares the circle of same-sex marriage but promotes social harmony and welfare

Now, it hasn't been done, so I'm obviously being hare-brained and missing something, but what?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006



Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bar review: the Peppercorn in Harpenden

Summary: don't bother.

I've just got back from dining at The Peppercorn. It's just been refurbished, so I thought it worth a go. The cider there is decently priced - £2.45 for a pint - but the interior decor is entirely unremarkable. I didn't notice anything of interest. The menu was short and expensive, with few of the usual bar staples. I ordered the lamb chops - £12.95 - and opted to eat outside since it's such a lovely evening. After sufficient time for two long phone calls, the food arrived: three modest lamb chops with a roundel of potato in the middle and a scattering of beans, spring onions, and peas. It wasn't hot. But it was moderately tasty.

Eating outside was a mistake: there was insufficient insulation against the road (granted I was sat next to the hedge, but I'd earlier sat further away with no difference). This is unlike the Old Bell, a few hundred yards up the road where you can sit outside and not be bothered. And the view from the Old Bell is great too.

The price of the food did not match the quality, nor the quality of the place. If you want to eat well in Harpenden, go to the Old Bell. you'll eat better in a better place for less. Likewise the Wyvern in Luton, which is in staggering distance for me.