We see hints of it every day now. I mean, of the feeble struggle to restore the pro-family state. In recent articles we read: “U.K. urged to step in to save marriage” (National Post, March 3). The marriage rate in the U.K. apparently dropped by 10% in 2005 (the most recent year for which numbers are complete), resulting in “the lowest marriage rates since they were first calculated in 1862.” In fact, this trend is repeated throughout most of Europe. One brave English soul actually spoke up to say that “the government needs to abandon its pretence that all family forms are of equal value to society.” I’m sure he got sent to the Tower of London for that.
Of course, it doesn’t matter how many people marry in the proper traditional sense of that word; it only matters how many children they have, because the great underlying crisis looming throughout the western world is the gradual depopulation trend that began about 25 years ago. Another article “Canadians support income split” (National Post, Feb. 27) tells us that 77% of Canadians support the idea of income-splitting that would allow “couples” to “reduce the taxes they pay by averaging out their income.” There is no definition as yet of the word “couples,” and I will offer my own tough notions on that below. I mean, if you want to grow your country in a time of rampant individualism, with egalitarian hog-swill as your public philosophy, with rabid feminism infecting otherwise healthy minds, and a marauding tax-hungry state that is always searching for more control and regulation to justify its own existence, you had better be prepared to bring in tough and very discriminatory tax policies. I will get to some of those at the end of this article. But first, the background about how we got into this pickle in the first place.
About a hundred years ago, all the Western democracies took a page from the communistic writings of Karl Marx and instituted “progressive” tax regimes under which portions of money earned through labour would be forcibly extracted “from each according to his ability,” and transferred “to each according to his need.” There was considerable protest at the time on the grounds of inequity. For what could justify taking 20% of one man’s income, but 50% of another’s? Such a regime would rob the most productive, hard-working and successful, would institutionalize envy, and create an enormous class of citizens beholden to the state and its hand-outs.
“Equality” once meant we were all to be considered equal before the law. A rich man and a poor man could live as they wish, and climb or fall in life by their own hand, but each should be punished the same way for the same crime, and so on. This was a stirring standard of western freedom for quite a while. But it was soon argued that freedom is not enough, because the rich keep climbing and the poor keep falling. None of this has ever been true, and our own government’s annual report on the quintiles (fifths) of income earned have always looked about the same regardless of a century of extensive policies to alter them. At any rate, in order to bring about a world of homogeneous incomes our once-free societies began changing the ideal of “equality” to the ideal of “equalization,” and were not shy about using the powers of the state to do this. Hence little by little we began to hear more and more about so-called “substantive” equality – a term used for the idea that everyone ought to have equal substance in life, such as material things, food, homes, money, education, and so on. To bring such a condition about, our freshly-minted egalitarians would now have to engage in unequal tax practices, just as Marx had advocated. What an irony! Citizen equality would now be achieved by a radical inequality of citizen tax treatment. We have now had more than a century of this civilized form of communism, or legal plunder, accompanied as it is on the part of taxpaying individuals and corporations by a myriad of loopholes and strategies for avoiding taxation, and on the part of vote-seeking political parties by ever more schemes, as a French tax-collector put it so long ago, for “extracting the maximum number of feathers from the goose, with the minimum amount of squealing.”
Accompanying this morally unjustifiable, but by now quite settled procedure has been the corresponding tendency by all modern welfare states to “atomize” their own societies. I have written about this here before, and repeat it now because I am convinced that over the long term, perfect social equality of the kind intended by such total states is impossible to achieve without first attacking and dissolving the freely-chosen preferential forms of social life that give rise naturally to (what are now defined as) “inequities.” Atomization suggests the splitting apart of a whole range of social molecules (to continue the metaphor) into their individual parts. That is, the breaking-down of voluntarily-formed social groups (social molecules) into a collection of autonomous, independent individuals, or atoms. If there is a key distinction to be made here between the state and society, it is the fundamental fact that society (the sum total of all freely-formed social molecules) is voluntarily constituted and has no power other than the usual forms of persuasion or dissuasion that spring from religion, morality, parental reward or censure, and so on. The state, on the other hand, is the sole entity with a monopoly on power, and in this it must be carefully distinguished from society. Your father or your priest may shame you or praise you into right behaviour. But the state can force you. These two very different forms of suasion – one moral, the other legal-political – have always been in conflict. And I think it is true to say that the more total the aims of the state, the stronger its official jealousy of any competitive form of suasion. Hence much of the effort of the state, whether ancient (such as the Roman Empire) or modern (our territorial-ethnic states), to gain more effective control of citizens has been devoted to the usurpation of the traditional moral powers of society’s various groupings by breaking these constituent molecules into atoms. This is achieved by dissolving or weakening the influence of social groups over their own members, directly, or indirectly by funding competitive government services meant to replace the same things offered privately (examples are tax-funded daycare, and tax-funded and controlled medical care); by de-legitimizing such freely-formed groups, services, and customs (by calling them “discriminatory” or “chauvinist” or “sexist”, or “homophobic” or the like); by burdensome or double taxation (you may send your kids to a private religious school, but you must pay taxes for government schooling anyway), and by many other means.
The underlying reasons why this process has occurred are not hard to see. The first is wealth. At the turn of the 20th century, by any measure, there were only about a half dozen truly wealthy nations. But by mid-century, there were more than thirty such, and today there are over sixty. Well, one of the inevitable consequences of more wealth is more tax harvesting, and hence the invention by governments of more vote-seeking programs intended to grow the influence of government itself, much of it by substituting government services for those that individuals and social groups – such as the family – used to perform for themselves (and often, with a proud independence, and defiance of state intrusions). Riding alongside this development, like a frenzied harridan whipping her horse has been the modern radical feminist movement. Most of us approve of better treatment of men and women alike, where reasonable and possible, and according to the needs of each very different sex. European feminists largely think this way, and they call it “difference feminism.” They don’t want women treated the same as men. They want to be treated differently from men, and better as women. But the dominant North American variety of feminism got stuck in a radical equality rut. And Europeans consider us pretty stupid for having taken this gender-denial route to equality. For through a whole variety of ridiculous affirmative action and so-called equity policies we have actually tried to eliminate all biological, social, and economic distinctions between men and women. At the extreme, we have even argued that gender is not something biological and natural, but is “socially constructed.” Suffice it so say that this philosophy – one quietly embraced and promoted by a whole string of Canadian governments, liberal as well as conservative, since the late 1960s – has fed traditional society into the equality-grinder of the state by militating against the traditional family. You know: where the man is expected to earn a decent family wage and the woman is expected to raise the kids at home. If you want to see this program instituted with a vengeance outside communist countries, look first to Sweden, where it began in the 1940s. In Canada, which used Sweden as a model, this same program got started after WWII, but we soon raced past Sweden. Canada is now viewed by leftist radicals the world over as a model “autonomist” nation, where the biological basis of society has been all but neutralized or eradicated in public policy, and each taxpayer is considered an individual “economic unit” (and taxpayer) rather than part of a social or family unit, as in the past. What are some of the clues?
Well, Canada used to allow wives and husbands to split incomes before taxation, but this was one of the first pro-family tax policies to be eliminated in Sweden as in Canada by the end of the ‘60s (and the present conservative government is trying to re-introduce this sensible policy). Even when socialized medicine began in the 1970s, each family was issued a family health card. But now we all have individual health cards. All the tax schemes and policies of the past few decades: national day care plans to encourage the removal of children from families and have government workers care for them; unfairly burdening strong single-earner (that is, traditional) families with higher taxes; offering state welfare to all wayward youths who demand it, whether or not they come from wealthy families (another attempt to break this family tie); offering state-funded abortions to all comers without requirement of parental consent for girls over 14, even permitting teachers to arrange abortions for students without advising parents; removing the idea of contract from marriage and introducing divorce on a no-fault basis; and finally, it is here now – introducing the cockamamie idea of gay marriage and the whole ideological paraphernalia for shaming the population into accepting this profoundly unnatural idea on the ridiculous grounds, again, of … equality. All these things are the engines of atomization. Get used to it. The loser is traditional society and the myriad bonds of belonging that people will always generate if left alone. The winner is big government.
The current government is clever enough to introduce its income-splitting policy on the grounds of equality, too – but this time by asking why two married couples should be treated differently in the tax code just because both spouses of one couple work outside the home, but only one does so in the other. Of course, what they are doing is pushing for a return to a family-based tax system, and a retreat from the current atomizing system of taxing us all as mere individuals. Clearly, the former strongly promotes family formation and the home-rearing of children, and the latter as strongly discourages this – indeed, it discourages having children in the first place. So I say, Bravo!
Some years ago (1993 on) when touring Canada with my book The War Against the Family, I urged exactly this kind of family income-splitting, and a few other devices to encourage family formation and procreation, to boot. I still believe that if we really wanted to populate our own country with more of our own children (rather than relying on immigration for replacement) and get ourselves above the fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman which we need just to maintain our current level (rather than the scary nation-depleting rate of 1.65 or thereabouts where we have been for almost two decades), there are vigorous steps in taxation and public policy we could take. For the timid, some of these may seem aggressive and, as such people are wont to say, “discriminatory.” But that is precisely the point. To repeat: all true public policy is intentionally discriminatory in a very positive way. It is meant to achieve a specified public purpose by application to some particular target group, and not to other groups (for this would defeat the policy). So if we want to push back the state, restore a strong civil society, bolster procreation and the family, and turn back the Great Die Off that is looming over the coming decades, we will need all of these ideas, or something like them. I am not a taxation expert, and I know that to make any of these ideas work there would be a labyrinth of (hopefully better) laws and re-jigged regulations. But the intent is clear, and where there is a will there is a way. To the objection that these are radical ideas, I answer that they are only as radical as the ideas that have already demolished the pro-society and pro-family (and anti-statist) reality with which we began. If you want to know what a family-friendly state’s policies might look like (depending on the level of population panic) read on. (Here, LMH means “legally-married heterosexual”).
1) Allow splitting of incomes for LMH couples only (a pretty strong incentive for home-rearing of children; for scaredy-cat common-law couples to get off the pot and commit themselves to a real marriage; and to discourage homosexual unions. The French government currently permits income-splitting between all family members for precisely this purpose. I have a friend earning $100,000 per year who has five children, who moved to France three years ago where he now pays zero income tax because his income is divided as if earned by seven!).
2) Increase dependent-child tax credits progressively, by the number of children, payable until children reach 18.
3) Introduce a generous and progressively larger one-time maternity cash and tax-free bonus for each child in addition to 2)
4) Allow mortgage-interest deductibility for LMH couples until the last child at home reaches 18 (same motive as 1, above).
5) Index incomes of LMH couples to counter inflation and tax “bracket-creep.”
6) Allow higher RRSP contributions for LMH couples.
7) Allow a generous tax-credit for “same-home” care of elders, by any family member.
8) Disallow welfare for children of the wealthy (this helps drive them back to their own families for support first rather than into the arms of anonymous taxpayers. Mostly it forces misbehaving kids to grow up fast if they want to eat).
9) Create business-loans insurance for LMH small family enterprises.
10) Eliminate no-fault divorce on the grounds that no-fault means no responsibility and also removes the basis of the marital contract (a true contract requires the consent of both parties to enter or to break the contract and breaches should entail fault and a penalty).
11) Make divorce a lot tougher for families with children – require, say, a 5-year cool-off period where the youngest child is under 15.
12) Encourage LMH families to adopt Canadian children with generous tax credits for each adopted child.
13) Define the traditional family to be “a married mother and father living together with their dependent children.” All other forms are less committed, and ought to be less favoured in law, policy, and taxation.
14) Rigorously enforce child and spousal payments from errant fathers (or mothers).
15) Consider mothers and fathers each legally and financially responsible for their children from conception.
16) If we are too stupid to dump it entirely, then we should at least restrict the use of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the protection of citizens against government force and infringement. End its use by citizens against each other and especially against society as a whole (which would end such things as invented Charter arguments against traditional marriage and all other such hallowed traditions).