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Tax the Polluters

It is impossible not to be sympathetic to the idea that when someone does manifest damage to the commons, he ought to pay for that damage. Environmental regulations can of course be a subterfuge, a political tool used on false pretenses to sieze power for other purposes. But the fact that a thing can be misused does not dismiss it from public discourse tout court. When the damage to the commons is particularly acute and particularly manifest, it seems to me that it is not unreasonable to place the cost burden for that damage on those who, through their own deliberate and free choices in pursuit of their own benefit, do violence to what is not their own but rather belongs to us all.

For that reason, I suggest that divorced people should pay higher taxes - say a 5% kicker on top of their income taxes - than those who are childlessly single and those who are married to their first spouse. If fault is found in a particular divorce the higher tax rates could apply to the at-fault spouse. If the divorce is no-fault, the higher tax rates could apply to either or both spouses: to whomever chose to pursue the divorce.

How long should the higher tax rate last? Ideally it would last for as long as the damage inflicted on the commons lasted. But given the realities of life in this fallen and mortal world, we are unable to levy taxes on the dead.

Comments (85)

Intriguing idea. But what is the "damage inflicted on the commons" that you have in mind? I could make some guesses, but I'd like to know your perspective since it's your post.

Those who divorce are polluters whose damages last eternally?

You're pretty much going to have to abolish no-fault divorce to have a policy like that. In a no-fault, as far as I know there is no legally binding or relevant record of who pursued the divorce. That's related to the whole point of no-fault: Its legal tracks, as it were, are supposed to be entirely neutral as between the two people. It's supposed to look like they both agreed to it freely. That's why it's so particularly diabolical for one party to bully the other into signing a no-fault divorce agreement. In some states there is even a law that parents cannot speak in any way ill of one another after the divorce to the children, which could be interpreted (I gather it is rather vague) to mean that the parent who was forced or bullied into the divorce can't tell the children what really happened.

Now, I could be wrong about what happens if one spouse resolutely refuses to sign a no-fault agreement and the other spouse has to file. It would seem like in that case there would have to be some record that A had initiated divorce proceedings against B.

One problem with this proposal is that courts are not to be trusted in determining fault. For example, I believe that one way around the existence of fault laws before no-fault was widespread was to expand greatly the definition of "cruelty." A husband could go to court and claim "intolerable cruelty" on the part of his wife because she nagged him and made him unhappy or because she was sexually frigid, and the court would probably find that it was so. In that case, under your system, she would be taxed and he would not, which does not seem right.

You want to tax tragedy? You want to tax broken hearts, broken dreams, and broken homes?

I kept looking for some hint in your proposal to indicate that you weren't serious, but couldn't find it.

So let me make a counter-proposal in the same poisonous and offensive vein: I propose we add an additional 5% tax on all Roman Catholics for supporting the priests and the corrupt ecclesiastical system that has nurtured and protected pedophiles around the nation (and around the world) -- to the tune of more than 2 billion dollars in damages in the US alone, with the worst of it still to come. The final figure looks to be between 5 and 6 billion dollars. If you're going to support ruining America's children and defaming God, Zippy Catholic, you have to pay.

Tax the Polluters

Hear, hear!

But given the realities of life in this fallen and mortal world, we are unable to levy taxes on the dead.

You underestimate Purgatory. I think no tax for the dead would be required beyond that naturally imposed.

If the divorce is no-fault, the higher tax rates could apply to either or both spouses: to whomever chose to pursue the divorce.

That doesn't seem fair to me. A no-fault divorce is by design a divorce where one party is just tired of the marriage and wants to move on. I can't see any good reason why a no-fault divorce should ever result in the non-filing spouse getting taxed higher.

Actually, a no-fault divorce is by design a divorce where both parties are tired of the marriage and want to move on, and where they therefore divorce in a totally willing and amicable spirit. Such is the claim and such was the picture painted when no-fault was proposed. When it's only one party who wants the divorce, the no-fault appearance is an artifact of the fact that the party that wants to move on says to the other person, "You can't do anything about it anyway, so you might as well sign this agreement now and settle out of court to save us both money. That would be better for the kids, y'know." Or words to that effect.

An interesting point about punishing only the at-fault person is that in that case he is being punished for whatever he did that put him at fault, not for the divorce. For example, if Jones takes a mistress and won't break it off with her, his wife divorces him on those grounds, and he is taxed under Zippy's plan, he's actually being taxed for having the mistress. But that could have been done even if the wife never divorced him. In fact, it could have been used as a motivation for his dropping the mistress and sticking with the marriage.

So let me make a counter-proposal in the same poisonous and offensive vein: I propose we add an additional 5% tax on all Roman Catholics for supporting the priests and the corrupt ecclesiastical system that has nurtured and protected pedophiles around the nation (and around the world) -- to the tune of more than 2 billion dollars in damages in the US alone, with the worst of it still to come. The final figure looks to be between 5 and 6 billion dollars. If you're going to support ruining America's children and defaming God, Zippy Catholic, you have to pay.

Thank-you for that wonderful generalization of all Roman Catholics, Michael Bauman.

I find the argument: "If thou art a Roman Catholic, thou art a supporter of pedophiles" not only fallacious but, not to mention, prejudicial and bigoted.

I could say quite a number of things about the Protestant hordes who committed unspeakable acts, but out of respect for the more respectable separated brethren, I shall hold my tongue and not wallow in the same mud as you have done so here.

That said, although I know of such despicable events regarding such figures throughout current and past history, I can well distinguish that these were the acts of heinous Protestant individuals and not reflective of their Protestant faith or Protestants as a whole.

No kidding, Aristocles? You think it's unfair and unjust to lump Catholics into one group and then tax them for a social evil? Then you get my point.

I'm simply applying to Catholics the ridiculous proposal offered by Zippy regarding the divorced and their alleged pollution of the commons. It's unjust and makes no sense, right?


Zippy is being nice. I think the divorced should lose their right to vote.

No, Zippy is not being nice; he's being silly. By saying "silly," I'm being nice.

Zippy apparently trusts government after the fact to identify, assess, and apportion guilt in what is arguably the most complex and intimate relationship into which fallen human beings can enter. Then he wants to turn the whole thing over to the IRS for enforcement. Simply to articulate his plan is to ridicule it.

Clearly Zippy has no understanding of what taxes are for, what taxes actually do, what the commons are, and what government can or cannot do well and justly.

Has he never noticed the ham-handed way in which the courts and the Treasury department actually work?

Maybe we ought to tax Zippy an extra 5% for polluting the internet commons by suggesting we tax human tragedy.

Michael Bauman:

I, myself, disagree with Zippy Catholic's application of whatever supposed moral prerogative he seeks to promote on the matter; but that does not give one license to go beyond the argument to the point of making such blatant prejudicial statements, however effective a rhetorical device one might think it.

Knowing children that actually come from broken homes myself and the toll it takes on these children (financially, physically and psychologically), I don't see how exacerbating the situation by such acts on their families would be appropriate or even justified.

It isn't a tragedy when a partner in a marriage commits adultery, or is abusive. That's called evil. Tragedy entails the inexorable outworking of character flaws and personal foibles, or of incompatible obligations, in such circumstances as which would imply heightened tension or contradiction, or some form of suffering. To refer to divorce per se as a tragedy is thus to imply that adultery, for example, is somehow inevitable for some people, an outworking of some metaphysical principle; in a society, moreover, where the overwhelming majority of divorces are initiated for transparently illicit reasons, this is merely to wave one's hand and evacuate the circumstances of moral obligation, as if to say that no one is responsible, that it "just sort of happened".

Now, in such cases, the wronged and aggrieved party assuredly experiences a grave tragedy, an unbearable tension between sacred vows and betrayal; but we should be precise in our employment of language: this is an evil perpetrated by one party, which imposes tragedy on the other party.

What about the aesthetic damage that people do, the violation of sensibility and taste ?
I propose a tax on the ugly, fat women and bald misshapen men, kids with buck teeth who wear two pounds of braces, varicose veins and jowls, people wearing shorts in the summertime offering their hideous selves for more than the decent wish to see.

As art and beauty are like air to the refined why should the ugly blight our visual landscape, jar the lovely and ordered world of those with taste, drag us down back to an earth befouled with strife and sordidness?

Everybody's worried about the environment and which thug next becomes President. I'm worried about what my unwilling eyes may fall upon this summer when middle aged louts take to short shorts.

Tax them at confiscatory rates !

Lydia:
You're pretty much going to have to abolish no-fault divorce to have a policy like that.

Yep. That is exactly right.

Michael Bauman:
I propose we add an additional 5% tax on all Roman Catholics for ...

FWIW, in the "if I were King" scenario (the one we are all grateful is not the case, nobody moreso than me) the civil penalty for pederasty - and for accessory to it -- would be significantly more substantial than merely fines or a greater tax burden.

I'll settle for proscribing pants belted below the buttocks, as well as pants the brevity of which disclose the undergarments of their wearers.

Seriously, however, divorce is a massive sociological catastrophe, in a way that egregious fashion blunders and poor taste never can be.

Yes, Max, we know it's evil. No one needs to be told that. But what we often don't know is to what extent either party in a divorce is guilty and deserves to be "taxed" accordingly.

If Zippy's divorce "tax" is meant to prevent or to lessen divorce, then I say it's already a tremendous failure. We already tax divorced people at a higher rate than we did while they were married. So, how's that approach turning out?


Yes, Aristocles, we agree. But your indignation against prejudicial statements is radically one-sided. As someone whose parents were divorced a total of 11 times, as someone who was sexually abused as a child, and as someone who is now an ex-Catholic, perhaps I know a little about the indignation you lop-sidedly articulate.

So go ahead, Aristocles. Scold Zippy.

That's a good word, Zippy. I appreciate it and endorse it.

But what we often don't know is to what extent either party in a divorce is guilty and deserves to be "taxed" accordingly.

Sometimes we do know, and pretend the contrary for various legal and other reasons, all of which are disreputable.

If Zippy's divorce "tax" is meant to prevent or to lessen divorce...

The post was meant as a straightforward comparison: if it is just and right to require restitution from those who through their own free choices manifestly pollute physical commons such as rivers and groundwater, it is also just and right to require restitution from those who through their own free choices manifestly pollute non-physical commons such as marriage and family. I would add that it isn't obvious to me that problems of assigning causality and responsibility are more difficult in one class of case versus the other, nor is it obvious to me that the one is more or less susceptible to abuse than the other.

Yes, for whatever reason whenever the topic of discretion of an official vested with authority from the State comes up, people tend to go into existential crises. How do we know? We do the best with what we've been given, like how most of us get through the day. Yes, I can understand wanting to be cautious about abuse, but too often fear of abuse is just an excuse to paper over injustice.

Yes, Aristocles, we agree. But your indignation against prejudicial statements is radically one-sided. As someone whose parents were divorced a total of 11 times, as someone who was sexually abused as a child, and as someone who is now an ex-Catholic, perhaps I know a little about the indignation you lop-sidedly articulate.

Lop-sided?

You assume to know to whom you are speaking.

It seems to me (and perhaps Zippy would agree) that a more straightforward and overall preferable approach is not taxation but rather simply to turn back the clock on divorce law: Abolish no-fault divorce; establish narrow and stringent definitions of "fault"; refuse to allow divorce for insanity or permanent disability; when fault according to the stringent and narrow definitions is determined, settle divorces in a way that treats the innocent party highly preferentially, especially as regards child custody and property rights.

Finally, and given our experience of the time when such laws were in place, I would advocate questioning the innocent party closely in the proceedings to try to determine if there has been any duress, and refusing to grant the divorce if it is not clear that the innocent party is acting quite freely. Back when fault divorce was the only kind you could get, it was very often the case (as it is now) that the guilty party wanted the divorce and the innocent party didn't. What might happen then was that the guilty party might put a lot of psychological pressure on the innocent party to divorce him (often labeled as "give him a divorce," as if it were a gift). Agatha Christie's first husband apparently did this and drove her into a nervous breakdown as a result. Eventually she gave in and divorced him.

It also should be possible (as it was not always at those times) to obtain a formal legal separation without a divorce. Thus a woman whose husband was an alcoholic and sometimes violent could obtain a separation from him even if she did not want to divorce him.

Michael Bauman chose rhetoric evocative of "The Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk", not because he read and found them enlightening, but rather to make a point about Zippy's provocative proposal. One may question the tone and substance of his argument, but having witnessed this phenomenon before, I think he's motivated by a deep-rooted, and conflicted attraction to Catholicism, instead of, any real malice.

As for divorce, a society that does not value the family, is never going to punish those who break the matrimonial bond. It will instead let the painful consequences fall upon the children.

Zippy said:
I would add that it isn't obvious to me that problems of assigning causality and responsibility are more difficult in one class of case versus the other, nor is it obvious to me that the one is more or less susceptible to abuse than the other.


To me, Zippy, that's an astonishing statement. I'm quite surprised to read that you think human relationships like marriage are not remarkably more complex, and not remarkably more difficult to assess accurately and justly, than is finding out who is or who is not, say, polluting the lake.

In that case, there's really not much more to say.

No, Aristocles, I don't presume to know you. I never did. But I do presume to know what you said and to see what is missing from it.

I'm still waiting for you to balance the scales of indignation and to scold Zippy for his prejudicial language and proposal against the divorced. So, yes, your articulation is lopsided.

Michael Bauman, it is part of the mystery of iniquity that Satan often does his best work within the walls of the sanctuary. I hope one day you can forgive those who hurt you. They will stand alone before Justice soon enough.

No, Aristocles, I don't presume to know you. I never did. But I do presume to know what you said and to see what is missing from it. I'm still waiting for you to balance the scales of indignation and to scold Zippy for his prejudicial language and proposal against the divorced.

See comments supra, May 6, 2008 1:46 PM.

I'll not even address your Ad Hominem Tu Quoque as a matter of further courtesy in this regard.

Lydia:

It seems to me (and perhaps Zippy would agree) that a more straightforward and overall preferable approach is not taxation but rather simply to turn back the clock on divorce law ...

Well, the point of the post was not so much the issue of concrete policy but rather the issue of principle: that marriage and family as healthy institutions are just as much a 'commons' as rivers and groundwater, that harming one is just as real a harm as harming the other, that to the extent government measures are justifiable to protect commons and require restitution from polluters the justification applies in both kinds of cases, etc.

But yes, by all means, some clock-rolling is definitely in order to the extent it is feasible. (I rather doubt that either approach is truly feasible at present; but discussing them as proposals can be illuminating).

Michael:

I'm quite surprised to read that you think human relationships like marriage are not remarkably more complex, and not remarkably more difficult to assess accurately and justly, than is finding out who is or who is not, say, polluting the lake.

They are remarkably similar, actually. Some cases are quite straightforward, the facts obvious. Some are horrendously obscure and difficult. This is true of both categories of pollution.

Well, the point of the post was not so much the issue of concrete policy but rather the issue of principle: that marriage and family as healthy institutions are just as much a 'commons' as rivers and groundwater, that harming one is just as real a harm as harming the other, that to the extent government measures are justifiable to protect commons and require restitution from polluters the justification applies in both kinds of cases, etc.

But yes, by all means, some clock-rolling is definitely in order to the extent it is feasible. (I rather doubt that either approach is truly feasible at present; but discussing them as proposals can be illuminating).


So this is nothing more than a thought exercise?

Granted, anything supposed is such, but I hardly see how this could be tangibly realized in the real world and made effectual to where the sacrament of Holy Matrimony would be all the better respected and divorces deterred.

When the damage to the commons is particularly acute and particularly manifest, it seems to me that it is not unreasonable to place the cost burden for that damage on those who, through their own deliberate and free choices in pursuit of their own benefit, do violence to what is not their own but rather belongs to us all.

I'm trying to figure out what it is about marriage, by itself, that belongs to society in the same way that rivers, air, and groundwater do. I can see how once children are involved there is more of a social burden that must be carried after a divorce, but child support is supposed to mitigate that as a tax made upon the noncustodial parent.

As art and beauty are like air to the refined why should the ugly blight our visual landscape, jar the lovely and ordered world of those with taste, drag us down back to an earth befouled with strife and sordidness?

I wish I could remember the title of the book, it was a compilation of autobiographies by a dozen or so leading scientists explaining how they became involved in their profession. Of the authors, about a quarter of them specifically recalled something their pastor/priest/rabbi had said about physical beauty being a sign of God's blessing and how they, because of some flaw or deformity, thereafter felt alienated from religion.

Aristocles:

So this is nothing more than a thought exercise?
Oh, don't get me wrong -- if I were king, I'd do it (or something like it) in a heartbeat, because it would be my duty to do so, as it is the duty of those who now rule to do so (whether they recognize this duty or not). But (1) the conditional 'if' at the front does render it a thought exercise; and (2) the critical point, again, is not the specific policy proposal, but rather (to repeat myself) that marriage and family as healthy institutions are just as much a 'commons' as rivers and groundwater, that harming one is just as real a harm as harming the other, that to the extent government measures are justifiable to protect commons and require restitution from polluters the justification applies in both kinds of cases, etc.

Zippy, it sounds like you've read Louis de Bonald's "On Divorce". A great book that goes a long way to recovering both the sacramental and communal nature of marriage. It is impossible to read and ever use the nonsensical term "victimless crime" again. Bringing it home, however did manage to raise my wife's eyebrows.

...the critical point, again, is not the specific policy proposal, but rather (to repeat myself) that marriage and family as healthy institutions are just as much a 'commons' as rivers and groundwater, that harming one is just as real a harm as harming the other, that to the extent government measures are justifiable to protect commons and require restitution from polluters the justification applies in both kinds of cases, etc.

Yes -- but I also do repeat in a similar vein as my previous comments that I hardly see how such measure(i.e., increased tax burden on the divorce) would result in a greater respect for the sacrament of marriage (by consequence of this penalty), which I am assuming that such measure is intended to promote and teach its offenders.

... hardly see how such measure(i.e., increased tax burden on the divorce) would result in a greater respect for the sacrament of marriage (by consequence of this penalty), which I am assuming that such measure is intended to promote and teach its offenders

If fines and penalties didn't get the attention of polluters, of course, it might be necessary to do it again, good and hard. I am unsympathetic - both as an assessment of fact and as a matter of prescription - to the notion that polluters ought to be free to foul the commons with their toxic waste under the theory that fines and penalties won't increase respect for the environment. For if it is true that the obstinate would be unmoved by X that doesn't free the king of his duty to move them, perhaps via 10X, or perhaps more rigorous sanction still.

It seems to me that Zippy's point is most relevant to _true_ no-fault divorce. That is, when there is fault, then something like "commons" or "harm to society" doesn't need to enter into the consideration for us to see why there is a problem and should be penalties, because there is a clear harm to a proximate individual--a breaking of a contract (not to mention a vow), not simply the mutually-agreed-upon dissolving of such a contract. So you can deal directly with the fault or whatever the cause of the at-fault divorce would be. If one spouse is unfaithful, is a drug addict, a wife beater, a chronic consumer of pornography, or whatever, policy can address _that_ via questions like, "Should this be grounds for divorce?" "Should the children be separated from such a person?" "Should it be grounds for legal separation but not divorce?" and so forth.

But when both spouses are in complete agreement that the problem is "just" that they can't stand each other, that they have nothing in common anymore, that they both want to move on, etc., this is supposed to be the model case for no-fault divorce. And that is the one place where Zippy's point seems to come in: They may be harming society as a whole by devaluing marriage, however faultless they may view themselves as being vis a vis each other.

If fines and penalties didn't get the attention of polluters, of course, it might be necessary to do it again, good and hard. I am unsympathetic - both as an assessment of fact and as a matter of prescription - to the notion that polluters ought to be free to foul the commons with their toxic waste under the theory that fines and penalties won't increase respect for the environment. For if it is true that the obstinate would be unmoved by X that doesn't free the king of his duty to move them, perhaps via 10X, or perhaps more rigorous sanction still.


Zippy -- I agree, at the very least, with the spirit of your intention, but I do question the application of the moral principle. Yet, not everything is so black and white.

For instance, what if the King was the one generally responsible for such pollution-causing activities, as is the case of the drive for more and more ethanol wherein the increase in fertilizer use due to such increased activity are destroying inter alia our fisheries?

In the case of the immediate family, there are unique instances when divorce becomes necessary as in the case of an abusive spouse.

wish I could remember the title of the book, it was a compilation of autobiographies by a dozen or so leading scientists explaining how they became involved in their profession. Of the authors, about a quarter of them specifically recalled something their pastor/priest/rabbi had said about physical beauty being a sign of God's blessing and how they, because of some flaw or deformity, thereafter felt alienated from religion.

Equating beauty with goodness (or even "God's blessing") is mistaken, as a cursory glance around this world will show. Positing the opposition of science and religion, however, is equally flawed.

Lydia:

That is, when there is fault, then something like "commons" or "harm to society" doesn't need to enter into the consideration for us to see why there is a problem and should be penalties, because there is a clear harm to a proximate individual--a breaking of a contract (not to mention a vow), not simply the mutually-agreed-upon dissolving of such a contract. So you can deal directly with the fault or whatever the cause of the at-fault divorce would be.
All true. However, it may be worth noting that harm-to-the-commons does not supervene over harm to specific individuals. An oil spill may harm both private property and the commons, the one not supervening over the other, and the person(s) who cause that harm are morally liable for it. (Translation from moral truths to positive legal rules and enforcement carries with it all kinds of complexities, of course, but that isn't an issue unique to this kind of case).

Aristocles:

In the case of the immediate family, there are unique instances when divorce becomes necessary as in the case of an abusive spouse.

It occurs to me that at least part of my post may have been unclear. When I wrote "if the divorce is no-fault, the higher tax rates could apply to either or both spouses: to whomever chose to pursue the divorce" what I had in mind was specifically not penalizing those who did not choose to pollute. IOW, without resolving every complexity explicitly in a blog post I am disclaiming the kind of 'zero tolerance' mindlessness with which this sort of proposal is often unfairly tarred. The proposal isn't 'every person who has ever divorced should pay higher taxes'; it is 'divorce is a pollutant every bit as much as dioxin is a pollutant, and those who pollute should pay for the cleanup, not merely of the private property they have destroyed, but the commons they have destroyed.'

Three points:

First, divorce is not a crime, victimless or otherwise.

Both Testaments make provision for divorce, and neither calls it a crime. Divorce can be done properly, and it exists under divine permission. Scripture gives sound guidelines for its practice.

Yes, I've read Malachi 3, and the reference there is not to divorce ("shalach"), as it is in Deut 24, Jer 3 and Isa 50, for instance) but to "putting away," which is a different word ("keriythuwth"), and means sending away a wife without divorcing her, thus consigning her to poverty because she cannot join herself to another man without sin because she is still married. THAT God hates. It entails either poverty or adultery. The same distinction holds true in the New Testament, in places like Luke 16:17,18; Mark 10:2, which talk about putting away and not about divorce. Divorce and putting away are not the same. The former exists by divine permission; the latter God hates.

You'll recall that God is divorced. Indeed, his divorce is the only divorce explicitly recorded in either Testament. God divorced Israel (Jer 3:6ff, Isa 50:1ff). Perhaps He isn't too concerned about Zippy's screwball view of "the commons." By the way, God's divorce of Israel is not metaphorical, not merely symbolic. His divorce of Israel is real divorce, and is the genuine article -- not merely symbolic of our divorces. Our things are reflections of his, not the other way round.

Second, I'm interested where in Zippy's eccentric preserving-the-commons tax code he'd locate annulment. I ask because an old and good friend of mine (who was for many years the chairman of the honors program at a major Catholic university) was married for nearly twenty years and had 10 children with his first wife. He then applied to the Catholic church for an annulment and got it. He remarried (or, if you like, married for the first time), and had an additional 9 children with his second (first?) wife. I don't know if he'll ever apply for or get a second annulment, and therefore if he ever really was, or is, married. But I do know he was never divorced. So, Zippy, who gets taxed for polluting the marriage commons in this case: my friend? the priest who foolishly consented to marry him initially? the Church for teaching him he might wisely and morally seek an annulment, and that actually granted this moral travesty? -- or nobody, because, despite the shocking facts in this case, the marriage commons weren't really polluted because it wasn't actually a divorce?

Third, Zippy's tax seems to penalize the consequence and not the cause. I suppose that the cause of divorce is bad marriage, and that the cause of bad marriage is human depravity -- which is perhaps why Jesus said that divorce was permitted because of the hardness of our hearts. Interestingly, to the very action that Jesus grants divine permission, Zippy levies a save-the-commons tax. Maybe Zippy knows something about divorce and the marriage commons that Jesus doesn't, but I'm skeptical.

Might it not at least be a good thing if divorce were less legally easy in our country? Cannot all conservatives agree on that?

An interesting point arises about divorce and annullment: I have been told that an annullment tribunal requires a civil divorce before they grant an annullment. I'm willing to be corrected if this information was wrong. But if it's true, then by making civil divorce less relatively legally easy, we also make annullments less easy.

You'll recall that God is divorced.
Interesting theology you are packing there.
But I do know he [Michael's Catholic friend] was never divorced.
That seems doubtful, since a civil divorce is generally required in order to receive an annulment. But my post is about the relation between the civil government and the institution of marriage, not the Church and the institution of marriage. If I were king, your friend (and/or other parties involved) might well be subject to civil sanction.
Maybe Zippy knows something about divorce and the marriage commons that Jesus doesn't, but I'm skeptical.
My eccentricities may have at least this benefit: I don't claim that they are Christ's rather than my own.

I think that Zippy may be conflating or melding into one conglomerate "commons" different goods which need to be understood under separate categories. There are many modalities under which a thing which is a good is an object of state action. The mere fact that the state acts with regard to that good does not make it a common good univocally.

Let's take a couple of the usual suspects that are generally admitted to be common goods: justice and knowledge. For the first, justice is a fundamental and proper end of the state - it constitutes in part the very heart of the reason the state exists at all. Knowledge is not co-equal to justice in this regard. Though it is certainly a common good, there is no knowledge which inherently constitutes part of very reason for the state to exist. Furthermore, the state is not the primary organ by which knowledge is gained or shared. Though the state will WANT to promote wide knowledge, establishing this means or that (or any means) is generally optional for the state.

Likewise, there are many evils which, though they harm people at large, are not best confronted by the state. The evil of spreading stupid philosophy is greatly damaging to the state, but we think the state is not a good organ for putting a stop to that, generally.

In actuality, every mortal sin one person commits harms the common good of the community of man. But there are many mortal sins the state tolerates as being beyond her purview. Generally, we don't want the state to tackle evils that are rather metaphysical or remote or indirect or private. It isn't a very good judge of those in the concrete, though they are real. (How about a tax on the sin of pride?)

Finally, though divorce does indeed harm the common good, most of the measurable and determinable harms that come about actually come through OTHER acts which are typically concomitant with but not identical to the severing of the marriage: leaving children without the care of two loving parents, causing emotional distress on a former spouse, etc. These concrete evils are in no way improved or amended by simply taxing the faulty party. So the punishment is ill-suited to the harm that Zippy is concerned with.

So, no, you haven't made the case yet, Zippy. Much better to simply change the divorce law to protect the marriage contract properly.

...most of the measurable and determinable harms that come about actually come through OTHER acts which are typically concomitant with but not identical to the severing of the marriage: leaving children without the care of two loving parents, causing emotional distress on a former spouse, etc.
I agree that those are concomitant harms, but I don't agree that the severing of the marriage is not in itself a concrete harm to the common good, an addition of an amount of toxic waste to the commons. Simply adding '+1' to the number of divorced people is in itself a concrete harm to the common good.
These concrete evils are in no way improved or amended by simply taxing the faulty party. So the punishment is ill-suited to the harm that Zippy is concerned with.
Firstly, the same kinds of things could be said of simply fining polluters, or of adding a pollution tax to gas consumption, or any number of other things. One can argue against having a gas guzzler tax on the same sort of grounds that one can argue against having a divorce tax.

Secondly, in point of fact economic sanctions do in general alter behavior, and mete out justice, and assist in (imperfect) restitution, all of which are legitimate interests of the State in protecting the marriage commons every bit as much as the water table.

I don't understand why people think this is a good argument against the comparison.

Being skeptical of the government's ability to carry these things out well and without corruption of purpose is perfectly reasonable. But that skepticism applies as validly to a gas guzzler tax or oil spill fine as to a divorce tax/fine.

Good grief, Zippy. You think that by calling a theological statement "interesting" that you have dealt with it? Nor can you deal with it simply by saying it is mine. I argued that your view was unbiblical, and then gave you multiple passages from both Testaments in support of the statement. You simply characterized it as interesting and as mine, then moved on. Try exegesis, Zippy. The gap between you and Christ on this point is enormous, as is the gap between you and the OT.

So, again, neither Testament calls divorce a crime and neither Testament penalizes it as a pollution or as an evil. To what both Testaments give overt divine sanction as something apparently better for society and for God's people than maintaining a bad marriage, you want to tax as a pollution. Your view and that of the Bible are very different.

Perhaps you don't like calling God "divorced." If so, your beef is not with me but with God. He said it. If you don't like his choice of words, if you don't like his self-description, argue with Him.

But don't argue on the basis of a silly reverse-Platonism, whereby God's actions are interpreted as mere shadows of ours, or as if his divorce is a mere anthropomorphism and our divorces are the genuine article of which God's is a reflection. In other words, we are the bride of Christ. That marital relationship between the Lord and us is figured forth in our marital relationships with one another, not the other way round. That's clearly how Paul sees it in Eph. 5:22ff. We figure forth God's marital relations with us. By the same token, God's divorce from his people, just like his marriage, is real, and no mere figure of speech. When He severed his relationship with them, it was not a figurative divorce, but a real one, just as is his marriage to us. What He did, He called a divorce; and it was. Just so you'd not miss the point, He told it to you twice -- once through Jeremiah, once through Isaiah.

You evaded the annulment issue as well. Since, by definition, a divorce is the dissolution of a marriage, you need to be clear for us what exactly constitutes a marriage. When is a marriage really a marriage, Zippy? Was an annulled marriage really a marriage, and is an annulment a divorce? If annulment presupposes divorce, and if a divorce pollutes the marriage commons, and if we ought to punish those who are responsible for this pollution, then shall we say that the RCC's practice of teaching and encouraging folks sometimes to get an annulment and the divorce that it entails, and then granting that annulment sometimes when they seek it (and thereby necessarily encouraging divorce) is a pollution of the marriage commons and that the church ought to penalized as a polluter?

You think that by calling a theological statement "interesting" that you have dealt with it?
Of course not. My post isn't about theology at all, let alone your theology. There isn't any purpose - other than indulging you, I suppose - to derailing the discussion by pretending that it is.

Zippy Catholic says:

My post isn't about theology at all, let alone your theology. There isn't any purpose - other than indulging you, I suppose - to derailing the discussion by pretending that it is.


OK. Now I see. The "Catholic" in "Zippy Catholic" doesn't actually imply that theology is relevant to your political and social concerns. My mistake. Somehow I got a different impression from your posts on previous cultural, political, and social issues. I don't know how that happened.

But then again, I don't see how asking you for a definition of marriage falls afoul of your decision to remain untheological here. Nor do I see how you can say that remaining untheological means you can avoid questions about penalizing those, like the RCC, advise others to get an annulment if an annulment requires divorce and those who are responsible for a divorce ought to be punished as polluters.

The "Catholic" in "Zippy Catholic" doesn't actually imply that theology is relevant to your political and social concerns. My mistake.
The "Catholic" in the pseudonym is an historical artifact of the fact that "zippycatholic" was an available URL on Blogger, and "zippy" was not, when I started my blog. (I had been commenting on Catholic blogs under the "Zippy" pseudonym for several years prior; a longer story, but it is mostly Mark Shea's fault). The designator also has the merit of making my alliegences explicit. It does not imply that I claim to speak for the Church, let alone Christ, in everything I say. I make my qualifications to speak on momentous subjects quite clear in my W4 bio.

As for the rest, it simply wasn't my intention to enter into a wide-ranging theological discussion of the nature of marriage (or the natural environment for that matter) with people who think God is divorced and divorce is good, nor to provide a soapbox for those kinds of poisonous opinions. I would respond the same way if you were attempting to justify dumping dioxin into reservoirs on putatively 'biblical' grounds; which is to say, I would not respond by taking the proposition seriously. Not all propositions deserve to be taken seriously, and even if they all did my own time is more valuable than to do so.

FWIW, I've publicly criticized the Church's annulment practices before and, as I've said already, both those and other contemporary Church practices (e.g. covering up pederasty) could well be subject to sanction - probably more severe than merely economic - in the 'if I were king' scenario.

Also FWIW, in the W4 editorial email 'back channel' it was suggested by one of the W4 contributors, when you first posted, that you were being out of line and we should consider corrective action. I'll quote my response for you:

He seems a generally thoughtful fellow, despite the obvious areas where we disagree, so I'm willing to chalk it up to reaction colored by emotion. I only really get censorious in cases where there is a repeated problem that doesn't seem to be correcting itself naturally. So my thought at present is 'wait and see'.

Now, if you feel the impulse to start in once again stumping for the notion that God is divorced, human divorce is good as a reflection of God's divorce, etc, based on your own sola scriptura + personal interpretation of the Bible, etc -- don't. Go away. That isn't the subject of this thread.

"Interesting theology you are packing there."

and

"I argued that your view was unbiblical, and then gave you multiple passages from both Testaments in support of the statement. You simply characterized it as interesting and as mine, then moved on. Try exegesis, Zippy."

To argue theologically over the issue of divorce, especially between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant, requires veering off into the nature of Scriptural interpretation itself. A Catholic or Orthodox cannot simply 'try exegesis,' as if the only things important to hermeneutics are the text, the historical/grammatical method, and me. In no time at all we'd be back in the sola scriptura debate.

RobG, I agree that it wd. be much better to stick to policy. I had thought, and wd. hope, that conservative Christians can agree that we have too much divorce in our country and that the legal situation needs to be reformed to discourage it rather than making breaking a marriage something anybody can do for any reason even against the will of the other party. At that point one good question is how this is best done.

To underline what Zippy said, Mr. Bauman:

You have given us ample cause for the suspicion that polemics against the Catholic Church are your stock-in-trade, and that you are possessed by a distinct inclination to route most philosophical debates back to that subject. (Let me add that you seem to have good reasons for some preoccupation with the subject.)

But since WWwtW is emphatically ecumenical in character, this sort of inclination must be watched and resisted. There are many other websites, 'round the wide world of online punditry, where you can pursue your inclination to heart's content.

Just. Not. Here.

Does this mean that you can never argue against Roman Catholicism, or Zippy against Greek Orthodoxy, or Maximos against Calvinism? Hardly.

But badgering Zippy about his reluctance to plunge headlong into your favorite polemic, said polemic being only distantly related to the subject of the original post, becomes rather rude when pursued in the teeth of requests and admonishments to cease and desist. Capice?

"First, divorce is not a crime, victimless or otherwise."

Actually, it is, as it creates disunion, discord, distrust and deeply wounds the children who suffer through one. Divorce is a grotesque anti-sacrament that subverts the very nature and meaning of love. Human complexity being what it is, not all parties involved in one are equally culpable, but as a society we have embraced a very unholy practice. The pathologies tearing our social fabric apart are it's fruits.

The post was ludicrous. Michael Bauman did the right thing and put the pressure on. I did think some mercy was in order--God knows he needed that--but all in all, merci beaucoup, Michael.

Michael Bauman writes rhetorically concise--something any true rhetorician should admire. Who won the debate? Bauman comes out high, just for pulling this one out: "Well, the point of the post was not so much the issue of concrete policy" and then again, "my post isn't about theology at all." All along I had been waiting for a defense and it never came.

I advise welcoming Michael Bauman, not because he's Catholic or Protestant--it is an ecumenical board--but because iron sharpens iron.

I advise it strongly, for it seems to me that the reasons for showing him the door are the ones that beset the massive sociological catastrophe of divorce.

The post was ludicrous.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion.
Bauman comes out high, just for pulling this one out: "Well, the point of the post was not so much the issue of concrete policy" and then again, "my post isn't about theology at all." All along I had been waiting for a defense and it never came.
Pulling them out? The post manifestly isn't about theology, and the point of the post - that a healthy institution of marriage and family is just as much a part of the commons as clean water, etc. - is not exactly a deeply hidden secret.

Some people seem to want to turn every comment thread at W4 into a Catholic-Protestant food fight. Not my threads. Go start your own.

"...for it seems to me that the reasons for showing him the door are the ones that beset the massive sociological catastrophe of divorce."

Well said, even though he isn't being shown the door. Just reminded to channel his understandable anger in a more positive way and to avoid further rupturing the communion that does exist.

Whew! And I thought we were doing satire.

As marriage is a contract and for good reason a contract may be voided there is no reason why this particular type of contract, or participants, should be penalized. If there were terms in the contract that called for performance and excluded the possibility of termination or abrogation we might not have divorce but we might have fewer marriages.

An additional penalty tax on the single?

The effect of penalty taxes on the divorced would be an intrusion of the State into the lives of two private citizens acting from the equally private knowledge of their circumstances. It is a penalty on their personal and human judgment, which is not a matter of the, I assume, sacred commons. Nor is the State to confuse the difference between these two people and a pair of smoke belching tower stacks, granted that the power of distinction fades as modernity progresses.

As much as I prefer drinking clean water over dirty and refrain from camping out in or over deposits of polluted waste I would stubbornly hold that the commons, whatever the hell it means from moment to moment, is best served by the fullest extent of free action, which unfortunately encompasses things we don't like. We take a step closer to collective marriage/family management and control, and the steps taken are by the State, not something called the commons with it's implied communitarian, voluntary roots.

If we wish to do something with tax policy concerning the family may I offer a doubling of the child tax deduction, perhaps a tripling, and let the adults hash it out on their own.

As marriage is a contract and for good reason a contract may be voided there is no reason why this particular type of contract, or participants, should be penalized.
The institution of marriage isn't nothing but a contract. For that matter, a contract isn't nothing but a contract in the libertarian sense. There is all kinds of complex and value-laden law, and rightly so in my view, which governs contracts and their enforceability.

Now maybe what you mean to say is that despite the fact that the reality is different, the reality ought to be the libertarian ideal. That is, there ought to be no such thing as a commons, and no such thing as a rule-making authority which precedes and governs individual choice. That at least has the consistency of rejecting both environmental regulation/taxation and the divorce tax, on ideologically a priori grounds. I don't agree with it, but it is consistent with the proposition that if one accepts things like a gas guzzler tax and oil spill fines one ought to also accept, at least in principle, a divorce tax or fine.

Michael Bauman writes: So, Zippy, who gets taxed for polluting the marriage commons in this case: my friend? the priest who foolishly consented to marry him initially? the Church for teaching him he might wisely and morally seek an annulment, and that actually granted this moral travesty?


Clearly, these comments betray a lack of understanding concerning the indissolubility of a valid marriage (as Christ has taught in Scripture) as well as what annulments actually are.

I shall attempt to address these 2 points ever so quickly given my current time constraints and, thus, what may result in inadequate commentary; regardless, I feel these points need be addressed.

If you look in Mark 10, Christ is very clear that marriage is a “for life” commitment and that we cannot simply marry someone else if it doesn’t work out the first time.

Jesus was dead serious that if people get divorced and re-married while their previous spouses were still alive; if they were validly married the first time, then that’s adultery; and adultery is something we know from Scripture to be a mortal sin. It’s, I should say, a grave sin. It’s a violation of the 10 Commandments and it’s right there, “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery”

.

In the New Testament, it’s very explicit that the Kingdom of God is not inherited by Adulterers. Now, it’s talking about people who are not only committing adultery, but who know that it’s what they’re doing and deliberately doing it anyway.

And there’s a question (given how people’s understanding about faith and morals vary these days) of whether or not people fully understand that whether they’ve assimilated that that’s the fact of what they are doing -- especially in our culture where marriage and divorce are extraordinarily common. A lot of people simply don’t understand that.

So, whenever you have something that looks like a marriage and the person has divorced and wishes to re-marry, the Church needs to examine whether the first marriage was really a marriage as the Church understands it (i.e., a 'valid' marriage). The burden of proof falls on they who would seek the annulment.

(Note that if the Church decided annulments arbitrarily at a whim, perhaps Henry VIII would have remained Catholic and the subsequent annulment he sought then would have instantly been granted -- especially considering the Church's predicament at the time -- although, admittedly, this is a gross simplification of the times.)

If the marriage was found to be valid, then the Church will have to say flat out to that person seeking the annulment: as we must remain faithful to the Teachings of Christ, since evidence has not been presented that would show the Church that the first marriage was invalid; that person is not free to marry being that the first marriage isn't invalid by the standards of the Church and that which Christ established for us.

Mind you, an annulment is but a determination that at the time of the wedding, one or both parties to the marriage lacked sufficient capacity for marriage; that one or both parties failed to give their consent to marriage as the Church understands and proclaims it; and, in weddings involving at least one Catholic, that the parties violated the Church's requirements of canonical form in getting married.

An annulment does not deny that a relationship, perhaps a long and serious one, existed between the parties. It does not imply that parties were culpable in living together as man and wife or that their children are illegitimate.

In short, annulments recognize that something never was.

I haven't read all of the last few comments, but let me just point out that in the U.S. under present no-fault laws, marriage is *less than* a contract. We would be making progress if we could get it treated at least as well as a contract. Only in New York (of all places--I still don't understand how this happened) is it presently not possible for one party to break the marriage bond unilaterally against the other's wishes, without penalty. In, I believe, all other states this is possible. What other contract is treated that way?

I took Zippy's original post to be satire and so in that context I found it a funny way of pointing out the very real damage done to our society through divorce by comparing it to the current Green hysteria.

This resulting thread is either an indication that I am thinking too shallowly or some people are rhetorically jumping at shadows. Is the basic gist that both divorce and pollution are bad and that we as a society have a real interest in finding a way to discourage both?


Zippy, I would have thought that despite my comment on marriage being a contract it would have been a given that other things matter. Things like compatibility, personal agreement, affection, and even love. So I may have to disagree with your addition of the "nothing but" clause. The agreement, license, contract, binds them in marriage, it says nothing against nor does it prohibit a dissolution of this legal relationship. Note I refer to this "particular type of contract" thereby and with stated reasons, differentiating it from from other legal & binding obligations. The basis of the marriage, see above, having dissipated the option of a civil separation should be left to those two who have lived it, without the penalties affixed by a nebulous and fluctuating "commons". As they didn't attend the wedding they don't get to profit from the divorce.

As for your conflation of coal burning plants, possible nuclear meltdowns,& buried chemical waste, with two private individuals living their lives through unhappy times, may I politely suggest the possibility of cautious and thoughtful reconsideration. One does not, cannot, know who exactly or in what way the "polluters" are in a divorce, or to what degree. And as to your "do violence to what is not their own but rather belongs to us all', may I say their lives are their own and do not belong to either you or me or that touchy, nosy, mass that constitutes the "all" in the Commons. Which by the way should be identified as the State, most uncommon in it's practices and appetite.

Jay: you might think of it as 'ironic realism'. It sounds like irony when you first think of it, but the irony is situational, arising from the underlying circumstances, not in the proposal itself.

Johnt: If it is not explicitly 'till death do us part' it is not a marriage, just as if it is between Adam and Steve it is not a marriage. Indeed this corruption of the commons is one of the pollutants to which I refer, for the cleanup of which those who do the polluting ought to pay.

Johnt, are you or aren't you advocating the availability of unilateral divorce? It's obvious that you and Zippy disagree about whether truly agreed-upon divorce (what I call "true no-fault" upthread) should be allowed and un-penalized. I'm trying to figure out whether or not you also want to advocate allowing one person to dissolve the union against the other person's wishes and when the other person has done no wrong deserving to be cast off in this way. If so, then you are treating marriage as _less than_ a contract.

Insofar as a secular state is involved in marriage, it is indeed a contract. But contracts which on the face of them are perpetual can be dissolved by that very same state, especially if both parties are in agreement to do so.

The question is, should even a secular state weigh in with a view that marriage is more than a contract? I have difficulty here, because I believe that no state can be truly secular and be a wholesome and viable entity. To be totally secular means to ignore an absolute duty to recognize God and to recognize the eternal end of man as superceding the temporal end of man. But even if it were possible to be a truly secular (and good) state, could or should the state recognize in marriage some reality that exceeds its own capacity to adjudge and to dissolve?

I don't see why not. The reality is there. Furthermore, to say the reality is not there is an affront to the religious sense of those married parties who believe their religion mandates such a recognition - so the state saying "no, no, it's just a contract" is engaging in a kind of religious oppression. It was (and as far as I know remains) part of standard Church teaching that the state has an obligation to uphold marriage as more than a mere contract.

By highlighting one of the many contradictions that exist within it, this post prodded us into questioning a tradition hostile to our faith. The logic and language of the Liberalism is designed to suppress any real internal challenge from emerging. Reductionism is an integral aspect of this order, so it's inevitable that some would accept the secular definition of marriage as a "contract". Not too long ago on a thread here, someone asked; "what is the case law defining a person?". While it's often necessary to "work within the system" to reform it, such an approach has it's limits and can be very counter-productive. It is one thing to understand the disordered thinking that deforms our culture, it is quite another to conform, even fleetingly, to it. Christians will have to learn to enter the Public Square as Christ entered Pilate's praetorium, and respond in the same manner, when the Governor asked; "What is Truth?" This is especially true when the matter goes directly to the heart of our earthly journey; the protection of our "domestic church."

Lydia, you will note that I attempt, and thought I had achieved, to expand on the difference between types of contract, certainly as it pertains to marriage. Perhaps incomplete and unsatisfactory in detail and law but still a line to be drawn.

At the risk of seeming paradox or contradiction marriage is both less and more than a common contract. People don't buy soybean futures out of love for soybeans, marriage is another story. So although the formality of standard contractual law is not present, less, there are emotional and familial ties or factors, more, as yet undiscovered in the acquisition of soybeans.

You will forgive me Lydia if I point out the loaded nature of your closing question. However I will plod on. Yes I favor unilateral divorce! Who precisely determines who has done no wrong or for that matter what is wrong and to what degree? The quick answer is the judge but I assure you oftentimes the judge has no quick answer which is why, the proof being in the pudding, we have such divorces. The person who does not wish the divorce is not necessarily right or blameless, nor can it be always true that he or she who wishes to proceed is without valid reasons.

So we are were we are.

And as to your "do violence to what is not their own but rather belongs to us all', may I say their lives are their own and do not belong to either you or me or that touchy, nosy, mass that constitutes the "all" in the Commons.


johnt,

Are you implying here that any consequences that come as a result of a divorce are limited to only the 2 involved parties?

With all the broken homes that have resulted from the prevalent occurence of divorces in our modern culture, there is indeed damage done at a larger scale not only to the immediate family but to the very fabric of society.

And, thus, "we are where we are".

Zippy,

Curious, did this article have anything to do with what provoked your post here?

Obviously, you are coming from an entirely different perspective, based more so on moral principles; nevertheless, your choice of analogy (divorce, environment) is suspiciously similar to that of the article's title: "Divorce, Broken Homes Damage the Environment".

"there is indeed damage done at a larger scale not only to the immediate family but to the very fabric of society."

The materialist thats holds marriage to be a transaction is not going to be moved by appeals to the common good. He likely views society as either a fiction or an oppressive construct. The autonomous individual has few obligations or ties and his "pursuit of happinesse" is paramount. Divorce is therefore just as valid as marrirage since both are simply instruments to attaining personal felicity.

Very little common ground exists between such an interpretation and a genuine sense of the sacred.

Curious, did this article have anything to do with what provoked your post here?

No, I hadn't seen it. Thanks for the link.

It wasn't meant to be a loaded question, Johnt. "Unilateral divorce" is an objective description: Party A to what was supposedly a two-party contract now has the right in law to break that agreement at will without penalty, to have the situation treated as strictly neutral as between the parties, so that all property is equally divided and so are the children with equal joint custody. Might the party who proceeds have grounds? Maybe. That possibility was recognized by the old laws of at-fault divorce. Certain things were treated as grounds for a divorce and one party could obtain one, even against the other party's wishes, if he could prove grounds. No longer. Now, divorce is unilateral in a perfectly straightforward and objective sense. That this should seem even _just_, even to a completely secular person, does surprise me. But perhaps it shouldn't.

Kevin:

...The autonomous individual has few obligations or ties and his "pursuit of happinesse" is paramount. Divorce is therefore just as valid as marrirage since both are simply instruments to attaining personal felicity.

Your point is very well taken and appreciated; however, in the environment construct, similar notions can be had in that the environment should simply serve mankind in its pursuit of happiness (e.g., industry) rather than mankind having to serve the environment.

Yet, you can see here that there is the need to temper the individual's "pursuit of happiness" with that of preserving the sanctity, if you will, of the environment as with the sanctity of family values in the fabric of society.

By the by, two past articles that may be of interest:

1. EMINEM is RIGHT

2. Study: Broken homes cost U.S. billions

Aristocles,
I am in complete agreement with you. I'm just warning of the difficulites that occur when engaging a completely de-natured, i.e. secular mind-set. The debasement of marriage, the legalization of adultery and the subversion of the family is going to have consequences at least as destructive as pumping toxins into water reserves. We not only have to "temper the individual's pursuit of happiness", we have to educate our culture as to what it is that constitutes true happiness.

Kevin:

We not only have to "temper the individual's pursuit of happiness", we have to educate our culture as to what it is that constitutes true happiness.

Indeed.

Christians will have to learn to enter the Public Square as Christ entered Pilate's praetorium, and respond in the same manner, when the Governor asked; "What is Truth?"

The response was silence, because Jesus did not give Pilate an answer to that question.

"The response was silence, because Jesus did not give Pilate an answer to that question."

Sure He did. The profound silence that was not so much an absence of words, as it was an act. One that resonates 2000 years later.

Compare that to the efficacy of arguing, as we too often do, on the terms set by our adversaries.

"The response was silence, because Jesus did not give Pilate an answer to that question."

Pilate was in fact staring at the answer and didn't realize it.

Lydia, thanks for the clarification, I was operating from the premise, mistakenly applied in your case, that a penalty tax applied to any party is wrong.

My primary concern and the thrust of Zippy's post. I will pass on the related issue of current divorce laws as that is for now and for me an entirely different and sticky wicket. Although it does seem at least incongruous that government[s] could ease such laws and then initiate tax penalties against those following them, which some here think is not just fine but salutary.

Aristocles, were we to tax every act that damages the very fabric of society the State would be much fatter and we much thinner. And as said before who asses the damage? It is possible I would think that there are divorces that do not render this fabric but the issue or thread at hand seems not to distinguish betwixt and between. Put briefly, it is the idea of an agent, government, that has done it's share to degrade and demoralize, literally, our polity and society stepping in and taxing the debris. And they/it will mange to see debris where it exists and to whatever extent.

Nowhere do I imply that I am happy with either the divorce situation or the rot that is our present culture, the two being related. But in that relation lies numerous responsibilities; may we tax or penalize those vulgarians located in Hollywood and the Hamptons on the riches garnered by the mass production of filth in all it's manifestations? Could brighter minds than mine configure schemes by which our schools could be forced to rebate back to the taxpayers a fitting & proportionate sum for their failures to glaring to enumerate? How about book publishers, TV companies, music producers & entertainers,the town criers warning of theocracy, come to think about it, how about the commons itself, the consumers of the flotsam that clogs the arteries of a possibly better society.

But then we would have to weigh both distinctions and improvements and that brings us back to where we began, who decides, and what is just? And how do you tax rot when it is everywhere, when it is in fact our culture.

No, let's not tax divorce. Concerning government it's too late to kick the beast in the snout and drive it from underneath the tent, but at least we may prevent it from intruding it's hindquarters.

Government grows exponentially with the decline of the family and for the past 50 years, the former has grown increasingly hostile to the latter. Want to reduce the scope and power of Leviathan? Then strengthen the family. Reinvigorate our sense of matrimony has a heroic vocation, while simultaneously offering incentives like the family wage and deterrents like a tax on divorce. Use tax and social policy to weaken one institution and strengthen the other. Not all that original,since that's what is going on now. Just in the wrong direction.

The whole consumer ethos that mitigates against permanent commitments, reduces marriage and parenthood to voluntary arrangements and in general defiles the Christian mentality has to be supplanted, but the steps above are in the right direction. The only opponents to Zippy's proposal will be the usual suspects; statists and libertarians. Both groups prefer the individual isolated from the normal and permanent affections found within the stable, self-governing home.

johnt:

Clearly, you have not read my past comments as far as Zippy's taxation plan with respect to the divorced is concerned and have somehow conflated my claim that the damages resulting from such acts of divorces are not, in all actuality, limited to the intimate partners of a marriage but that its consequences do loom large and have such significant ramifications to the very extent that it affects even the very fabric and state of our society. The modern culture is replete with various examples that strongly corroborate such an inference.

This is why that although I may beg to differ with its actual application, I do however agree with Zippy's overall construct and the general elements of his analogy here.

The mentality that views creation not as a Gift, but as an instrument for pleasure, or as an object to be mastered, is also the same one that holds divorce to be a viable option for pursuing personal fulfillment.

An insatiable appetite for goods is incompatible with a sincere pursuit of the Good. So, the cult of consumption's human ideal is the earthbound, dis-enchanted individual. He has lots of disposal income/credit cards and is unencumbered by dispositions that flow from faith and family life; sacrifice, self-denial, a sense of transcendence and a belief in moral absolutes. Family life restrains selfishness, while easy divorce and sexual freedom liberates it. The consumerist ethos is as much a enemy of the family as the state.

Do conservatives have the courage or wisdom to confront it? So far, the signs are not hopeful.

Aristocles, sorry if I stuck with the thread but if you notice, clearly or otherwise, I address the social & cultural relationships and ramifications intertwined with each other and with marriage. You will also see that I answered your question put to me and you will come to appreciate that I did all of this while staying with what I thought was the issue at hand, taxes.

But I'm sorry that I didn't read your every word, like marriage I'm not perfect. Thus I will sign out, suitably chastised.

But given the realities of life in this fallen and mortal world, we are unable to levy taxes on the dead.

The inherita...I'm sorry, death tax doesn't apply here?

Very good! I thought someone might mention the death tax. In reality of course the death tax is a tax on the living heirs. I'm not sure a tax on heirs is the best way to recover damages in this kind of case, especially since it is very often true that the heirs themselves have been wronged by the divorce. It may well be a good way to recover damages in cases where the damages and assets are closely and specifically linked - that is, recovering fraudulent gains from an estate when they cannot be recovered directly from a defrauder who has died.

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