A Conversation for Ask h2g2

Where does the axe fall?

Post 41

Z

I suppose there may be a calculation that it is easier to provide housing benefit for the very few who genuinely can't go home, after appropriate means testing. But still.

I think David Cameron said 'it's not fair on those saving up to leave home and waiting to get married when they see people who go ahead and have children getting a council house'. People don't live with their parents and save up to get married any more. They just don't. Society has moved on from that. You just have to accept that the way we used to live, all children within marriage etc is dead, not just a bit dead but very very dead. Even if you want to carry on CPR you are going to have to 'call' this cardiac arrest and declare death because rigor mortis has set in and you can't do any more chest compressions.

Having children out of marriage is socially acceptable, it has been for about 30 years, and you cannot change that.

1. - Those people who go ahead and have children probably had an accidental pregnancy and decided not to have an abortion. Do you want more abortions as a result of your policies? Really?

2. In the golden age in the past people got pregnant accidently and gave the child up for adoption. Do you want more children given up for adoption because their parents can't afford to support them, but would dearly love to? Ditto what about those girls who will end up having abortions because they can't afford to support the baby.

Ok, I expect the tories do, but the vast majority of the public? If there was a documentary or newspaper article a young girl aged 24 in tears having to give her baby up for adoption because her and her boyfriend (or even husband) were homeless? I actually think the majority of people are pleased that people don't have to do that any more.


Where does the axe fall?

Post 42

CASSEROLEON

I note that recent comments seem to assume that the Western Economic system that needs and exploits the Nuclear Family will still be the way of the Future, rather than the more powerful extended families that have underpinned humanity since prehistory.

The Welfare State deliberately tried to create a non-Society of standard Nuclear families that was convenient for bureaucratic planners- not least on a divide and rule principle. It was never going to work for very long, for the unit structure does not really "hang together".. being too simply broken down on the basis of gender and generational difference, as is very obvious to anyone with contact with cultures in which the spirit of the family is still strong.

The problem of the State rather than the family providing for the 18-25 age group to live on its own on a subsidised basis is mirrored by the need to support an increasing population of pensioners, who also are entitled to freedom to live their lives as they wish, and increasingly therefore can be treated as free agents by their own children and extended family..

I am not my brother's keeper- or that of any other member of my biological family. The State can provide. I am entitled to wash my hands of them.

Cass


Where does the axe fall?

Post 43

Z

>>>>I am not my brother's keeper- or that of any other member of my biological family. The State can provide. I am entitled to wash my hands of them.

Yup. I pay about 50% of my earnings in tax. I don't have to worry about my family in return. If I choose to have children I have to support them, but I didn't choose to have relatives, so I don't see why I should support them.

Except I do support them. I pay 50% of my earnings in tax to support them.


Where does the axe fall?

Post 44

swl - and the pigs said: We Will Be Happy, We Will Be Free

<>

Untrue, with regard to England anyway. The extended family of medieval England is a myth - the nuclear family has been around in England for 1000 years+ and led directly to centralised government, guilds, unions and the welfare state - not the other way about.


Where does the axe fall?

Post 45

swl - and the pigs said: We Will Be Happy, We Will Be Free

<>

My sister did smiley - erm
My niece did smiley - erm
My neighbour's son is doing it now smiley - erm
In Asian communities, it is very much expected and insisted upon.

There may well be a trend away from this and I accept that my own experience may be unrepresentative, but it's wrong to imply that it doesn't happen or is even in any way unusual.


Where does the axe fall?

Post 46

Z

And I too accept that my own experience may be unrepresentative. We didn't live together until a year after we married it took a while to get jobs in the same place, but we were very much the exception. I do know that some people are still surprised and even say 'but why didn't you live together first!' Some people seem to think it's very risky to marry someone who you haven't lived with.

I'm 30 my university cohort of friends are in the marrying phase at the moment, and nearly all of them have lived together first. Some of those that are Asian have as well, but that was a bit more unusual.

We had religious friends who moved in together when they got married, but the vast vast majority of people who weren't religious saved up to set up home together. Ok most of my social circle didn't need to save to move into rented accommodation, because they were in well paid jobs, but they did save up to buy a house, then started saving up again to get married. Some of them brought a house before they got married, and some afterwards. Among doctors babies tend to come after marriage still, but if they happen before it's not a shock, it just draws a few comments about 'don't you know how to stop that, you're a doctor!'


Where does the axe fall?

Post 47

swl - and the pigs said: We Will Be Happy, We Will Be Free

My wee sister and her man got engaged and bought a house, but stayed at home with their respective parents. Over the next year they did the house up, bought the furniture, white goods etc but they never actually moved in until their wedding night. Now *that* is unusual but I have a huge degree of admiration for them both for doing it that way.


Where does the axe fall?

Post 48

CASSEROLEON

swl

I disagree. Of course the nuclear family was a component of the extended family, just as a couple (formally married or not) was a component of nuclear families. But you only have to look a the Domesday Book and the figures of peasants who only had "half-a-plough" to realise that actually the households needed to work together and cooperatively in order to be viable, and until the system of shareholding became increasingly important after the introduction of Limited Liability c1860 the extended family was the basis of most important firms. Where economic relations were not originally based upon the family connection, that often did not endure- as for example when Robert Owen, the successful manager of the New Lanark Mills married the owner's daughter.

So the extended family in Medieval England was very important with village communities very closely inter-related and inter-connected, and even in my mother's childhood North Oxforshire of the immediately post Lark Rise to Candleford period and in the Fifties village of my childhood visits her childhood Cotswold village contained many of our related households.

And much the same was true of the southern Oxfordshire family that my brother married into in the Sixties.

Cass


Where does the axe fall?

Post 49

Z

SWL, out of interest how long have they been married.

In our family it seems to be a generational thing.

Across my parents generation (4 couples) no one lived with their financee until after wedding night, apart from my parents who briefly shared a bedsit, and once they were found out to be living together they were 'pressured' to get married before she was pregnant. (1970, she got pregnant in 1980).

Among the children of that generation 8/8 are married and we all lived together first apart from Ben and I, and my parents thought that we shouldn't get married before living together, as it showed a 'lack of commitment to the relationship' and 'that it was all too rushed'.

Now that's a small sample so it could have occurred by chance (and according to Fishers exact test there is a 6.7% chance that both samples could come from the same population). But I don't think that there's an expectation that people will put of moving in together until they marry.

There is an expectation among certain sections of the population that you wouldn't have children unless you can support, so increasingly numbers of women are putting off having children until they are past their fertile years.

I think the big question is 'should the government try to regulate how people live'. If people have stopped getting married before they live together why should the government try and make them. Or should the government which is elected by the people try and work with the society the people want.


Where does the axe fall?

Post 50

swl - and the pigs said: We Will Be Happy, We Will Be Free

They've been married about 20 years I think. My other sister is a bit of a contrast - met a bloke at 16, huge barney with parents, moved into a bedsit with him and got pregnant to get a council house (as she freely admits). Got the house, boyfriend buggered off but 6 years later met a good guy and they get married this August. Despite the vastly different ways of going about it, I've got a nephew & neice who are (though I say so myself) exceptionally bright and well-adjusted.

<>

Now, I'd read that women were putting off having children until later to have a career first so that's interesting and a slightly different take.

I don't think the government are trying to regulate how people live. I don't think they give two hoots how many kids people have or whether they have them in or out of marriage, they're simply saying *this* is how many the state will contribute towards. Just as I don't think couples say "Let's have another kid for the extra £13.45 a week" as they throw their nethergarments in the air, I think it's unlikely the *lack* of £13.45 a week is going to keep their legs crossed and their thoughts pure.


Where does the axe fall?

Post 51

swl - and the pigs said: We Will Be Happy, We Will Be Free

Cass

Try reading "The Pinch (How the baby boomers took their children's future)" by David Willetts for an interesting comparison between European and English family life, how it relates to law and inheritance and why the English take on Family law avoided the blood feuds and prejudices that bedevilled the French and continues to make democracy problematic in the Middle East.

As Dr Johnson observed on brotherhood in England "Sir, in a country as commercial as ours, when every man can do for himself, there is not much occasion for that attachment. No man is thought the worse of here whose brother was hanged"

The French have long struggled to reconcile fraternite with liberte et egalite smiley - winkeye


Where does the axe fall?

Post 52

Z

To be honest I can only speak from authority on the topic of 'why doctors are putting off having children', and I see it as a combination of the two. They need to be able to know they can provide for the children and they want to get into a permanent job first, and have the worst of the junior doctor hours behind them There's increasingly a trend to be a consultant or GP partner before having a baby, whether you are male or female, that puts you in your mid-late 30s. Doctors still do have children in their early 30s, and very very rarely in their late 20s. The only person I know who had a baby before the age of 25 had an accident.

Our year at medical school was the first that was 60% female. It's creating some interesting challenges as in a doctor/non doctor marriage the doctor tends to be the main earner. And they have to be in a financial situation where the main earner can take maternity leave (which includes 6 months no pay I think). Usually they got a mortgage based on the doctors salary so will need some savings to pay the mortgage if she isn't working for a few months.


Where does the axe fall?

Post 53

swl - and the pigs said: We Will Be Happy, We Will Be Free

I don't really think middle class professionals are going to be affected by or worried too much about changes to child benefit though.

Where this will really hit home is with those who (sweeping generalisation alert) tend to be educationally sub-normal, low-achievers. I'm sure I once saw a link between family size and income that showed larger families disproportionately represented in the long term unemployed group. The argument that we should as a society encourage people to breed lots of future tax payers to support us in our dotage falls down when you see that the children of long term unemployed are themselves statistically likely to be long term unemployed - and this has been true under governments of all stripes in good times and bad.

A few years ago I would (my own sister notwithstanding) have been highly critical of the idea that significant numbers of young women have children for extra state benefits and access to housing. But when I was involved in a political project in the deprived areas of NE Glasgow I was told "Don't be so bloody naive" by social workers and charities. In poorer areas, having a baby is seen as the key to a reasonably secure future for girls who otherwise have little prospects but in reality it's a short term fix that only ties the mother into long term dependency upon state benefits. It's very difficult to find a job when you've little or no qualifications that can support a large house and a number of children.

Having said that, I obviously appreciate that not everyone falls into that description and for a majority of young families child benefit plays a crucial part in a sensible and mature approach to bringing up a family. *But*, when the consequences of a state benefit negatively impacts on a minority in such a major way, is the greater good not better served by limiting the state benefits?


Where does the axe fall?

Post 54

Z

Yes, there are always exceptions though aren't there.

I think that there is some validity to that, and I can really see the argument. I think that there are some girls whose lives are improved by having a baby. If you have a benefits system that supports young parents more than it supports single young people you are going to get some that do that. I think my objection is that it is punishing the children whose parents made poor choices.

My personal feeling is that I like the fact that no pregnant women is forced to have an abortion or give up a child for adoption because she couldn't afford to look after them. If the consequence of that is that a few women choose to have a few more children than they would otherwise, then I am prepared to pay that cost.

What has happened in countries where they removed state benefits from young mothers? in 10 years time say has the number of children in poverty gone up or down? I don't know - do you have any references on that. I think New Zealand did it.

smiley - popcorn

I think that there's few girls who go out and get pregnant on purpose, but quite a few who having got pregnant decide that life's not that bad if they have the baby. And then there's the huge grey area of not really using reliable contraceptive responsibility. I also wonder how many of these decisions are made after accidental pregnancy. I read a paper somewhere that teenage children of middle class parents who get pregnant are much more likely to have an abortion, than children of working class families.
(Growing up in a fairly poor area, and going into a middle class profession I was quite shocked by the attitude of getting everything perfect before you have a baby. I had to try really hard not to look shocked when a friend told me she was having an abortion because she and her boyfriend 'couldn't afford a baby', but between them they earnt about £40 000 a year - my parents raised a family of 4 children on less than half that, and on our estate if you had an accident you 'just coped' )


Where does the axe fall?

Post 55

CASSEROLEON

SWL

I have not seen the Willetts book but I have read articles in France on that same theme.

But the whole issue of the blood feud is an interesting one, Dorothy Whitelock arguing in her volume of the Penguin History of England covering the Anglo-Saxon period that one the the results of the conversion to Christianity in the "Anglelands" was the acceptance of the idea of Christian brotherhood and the need to accept "the King's Peace" with that system of justice in which the "wergild"- or man's price- had to be accepted as closing an chapter and obliging families to abandon the idea of the extended family blood-feud, something that did not apply in the Danelaw [and seems not to have applied in Ireland and Scotland- what Feargus O'Connor called the warlike Scots and Irish].. She also describes the AS legal tradition of "jurors" in which people accused of a crime had only to swear that they were innocent -if they had the status of people who were "Oathworthy"- and find 12 other people who were oathworthy who were also prepared to swear their innocence. It was therefore useful to be someone known as "a man of his word" and to have good friends and relations.

I am also very interested in the implications of the different inheritance traditions of England and France since the time of "Liberty, Egalite and Fraternite.. I was just commenting to our Croatian daughter-in-law this evening, who was describing the beautiful little village that she had recently visited in my "native" Oxfordshire, that I never cease to be amazed at the very evident love and TLC that even quite modest old houses in rural Oxforshire seem to have received: and the contrast with my wife's native Burgundy. We now have a second home in Burgundy, and locals regularly remark that you can tell the houses that have been taken over by "the English"- at least one in every village, because they are very obviously receiving the TLC that is making some impact upon what were often magnificent Medieval buildings. I have finally got to the stage of being able to drive through the heart of Vitteaux almost without noticing the magnificent buildings not really "made the most of".

But it seems to me that the Primogeniture tradition in England did mean that the strength and wealth of families stayed intact, and that (in spite of your quote from Dr. Johnson) because of this both parents and their major heirs accepted the need to at least use that strength in order to at least give the other children some kind of start in life, with the expectation that they would then have to take it on from there.

In the French tradition of the equitable division of the inheritance, the house, home and wealth must be divided up so that no-one either gets the house/home nor the wealth that allows them to run it and maintain it as the strong-foundation of the wider family life. Earlier this year we had a family gathering with my parents-in-law's Solicitor (they will both be 90 this year) to discuss and agree upon what we all believe should be happening about their property now and when they die. The "Maitre" was clearly very pleased to be dealing with a situation which was quite amicable and straightforward, this is clearly not always the case. But not all French parents have one English and one Swiss son-in-law.

An English couple who reside permanently in our little French town, and have been renovating a fascinating old house, perhaps fourteenth century, for 15 years or so, told me how one English family they knew tried to buy a similar French house, and were in fact allowed to move in. But the French family which had shared rights could never agree on the sale terms and the division of the wealth, so after six years or so the English family gave up and moved out. But they had lived in the house rent free for all that time.

Cass


Where does the axe fall?

Post 56

TRiG (Ireland) Trying to write, a little

Personally, I don't know why you bothered trying to avoid looking shocked. It's a shocking thing to say.

***

Whatever about parents' motives for having kids, it's not the kids' fault. So either way, child benefits still matter. It's about not blaming the poor: http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2012/06/on-not-blaming-the-poor.html.

TRiG.smiley - geeksmiley - surfer


Where does the axe fall?

Post 57

swl - and the pigs said: We Will Be Happy, We Will Be Free

I'd be interested to see what's happened where countries have done it.

I understand your arguments too but can a government responsible for 60 million people really make financial decisions based on what would be nice for the few? (insert bankers gag here) Isn't that precisely what led most of the Western liberal democracies into deficit in the first place - funding every well-meaning and undoubtedly morally right scheme that could be imagined?

I think the principal providers for a child should be the parents, something that seems to be understood by your friend & her boyfriend on £40k. Yes everybody has the right to have babies, (even Stan), but we accept that there are limits to spending in other spheres - why not with benefits? We don't let people have unlimited IVF on the NHS after all and we limit access to other NHS treatments all the time.


Where does the axe fall?

Post 58

swl - and the pigs said: We Will Be Happy, We Will Be Free

Cass - inheritance laws in England allowed *all* of the family wealth to be passed to the eldest son ... or to someone totally unconnected with the family. In France a father has no right to cut his children out of the will - the entire family are heritiers reservataires. This made capital uniquely mobile in medieval England at the same time as waves of property-less sons were pushed out into the world to make their own way.

The Elizabethan Poor Laws, unknown in mainland Europe, were a precursor to the modern welfare state and came about precisely because there were fewer large extended families with strong supportive ties towards one another.


Where does the axe fall?

Post 59

CASSEROLEON

SWL

The Elizabethan Poor Laws were based upon the concept that the local community should provide for those that it knew, and in the case of the "potent" rather than "impotent poor" each Parish was expected to invest in a stock of materials and equipnment which would make it possible for "paupers" to work and produce things that would be sold, the money going to refund any assistance that they had been given, with any earnings over and above the monetary value that they had already been given, being given on top. And they came about because people realised that the monasteries had been very important in providing alms for the able-bodied poor and medical care for the sick, and the abolition of the monasteries at a time of great social and economic change left serious problems.

This is a very different concept to the model of the Welfare State.

In a text book I started reading on English Law the author told the story of a great campaign/public outcry for a system of lighting to be installed. People came up with all kinds of arguments for just why this would be a public benefit and definitely "a good thing", until the Judge holding the Public Enquiry pointed out that the people calling for the lighting would have to pay for it, and then- all of a sudden- people went off the idea.

In 1842 T.B. Macaulay responding to some Chartist literature which expanded on just what could be achieved if universal manhood suffrage could be won, said that some people seemed to assume that there exists somewhere an infinite amount of money that could be used to achieve everything. But, he observed, everyone of sense knows that the people support the government not the government the people.

Cass


Where does the axe fall?

Post 60

CASSEROLEON

Re the Elizabethan Poor Law-

I delved back into "Tudor Economic Problems" published in 1963 by our lecturer on the period, Peter Ramsey. He drew upon the extensive research of Professor W.K. Jordan on "Philanthropy in England 1480-1660" which suggested that- rather like the Elizabethan laws about Church attendance that could be enforced by local authorities, the compulsory Poor Rate was largely seen as an emergency reserve power. The evidence suggests that ten or eleven localities each year raised such money in the period 1560-1600, the total amounting to under £12,000. This was more common in rural parishes, for urban parishes benefitted from the private gifts of greater and lesser merchants as private donors. Compared to £12,000 raised by the parishes private and voluntary donors gave £174,000 for poor relief, with Jordan showing a distinction especially amongst London merchants .

The "greater" ones averaged £2000 in their bequests, usually to well-organized trusts, which did not just hand out alms 'willy-nilly': and in addition left £178,000 to endow grammar schools across the whole of England, while some endowed new Colleges for higher education in Oxford and London.

Re The extended family

This merged almost imperceptibly into the wider social grouping of the Household, from Medieval times onwards people being particularly aware of the educational and wider benefits of extending the experience of boys especially beyond both nuclear and extended families. A good start in life in urban and "establishment" circles was usually expected to involve sending the boys (mostly though not exclusively) away to work in households either as apprentices or as pages, ladies-maids etc. The latter "domestic" occupations were seen as important real-life preparations, for those who would wait on and serve the kind of important people they were hopefully destined to become, familiarised themselves with world of affluence and power- and people within it.

The duty placed on Poor Law Overseers to find apprenticeships for the children of Paupers unable to provide for their own children was part of this same social as much as economic "good start" in life that hopefully would provide young people with both "good character" and valuable connections to people who would help them throughout life.

When I started to work in Lambeth in the late Sixties children from working class families, commonly school leavers at 15,relied more upon their extended families than upon their schooling. Job recruitment was based upon personal recommendation, and the discipline within the extended family. Employers looking for new staff let their existing staff know that there would be vacancies. Trusted existing staff would then recommend nephews or others within their extended family, who they could brief, prepare and help-through the initial stages, and of course they were the first person that the employer might go to see if there were problems with the new recruit. The family would make sure that the young people did not destroy the good reputation that had often been built up over many years.

This system had to be destroyed because its effect in that period of immigration was seen as racial discrimination, since it was mostly White boys who had such connections and therefore Afro-Caribbean boys stood very little chance, until by the 1ate 1970's I could have conversations like the one with one mother and son with "West Indian" roots, in which the mother told her 16 year old son that he knew that her boss had said that he would be only too happy to employ her son when he left school: but unless be bucked his ideas up and started to take his schoolwork seriously she would not take up the offer for fear that he would bring shame on her hard-earned status and good reputation.

Nowadays employment relationships are required to be purely "businesslike" and treat people just like "spare parts" produced by the educational assembly line. Paper qualifications and impressive CV's are the "thing", not actual personal, human qualities and attributes. Yet "education x3" often as much as anything alienates from rather than prepares people for the world of real work.


Cass


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