Monday, May 21, 2007

An Interesting Idea

In the New York Times on Sunday there was an interesting op-ed piece about marriage and the privileges that go with it. The suggestion it makes would solve much of the current debate about gay marriage. All in all, I think it is a good idea.

The idea is pretty simple. Take all the special privileges a married couple gets (priority in inheritance, shared income for tax purposes, immunity to testifying against, shared liability, etc), and make these available to everyone such that each person could nominate who they would share that privilege with. So to give an example, John Smith could share his income with his girlfriend, have immunity from testifying against and share liability with his business partner, and want his best friend to get his stuff if he dies.

As a practical matter, certain of privileges would have to be used in a mutual manner. Income sharing for tax purposes for example (if A shares with B, B has to share with A. A sharing with B who shares with C wouldn't work). Others would work one way (inheritance priority).

Also, practically, most people who would get married (or enter a marriage like relation) would assign such privileges to their partner. However, getting these privileges would no longer be dependent on being married, and would be more flexible.

The reason that I like this proposal is that it takes the whole idea to a more fundamental level. It takes a lot of things that need not be bundled together and allows them to be used independently. It also removes a major discrimination point in the legal system of many countries. A married couple receives privileges that other pairs of people do not. This idea is fairer and more flexible, which all round is a good thing.

End Post
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