THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Back in business
In the deep mid-winter

Bad law corrupts

Elin Nordegren could be paid more than $50 million extra for sticking with Tiger Woods - Telegraph.

If Elin Nordegren divorces Tiger Woods, I shall be impressed. She is a wronged woman. He has humiliated her. If she has fallen out of love, she cannot be blamed. If she takes the money her pre-nuptial agreement entitles her to, I can't blame her for that either. Her children are the children of a wealthy man and - while there is no reason to suppose Tiger Woods would not look after them properly - she's entitled to make sure.

That she has been consulting lawyers about a possible divorce in California - a state with which she has only a tenuous connection - suggests she is considering a more aggressive approach. Perhaps, in her humiliation, she is looking to hit her husband harder. Yet, such are the puritan sensibilities of his sponsors, a divorce will (ludicrously) cost him hundreds of millions. So greed would seem a more likely motivation than punishment. Neither is particularly edifying.

That her husband's lawyers are offering her bribes on his behalf to remain married is disgusting. A marriage in which such offers are possible is already dead. There is no respectable justification to make such an insulting offer and certainly none to accept it.

Matrimonial law in the West pollutes male/female relationships. It insults women by suggesting - despite all the struggles of feminism - that they are mere dependants. It ignores their abilities to earn and undermines their obligation to take responsibility for their own lives. By presuming that custody of children should usually be given to the mother, it pressures loving fathers and tempts mothers to make use of access to infant children (which should be an absolute right for all family members - grandparents as well as fathers) as a negotiating point.

It makes rational men afraid of commitment, especially if they are wealthy or high earners. Tiger Woods is a talented man with huge earning capacity. Erin Nordegren is an ex-nanny. He had to spoil their romance by negotiating a pre-nuptial agreement. He would have been a fool else, but such an action can only make a marriage more likely to fail. It plants seeds of doubt when all should have been sweet, confident bliss. The long-standing position of the English Common Law that prenuptial agreements were void for the "public policy" reason that they undermined marriage acknowledged that. As a libertarian, I don't think the state should intervene in private arrangements such as marriage at all, but if it does get involved it should certainly not be to undermine them.

The law in its current form risks making whores of respectable women. Arguably, it risks making something worse. In the discussions about this high profile divorce case, I have seen it suggested that prostitutes have a higher moral code, because they respect their customers' privacy and do not sell their stories to the press. That is unfair to many honourable women who have been sincerely in love with married men, but it is suggestive of the unfortunate attitudes that such laws promote.

Good laws forbid bad behaviour and encourage good. By this test, our divorce laws are very bad indeed.