In terms of policy it is crucial that welfare provision does not punish couples in relation to lone parents, but given the advantages to children of two-parent models [3 would be greedy], the state must take pains to ensure that tax and benefits do not discourage it, and that we do not allow the idea that children do just as well when mum is on her own. The fact is that on average they do worse and we need to admit it.I will credit Taylor that when he says "do not allow the idea" he means "disagree with the idea", otherwise, ouch, this is suddenly all about crimethink.
The whole tone of the chapter is that this is a daring kind of position. The F word of the title is not fuck or federalism, but family. As if this couldn't be said without attacking single parents, which is nonsense. But I must say that I am utterly oblivious to the outrage that Taylor clearly expected this chapter to generate. Whether it is families, or "moral issues" or immigration, I am sick of people complaining that they "must be allowed" to talk about it. Stop bleating and just get on with talking about it, will you?
Taylor rightly attacks the Tory focus on marriage not children. The Labour determination to send single parents to work is a more difficult target. There are swings and roundabouts to working for a single parent, depending on many factors, and generalised judgements fail.
But the real problem with Taylor's argument, the conflict which he fails to address, is that if the system rewards the two-parent family, then by contrast it punishes those families most in need: the single-parent families. Yes, it is absurd that two parents on benefits will be better off if they split up, and much better off if one was working. It is also absurd to talk about the most disadvantaged children while targetting assistance at the more fortunate. There's a nettle here to grasp one way or the other - not of a moral assault on single parents, but a financial one.
Taylor rightly observes that we seem, as a society, to have low expectations of fathers when it comes to bringing up their children. So I am a little surprised that there is no discussion of the trend in Colorado family courts and elsewhere to award equal parenting time (duty) to each parent, and a presumption against deeming either parent 'absent'. This would seem to reflect the change in attitudes towards fathers that Taylor advocates. Perhaps there are problems with it too, but it is surely worth a mention.
Instead of tackling these difficult questions head on, the chapter spends most of its time on the safe and easy ground of the widely recognised crises in childhood and parenting: parent(s) always working, kids in front of the TV/Space Invaders, etc. And so often the answer lies in saying the f word, breaking the taboos that prevent governments addressing these problems, rather than what would be rather more useful: policy suggestions for actual interventions that might do some good. If you can't think of any such interventions, then perhaps what you are calling a taboo is in fact a sound division of labour between the family and the state.