One point of the American revolution was the rejection of hereditary titles and privileges. We talk a great deal about wanting America to be a land of opportunity where people get wealth by hard work and enterprise, by earning it. And yet the very people who rail against the deadbeats, moochers, and leeches who want something for nothing and expect other people to provide for them - object to any lessening of the wealth than people obtain unearned, without work, merely by the luck of inheritance. Why do conservatives, if they mean what they say, object to inheritance taxes? You can’t take it with you, we say. So who better to tax than the dead? They don’t need their wealth any more. My parents are better off than I am, my father’s career was certainly worlds above mine. When they die, they may very well leave a tidy sum. Why should I get it? I did not earn it, they did. I would love to have it, sure. But I can hardly complain that my parents have not yet already done enough for me. People talk about inheritance taxes as though one’s children were merely extensions of oneself, and that a parent’s wealth “belongs” to his children. Hereditary wealth is one of great springs of unearned inequality, and I think of the efforts made by our Founding Fathers to lessen the impact of it by abolishing entail and primogeniture. I am always reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson: “The consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property.” Granted, it isn’t as simple as that: there is a difference between Junior who ran the family business for years before his father (the owner) died, and cousin Jake who hadn’t seen Uncle Bill in decades and is surprised to discover that he is Uncle Bill’s sole heir. Nevertheless, if you don’t like money going from those who earned it to those who did not earn it, then you should be opposed to inherited wealth, and should be all in favor of taxing estates to the hilt to prevent that, and to relieve living, earning tax payers of the burden of paying out monies they actually did earn.
Apr 12, 2017