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David Thompson
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April 01, 2014

Comments

Anna

No, don’t. You mustn’t laugh at a woman in hipster glasses.

And I was taking her so seriously up to that point.

David

And I was taking her so seriously up to that point.

Apparently Ms Cyrus and her gyrations will be a “lens through which students can explore themes about race, gender, and identity in the media.” Plus “social change” and socialism, obviously. Which I suppose is an extension of the idea, now quite common, that “lifestyle and pop culture” is something to be announced proudly as an area of “expertise.” As if it were something exclusive and precious, unexplored elsewhere, and no less useful and intellectually demanding than expertise in engineering, chemistry or IT.

Anna

Useless people need credentials too. ;-)

sk60

And Tom Paine bids us goodbye and good luck

Another good blog disappears.

Mojo

Humanities are for people who don't do math.

tempdog

That’s an increase of 100-1 and truly the most inept genocide in world history.

I expect we did a much more competent job on the American Indian population, but let's just devalue the term so everyone can be an ongoing victim of racial extermination. We're all special.

Apparently the only way to ... usher in this long-promised and long-delayed era of post-racial harmony is to be absolutely fucking obsessed with race.

What he said.

Pitkin

"No, don’t. You mustn’t laugh at a woman in hipster glasses."

Or the oh so ironic slave collar?

David

Useless people need credentials too.

Well, the career applications of Dr Chernoff’s course aren’t entirely obvious. It seems to follow the standard pattern for such things – being silly, pretentious and dogmatically question-begging. For all the blather about “critical thinking,” the expected conclusions seem fairly obvious.

Though I suppose the silliness depends on whether you feel a pressing need to spend three days a week and thousands of dollars “studying” the public image – sorry, “intersectional identities” - of another transient and throwaway pop celebrity. Albeit with some bolted-on guff about “progressive politics,” “deconstructing privilege,” and “bisexuality, queerness and the female body.” And it may depend on how seriously you can take a self-described “cultural worker” in post-ironic clown glasses who says in all seriousness, “Miley Cyrus is a surprisingly complicated cultural moment,” and who, as a measure of her class’s intellectual rigour, points out that the exams won’t be multiple choice.

And naturally, Dr Chernoff regards the widespread mockery of her project as a validation of it, while suggesting the mockery is chiefly because she’s a woman. (As if the same waffle mouthed by a male lecturer would be any less comical.) Apparently, it “proves the need for a class like this.” Though at present only 3 students have seen fit to sign up.

rjmadden

the career applications of Dr Chernoff’s course aren’t entirely obvious.

A career in comedy sociology?

bilbaoboy

the career applications of Dr Chernoff’s course aren’t entirely obvious?

Twerk your way to the top!

Minnow

Some of those lefty activists are barmy, but surely none so loop-the-loop as 'Tom Paine' who thinks that the UK is an actual fascist state.

Personally II don't see why people should necessarily be allowed to inherit property, but then I have s strong meritocratic tendency that perhaps should be resisted.

David

Minnow,

I don’t see why people should necessarily be allowed to inherit property,

The word “allowed” is rather heavy with implication, which is pretty much what I think Tom is getting at. See also this earlier post, a point of which is the failure to apprehend one’s willingness to impose on others as being morally contested, or even contestable. Though you may want to query Tom on this, rather than rely on my understanding of what he means.

but then I have a strong meritocratic tendency

Years ago while renting a flat, my downstairs neighbour, a woman in her mid-twenties, inherited some money and used it as a deposit to buy her first home. She was obviously thrilled and, from what I could make out, was unaccustomed to receiving chunks of money out of the blue. Given your comment about meritocracy, which apparently trumps freedom, perhaps I was supposed to disapprove, or feel envious or resentful, as if her good fortune had some detrimental effect on me. Though I’m not sure why I’d be unhappy about my neighbour receiving a life-changing gift from someone who must have cared about her quite a lot.

[ Edited. ]

Dr Cromarty

Personally II don't see why people should necessarily be allowed to inherit property

'Allowed.'?

Because it's my money. Now fuck off and mind your own business.

Hal

'Allowed.'?

Because it's my money. Now fuck off and mind your own business.

At some point awhile back, in some forum, I pointed out that the advantage of the flat income tax over the "progressive" is that when there is the "progressive" variety, what will tend to happen anyway is that anyone who can afford to will arrange to rig assorted tax deferment loopholes so that the actual final payments are at the level of a flat tax rate, if even that high . . .

Much easier to declare the flat rate for all, and then then the only focus needed is on making certain that all do pay the flat rate instead of none . . . .

Kevin Perez

http://www.racismreview.com/blog/2014/03/17/st-patricks-day-celebration-of-whiteness/

And here I thought the origins of St. Patrick's day were a lot more complex and thought the parade was just an excuse to have a good time and drink to year heart's content. Also, check the comment below the article.

Hal

"No, don’t. You mustn’t laugh at a woman in hipster glasses."

Or the oh so ironic slave collar?

Siiiigghhhh.

Ah yes, heroically falling flat on once's face and then socially exclaiming I meant to do that!! I meant to do that!! Why aren't you admiring me??!!!

The following is a scattering of notes from reality and other observations that is somewhat inspired by, and definitely related to, William Bayer's "Juniors and Heavies" . . . . .

The weak are the followers, those who don't just jump on the bandwagon but demand to do so. . . . .

While the deluded share many of the characteristics of the weak, the deluded differentiate themselves from the weak in that they fantasize that they can plausibly claim that they should have the ability to impress others. , , , ,

Another such example of the complicated, contrived, and blatantly surreal, among both genders of deluded, is all instances of pulling up or winding up with the collar on end, of a shirt or jacket or whatever, to be s symbolic veterinarian or vet's collar. Or, with the same action, the deluded may intend to visually demonstrate to all observers that the particular deluded is actively seeking and expecting radio signals from the Mothership or the space aliens or The Secrit Govment Agency, or whatever stated reason the deluded gives for having a collar standing on end. With normal people when wearing a shirt, coat, whatever, with a collar, the collar is folded over because such a collar just is. By complete contrast, consider these following two possibilities of any deluded that has the collar pulled up on end, or worse yet, has contrived a shirt or coat where there is no way to have a normal collar.

For the the deluded that wants everyone to think of a vet's collar, observe any dog that has just been castrated, is newly returned from the vet, and is wearing the exact same collar. Note the deluded with vet's collar that is standing on end, note the dog with vet's collar that is standing on end, note deluded and dog being totally and openly identical in appearance, note that such appearance openly signals to all the message of being castrated, docile, completely at the whim of the nearest owner. There really is nothing complimentary that will ever be said to any deluded wearing a vet's collar, the deluded will never understand it, and really is expecting or hoping to be told any variations on "Heel", "Roll over", "Play dead", and "Who's your owner?".

In turn, for the deluded that wants all observers to be impressed that the deluded is clearly trying to get guidance from the space aliens---or whomever---observe any radio antenna used for picking up radio signals from space. Note the deluded with a radio antenna collar that is standing on end, note the radio antenna with exact same shape, complete with feed antenna sticking out of the middle, note deluded and antenna being totally and openly identical in appearance, note that such appearance openly signals to all the message of the deluded eagerly seeking out radio transmissions from---whomever---so that the deluded then claims to have a sense of meaning and purpose. There really is nothing complimentary that will ever be said to any deluded that is costumed to look like a radio antenna, the deluded will never understand it, and really is expecting or hoping to be told some variation on "I notice you have your collar on end so that you can collect radio signals to have guidance. Do you think the Mothership will arrive soon?"

One keeps thinking that mebbe someday that a or the hipsters will finally notice that identifiably being a hipster just marks one as the bottom of society . . . but then again, if hipsters had synapses they wouldn't be hipsters . . .

Hal

And here I thought the origins of St. Patrick's day were a lot more complex . . . .

Hate it when that happens . . ..

Kevin Perez

Fun fact: St. Patrick's day is celebrated in some parts of Mexico, a "non-White" nation, primary in Mexico City and the Northern and Western parts of the country, where Irish immigrants historically resided and where there is proximity to the USA.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

David - thank you for sharing the Tim Blair link, he's fast becoming my favourite Antipodean. To be honest, the competition for that accolade isn't ferocious, although it does include the delightful Clive James, itinerant cutlery comparer Crocodile Dundee, and Australian cultural attache and Renaissance Man Les Patterson.

He's a braver man than me for knowingly entering the lair of those geriatric Gaia-botherers. The miasma of ostentatious self-righteousness and Steradent must have been cloying.

I'd have been tempted to carry an emergency bag of Werthers Originals with which to distract the dessicated deoderant-dodging progressives and effect my escape, should the liver-spotted Leninists close in on me in their mobility scooters and start shrieking like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers while flogging me feebly with Naomi Klein books and rolled up copies of The Guardian.

D

St. Patrick's day is celebrated in some parts of Mexico, a "non-White" nation

That doesn't matter. Mexico also has very stringent immigration policies, serious punishments for those who enter illegally, and it prevents non-citizens from holding many types of jobs. But it doesn't count; when non-white people do "racist" things it's acceptable. It only counts when whites do it. And that's no "anglo-centric" at all.

Chris N

If her glasses and CV are any indication of her intellectual caliber...

Who's with me?: I'm going to start the 'International Social Studies Institute.'

I'll charge a modest fee for aspiring academics and social commentators to reference their affiliation with the good work we do every day at the Institute

mactheknife

”I investigate the role of culture in reproducing and transforming social inequality, and research conflict around diversity and difference.”

Funnily enough, when I followed the link; the above statement was immediately followed by an advertisement which read "Learn to speak English"...

Jimmy

I think it perhaps easier and more informative to simply drop some acid than it is to bother viewing the world through the lens of Miley Cyrus.

Ed Snack

I failed, and laughed; and what's more, out loud in an office. I keep thinking that surely these people must be deliberate parodies, but apparently not, and, they hate being called surly.

AC1

Could we diagnose and treat leftism as HyperOxytocin?

http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-04-duo-oxytocin-group-serving-dishonesty.html

Darleen

I don't see why people should necessarily be allowed to inherit property, but then I have s strong meritocratic tendency that perhaps should be resisted

meritocratic? No, I think the word you're looking for is covetous.

Hal

Who's with me?: I'm going to start the 'International Social Studies Institute.'

I'll charge a modest fee for aspiring academics and social commentators to reference their affiliation with the good work we do every day at the Institute

Cash payments only, of course, paid in full before the accreditation, and immediate cutoff when the term runs out without further payment . . . .

David

Darleen,

I think the word you’re looking for is covetous.

Aside from a touch of hyperbole, I think Tom Paine’s basic point is hard to avoid. In some quarters there’s a remarkable disregard for the moral contentiousness of seizing other people’s stuff. The idea that meritocracy, so defined, trumps freedom and the right to bequeath and to keep what’s bequeathed (or some of it at least). And that the state must be inserted totally into all such transactions, as if it were some moral corrective and arbiter of who may leave what to whom, of who deserves what. It’s enormously tendentious and drips with implication. Much of which is oddly, suspiciously, ignored.

For instance, the Guardian’s James Butler denounces the “wealth gaps between classes” as if economic inequality, in and of itself, were an unquestionable wickedness, invariably caused by wickedness and demanding correction by means of state seizure. “Why,” he asks, “do we permit this?” Aside from waving around a copy of Thomas Piketty’s book (a book riddled with errors and wild assumptions, and poked at repeatedly by Tim Worstall), Mr Butler doesn’t explain why state seizure and the abolition of inheritance is moral or necessary, he just says it is. “We should… demand an end to inherited wealth entirely.” So there. His own egalitarian sentiment, along with vast reservoirs of envy and spite, is taken as the starting point, the unargued imperative.

Neither does Mr Butler explain how this total confiscation might work, what the consequences might be, or how the electorate might react. He doesn’t seem at all interested in, or concerned by, the implications of what he wants. Because his violation will be socialist and therefore just by definition. The nearest we get to a rationale that isn’t simply covetousness in drag is when he tells us, “It is difficult to justify inherited wealth from anything other than a class-partisan position.” Which, given the example of my neighbour, above, and many others like it, is evidently untrue.

Minnow

" In some quarters there’s a remarkable disregard for the moral contentiousness of seizing other people’s stuff."

I think that is a funny way of looking at it. What is in question are the property rights of dead people. It is not obvious that they should have any. There are clear meritocratic benefits to curtailing inheritance without any loss of freedom because the dead do not have any freedoms. But when you start thinking that it is fascistic to increase the tax on what dead people do with their money, I think you need a long lie down in a darkened room.

Minnow

"meritocratic? No, I think the word you're looking for is covetous."

No, quite the opposite, I would be much poorer if the inheritance laws were changed. But I don't think I deserve to be richer just because I happen to have been born how and where I was.

Ed Snack

Minnow, no covetous, or perhaps just plain greedy, would be quite apt. It isn't the property rights of dead people we're concerned with, it is those of the living named heirs that are affected. Generally speaking, the dead don't actually care anymore; at least, as far as we know.

Why can't we just give money to people, and do so before we die ? Or put the assets in a trust and make them joint beneficiaries with a transfer of trustee duties upon death ?

Minnow

"Minnow, no covetous, or perhaps just plain greedy, would be quite apt."

No, really, it wouldn't. I would be poorer if inheritance tax was raised, as I explained.

"It isn't the property rights of dead people we're concerned with, it is those of the living named heirs that are affected."

We are concerned with dead people spending/gifting money and it is not obvious why they have that right. As you have noticed, they don't have many others. Of course, if they want to give away their money while they are alive they would be free to do it. Another benefit of ending inheritance, people would be incentivised to be much more careful in spending their money if they had to do it while alive, and they might invest in their children when those children need it more too.

Anon

We are concerned with dead people spending/gifting money and it is not obvious why they have that right. As you have noticed, they don't have many others. Of course, if they want to give away their money while they are alive they would be free to do it

So if someone knows in advance roughly when they are going to die, they can arrange to give away their property. Put, as the old phrase has it, their affairs in order.

But on the other hand if death comes as a surprise to them, they lose that right. Is that what you're saying?

Does that seem fair to you? To die unexpectedly seems bad enough; why should it also deprive one of the ability to dispose of one's property as one wishes, as one would have had if one had had greater warning? That seems to me to heap unfairness upon unfairness.

Anna

Once again Minnow proves David's point for him.

David

Minnow,

I don’t think my previous comment reveals a “funny way of looking at it” at all. There’s no need to frame the issue, as you do, in terms of “the property rights of dead people” who “do not have any freedoms.” Your insistence on this framing seems glib and evasive. For example, one might frame the issue in rather more obvious terms - say, of the example I gave earlier – of an elderly woman of unremarkable means wishing to leave her granddaughter, also of unremarkable means, enough money for a deposit on a modest house. It’s the wishes of the living regarding their own property and their family that is the central issue.

Minnow

Maybe Anna, but which one?

"So if someone knows in advance roughly when they are going to die, they can arrange to give away their property ... But on the other hand if death comes as a surprise to them, they lose that right ... Does that seem fair to you?"

Yes, that would cover some of it and, yes, it seems fair to me. Why should dead people have property rights? They don't have other rights. They would lose their restaurant reservations for example, without compensation. Gym membership instantly expires even if you have just renewed it. It is hard, but that is life (well, its opposite)

Minnow

" It’s the wishes of the living regarding their own property and their family that is the central issue."

But it isn't and it is strange that you insist it is when we all agree that inheritance only occurs when people die. Old ladies might want to give gifts to granddaughters and I wouldn't want to prevent them, but dead grandmothers don't have wishes and shouldn't necessarily be accorded rights. I don't see why that old lady's granddaughter had a moral right? to her property, unless you have some theory about property rights being in some way linked to genetic make up? And using the full majesty of that law to protect someone's 'wishes' is frankly a little bit peculiar. We don't do it in any other place. The defence that that was what I wished m'lud will not get you very far when you did something different.

And, of course, the inheritance laws mainly favour the gigantic fortunes that keep power in the hands of small social groups. It is very inefficient too. History surely shows that the sons of rich men are not necessarily the best repositories of large sums of money. Handy for the world's coke dealers and casinos, but not great for the economy as a whole.

Jonathan

"No, don’t. You mustn’t laugh at a woman in hipster glasses."

Did she get them off Dame Edna?

David

Minnow,

Old ladies might want to give gifts to granddaughters and I wouldn’t want to prevent them

But it seems obvious that you do. Apparently you’re happy to violate a person’s customary final transaction with those they love. “Dead grandmothers don’t have wishes and shouldn’t necessarily be accorded rights,” etc. Maybe you feel that when a person dies, when every person dies, the state should swoop in and confiscate anything not nailed down or dispersed in advance. I’m not sure that’s a road to happiness or justice, or anything approaching that.

The notion of inheritance as some evil and unjust force exclusive to the wealthy and no-one else is untrue, indeed laughable. It’s how members of many families escape from poverty, how they create better lives for their children. In the example I gave above, the gift made a big difference to my neighbour’s life, and good for her. A “class-partisan position,” as the Guardian’s Mr Butler puts it, isn’t necessary to wish her well and I’m certainly not arguing from a position of immediate self-interest. I don’t expect to inherit anything of great value. And why should we believe, as some do with eerie certainty, that the state (and statists) have some overwhelming moral claim, a veto, on a grandmother’s final gift-giving, such that she can be banned from leaving her granddaughter a parting token of her affection?

Minnow

I really don't want to stop old ladies doing anything. I just don't think that people should get special privileges when they are dead. We all agree that property rights of the dead are restricted in many ways, the fact that it just seems natural not to restrict them in other ways is no argument. Some things have always been done for the wrong reasons. You are very impressed that a nice young lady was given a gift by her grandmother and used is wisely, but for every case like that there is an opposite, the young man who used a small inheritance to buy a gun to use for crime, for example. They prove nothing. But if you are a meritocrat on principle, you must be against inheritance on principle because it is necessarily anti-meritocratic and easily disposed of (there are some issues, like what to do with family run businesses, but they are technical and fairly easily resolved I reckon). I often meet people who claim to be meritocrats, who seem genuinely to believe they are meritocrats, believing that your place in the world should be decided by your on talents and efforts and nothing else, but scratch them on something like this, and it turns out they are really just interested in protecting the privileges of the property-owning classes. Not all of them benefit personally, some people are just deferential by nature or habit. False consciousness? It looks like it to me.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

Hi Minnow

"What is in question are the property rights of dead people."

Not so. What is in question are:

* The property rights of living people who make a will
* The property rights of living people whose husband, parent, civil partner, or other relation dies intestate
* The relationship between the State and the above. Historically, we've tolerated the State seizing a large chunk of people's property on death (unless it's put into a trust that legally avoids Inheritance Tax), but there's a reason why liberal societies don't abolish inheritance while nightmarish socialist regimes like the Soviet Union did, and that reason is that the State demanding all property reverts to it is incompatible with liberty. We, generally speaking, like our liberty in the West, and prefer it over the competing idea that we ultimately only enjoy life, liberty and all that other good stuff on the sufferance of the State.

"And, of course, the inheritance laws mainly favour the gigantic fortunes that keep power in the hands of small social groups. It is very inefficient too. History surely shows that the sons of rich men are not necessarily the best repositories of large sums of money. Handy for the world's coke dealers and casinos, but not great for the economy as a whole."

Maybe, but so what? Nothing to stop bright, hard working people creating their own gigantic fortunes in turn, if they're able and willing to create goods and services that their fellow man is willing to exchange money for. Some of the richest people in the world today, like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zuckerberg, and so on didn't become rich because they inherited wealth. And neither did the Beckhams, Jay Z, or any of the other fabulously wealthy entertainers and entrepreneurs. None of these people were prevented from becoming successful because Paris Hilton's family can afford to keep her in small dogs and night vision goggles.

A man who becomes rich through inherited wealth and blows it all on rogaine and cookers (if he's dyslexic) will soon become a poor man, but whose business is that except his? Do you think politicians and civil servants are better repositories of large sums of other people's money, given the multi-trillions of pounds of debt Western governments have managed to amass over the past few decades?

I'd be happier knowing that Scrooge McDuck's nephews and heirs were merrily stuffing their inheritance into the g-strings of anthropomorphic avian strippers than the government of the DuckTales universe seizing that wealth to help fund a war in Iquack or whatever.

David

Minnow,

But if you are a meritocrat on principle,

I’ve never claimed that, or anything like it. In fact, I pointed out the tension between freedom and meritocracy as you define it. The eagerness to prioritise meritocracy, so defined, has some unsavoury implications, not least regarding state power and personal autonomy. That those implications are often ignored, sometimes determinedly, was the original point being made.

You are very impressed that a nice young lady was given a gift by her grandmother and used is wisely

I’m not “impressed,” I’m just not quite so ready to be callous or perverse. Inheritance of the kind I described is how a great many people, including people I know, have improved the lives of those they care about. No casinos, no coke; just a wish to help the people they love. The people who make up the numerical bulk of inheritance transactions aren’t “rich men” with “gigantic fortunes.” They’re more typically people of unremarkable means. People who may need to wait until they die before their assets can be distributed as they wish – the home in which they live may have to be sold (and taxed), etc., before any money can be gifted to loved ones.

but for every case like that there is an opposite, the young man who used a small inheritance to buy a gun to use for crime, for example.

Heh. That doesn’t help your argument in the way you may think it does.

False consciousness? It looks like it to me.

And again, as above.

Minnow

Steve

You are making a mistake. Nobody is (here) challenging the property rights of the living but whether those rights (through the mystery of a legal device called a 'will) should extend into death. Personally I don't see good arguments why they should. You say:

"Historically, we've tolerated the State seizing a large chunk of people's property on death (unless it's put into a trust that legally avoids Inheritance Tax)"

But we haven't really, it is quite a new thing and saw the end of many mighty fortunes and a lot of wailing about the end of civilisation. In fact civilisation went on quite well. Some people think it has even improved a bit, but generally not the people in the big houses lamenting the impossibility of hiring staff.

"and that reason is that the State demanding all property reverts to it is incompatible with liberty"

You say so, but why? Whose liberty is infringed except for the dead person? If the property is already in the ownership of a living person, the state has to back off. We do like our liberty, but it is not really diminished just because the Duke of Westminster's son will be a billion or two less well off when the old man dies.

Of course we should not think that we only enjoy life and liberty in sufferance of the state, but we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking we can have those things without the state either. How long do you think the terms of those wills (the small ones at any rate) would be honoured without the apparatus of state violence to back them up?

Minnow

David, I was aiming the remarks about meritocracy more generally, I am willing to bet that a large number of your commentators and readers would consider themselves meritocrats, but I take your point. I don't see why it is callous or perverse to suggest that people who are born into families with money should not necessarily get money themselves though. It seems to me more callous to suggest that those born without should not benefit, the situation that inheritance helps to perpetuate.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

Hi Minnow

"You are making a mistake"

It wouldn't be the first time.

"Nobody is (here) challenging the property rights of the living but whether those rights (through the mystery of a legal device called a 'will) should extend into death."

Is a will mysterious? They seem quite a simple concept to me, and I can't even work out a better method of fixing the clock on my car dashboard than "wait seven months".

So a will is just a way of you deciding who gets your stuff when you die. It's your stuff so you get to leave it to whoever you want. Simples. And this isn't, strictly speaking, your property rights extending beyond death but that's a tedious semantic argument so let's not bother with that.

Re: Inheritance Tax

"But we haven't really, it is quite a new thing and saw the end of many mighty fortunes and a lot of wailing about the end of civilisation. In fact civilisation went on quite well. Some people think it has even improved a bit, but generally not the people in the big houses lamenting the impossibility of hiring staff."

What good has it done? Inheritance Tax hasn't led to less inequality, at least if the regular denunciations of inequality in the Guardian are to be believed. It hasn't led to money being spent more efficiently, the government spunked it all on Millenium Domes and wars. The only tangible outcome you mention is the humbling of the heirs of the former ruling class. I'm not sure we should be basing policy on spite.

Re: the incompatibility between the presumption that all property reverts to the State and liberty.

"You say so, but why? Whose liberty is infringed except for the dead person? If the property is already in the ownership of a living person, the state has to back off. We do like our liberty, but it is not really diminished just because the Duke of Westminster's son will be a billion or two less well off when the old man dies."

It's incompatible with liberty because the State is meant to be our servant, not our master. Therefore they don't, in a liberal society, get to claim ownership of us or all our worldlies either before or after we pop our clogs. That goes equally for rich men as it does for those of modest means.

And why should the State be magically privileged in getting to grab all of someone's belongings after they die? Why not the Girl Guides, the Cat Protection Society, or the the League of Rick Astley Impersonators? They have as much moral claim as HMRC does to loot the wallet of a dead person they didn't know.

"Of course we should not think that we only enjoy life and liberty in sufferance of the state, but we shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking we can have those things without the state either. How long do you think the terms of those wills (the small ones at any rate) would be honoured without the apparatus of state violence to back them up?"

I'm not ananarchist. I believe we should have small, limited government to enforce contracts, jail people who mug old ladies, fix potholes and so on. That's what the State is for - to serve us, and not the other way around.

We know that without external action the natural tendency of government over time is to expand indefinitely at the expense of liberty, so it needs regular pruning.

This would be one of those times when it's wisest to snip off an unwanted outgrowth before it hatches (I don't really know gardening).

If people are so aghast at inherited wealth there is nothing to stop them naming HM Government as their beneficiary. I wonder how many of the anti-inheritance crusaders have done that?

fnord

There seems to be essentially two positions here:

1) I shall dispose of MY wealth the way I see fit,

vs.

2) I shall dispose of YOUR wealth the way I see fit.

The fact that the second position is the credo of a thief should give it's advocate pause, no matter how much utilitarian rhetorical squid ink is injected into the argument.

But it won't.

Minnow

No Fnord, the question is whether it is your wealth when you are dead. While alive you should (within reason) be able to do what you want with it.

Minnow

"Is a will mysterious? They seem quite a simple concept to me"

I seems simple because it is familiar, but actually it is mysterious, it is a document that temporarily confers the rights of the living on the dead. Magic more or less.

Dom

A man and woman work all their lives and save what they earned so that they can live their final years without worry. Each leaves a will, WHILE LIVING, that should he or she die, the money goes to the other, so that they can continue living as planned. Knowing this will happen is a grat relief to them in their final years. The state has no business taking it

Minnow

Dom, they can still have that great relief, just share the wealth while they are alive. I do. Its easy. Actually it is pretty much default if they are married.

Smudger

Sorry to lower the tone but fuck me, socialists are repulsive.

Minnow

Smudger, you have the wrong target, in this discussion we are considered 'fascists'. But I guess the level is about as low, Year 9 more or less.

svh

The fact that the second position is the credo of a thief should give it's advocate pause,

If this place had an 'upvote' button...

Steve 2: Steveageddon

Hi Minnow - I quite like the sound of magic.

When I was a child I harboured dreams of becoming a magician, so I stole Ali Bongo's Big Book of Magic Tricks from the school library.

I was tantalised by promises of learning to AMAZE YOUR FRIENDS and BAFFLE YOUR PARENTS, so my Dad grudgingly handed over his prized digital watch for me to demonstrate my newfound powers of prestidigitation.

Sadly, even at an early age I was cursed with the vice of laziness, or as I prefer to be known, "differently motivated". I hadn't read far enough into the book to realise that you were supposed to palm the watch before ostensibly wrapping it in a handkerchief and smashing it with a hammer.

My father certainly was amazed and baffled though.

Anyway, if it's magic that lets some nice old dear leave a few thousand quid to the carer who made her final years more comfortable and dignified than they might otherwise have been, then it's benign magic of the non-Sinclair-Black-Watch-destroying type.

If I understand you correctly, you propose a different form of necromancy whereupon someone's demise the Dementors and Death Eaters of the State get to swoop down and take everything.

Answer truthfully now, because this is the Internet and it's run on the honour system: have you made a will leaving all your goods to the State, or is it chiefly other people's inherited wealth that concerns you?

Patrick Brown

It seems to me the objection to inheritance stems from the idea that it's not fair that the son or daughter of a rich man or woman should enjoy wealth they didn't earn. But confiscating inheritance wouldn't fix that. As has been pointed out above, and as Minnow hasn't objected to, a rich person can disburse their wealth while still alive, while a person of more modest means can't. They need what they have to live on, and it's only when they're gone and don't need it anymore that their assets can be disbursed. So confiscation of inheritance would hurt the poor more than the rich.

It also doesn't stop the children of the rich benefiting from their parents wealth and connections while they're alive. One of the greatest inequalities is in education, where the children of the wealthy benefit from private education paid for by their parents.

So no, confiscation of inheritance will not increase economic equality. In any case, the only people who are genuinely economically equal are subsistence farmers who are all equally poor, so I don't see economic equality as something to aspire to. Much better to campaign for equality of rights and equality of access to things like education and justice, and have a sustainable safety net so that nobody is absolutely poor.

Joan

What Smudger said.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

Hi Patrick - it seems to me that the Inheritance Tax was more about punishing rich posho types with drawling accents and big houses than anything else.

Like the foxhunting ban, or the ritual denunciation of private schools, there's a section of society that thrills at the idea of sticking two fingers up at Lord Snooty and pals.

Class hatred in this country is mostly aimed at our perceived betters.

Pitkin

I don't care if you call it meritocracy, facsism or socialism, it is still a spite-driven bludgeoning of interpersonal relationships to serve a 'greater good' as identified by some who regard themselves as more enlightened than the rest of us.

My grandmother, a fullblood English Roma who lived her entire life in grinding poverty and high independence from the state had little to leave me beyond a few trinkets (in monetary terms) but which carried with them generations of tradition and history of her family. Would those equally be tossed over to the ever-wise state guardians to sell at a car boot sale?

Minnow, you profoundly insult those of us who grew up 'disadvantaged', in one degree of poverty or another, by claiming to speak on our behalf and calling on the state to come to our rescue. I don't need other people to be cut off at the knees so that I can stand as tall as them. I'll make myself a box.

David

Apropos of nothing in particular, the new Captain America film is fun. Worth the price of a ticket just to see Jenny Agutter whupping ass. As I believe the youngsters say.

Dr Cromarty

Jenny Agutter formed a significant part of my adolescence (think Walkabout and An American Werewolf in London and you catch my drift). The notion of her whupping ass is quite exciting. I think I'll plan a trip to the cinema with my teenage offspring, though as a meritocrat I recognise they've done nothing to earn such largesse.

Minnow

"Answer truthfully now, because this is the Internet and it's run on the honour system: have you made a will leaving all your goods to the State, or is it chiefly other people's inherited wealth that concerns you?"

Oh no, I will make sure that my children get as many unfair advantages as I can manage, but even I am not entirely convinced that my selfishness should be the governing principle of the state.

"But confiscating inheritance wouldn't fix that. As has been pointed out above, and as Minnow hasn't objected to, a rich person can disburse their wealth while still alive"

There are no solutions to political problems, As Oakeshott pointed out, but there are ameliorations. If a rich person disburses their wealth while alive it will be at least more efficiently managed than doing it while they are dead (dead people are rotten managers). It is also likely to incentivise charitable giving, investment in public spirited projects etc. Of course I completely agree that the rich will continue to have huge unfair, advantages but we shouldn't therefore structure the law to protect them just because.

Minnow

"My grandmother, a fullblood English Roma who lived her entire life in grinding poverty and high independence from the state had little to leave me beyond a few trinkets (in monetary terms) but which carried with them generations of tradition and history of her family. Would those equally be tossed over to the ever-wise state guardians to sell at a car boot sale?"

The Roma allow inheritance now? They didn't use to. Bad luck. But no, I think sums below a certain threshold would be exempt for sentimental reasons.

David

Dr Cromarty,

The film’s surprisingly tense at times, as when a certain eye-patch-wearing gentleman has, um, difficulties with his car, and it’s silly when it needs to be. Plus, the usual mid-credits teaser should please Marvel comic enthusiasts, hinting as it does of… things to come.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

David - I've always had specual feelings for Jenny Agutter since Logan's Run, which was a remarkable film for its prescient depiction of the disco jumpsuit based fashions of the future and Peter Ustinov without makeup. I blame my subsequent anxiety about turning 30 and ongoing mistrust of booming-voiced silver robots on that movie.

I'm not too sure about this Captain America business though. Couldn't they make a film called Captain European Union where the eponymous hero is a mild mannered former Prime Minister of Belgium who gains super European integration powers after being bitten by a radioactive talking horse called Ashton?

He could have all sorts of adventures battling the evil rosbif, Lord Nigel.

I would pay many Euros to see that.


Minnow - I'm the most self-centred man in the world. So much so that I thought Carly Simon was singing about ME. But I can't recognise wanting to help your kids as a species of selfishness, not that there's anything wrong with selfishness.

It's a natural human instinct and we are lucky to benefit from it.

Is it unfair that some people benefit more than others from advantages handed down by their parents? Sure, but so what?

Is it fair that I'll never fulfil my lifelong dream of being a wizard?

Most of us give up on hoping the world will be fair after the first couple of letters to Hogwarts asking if they have a mature students class come back undelivered, and by a boring muggle postman instead of an owl at that.

David

“Fish, and plankton, and sea greens, protein from the sea… Overwhelming, am I not?

WTP

I don't know if I just missed it somewhere, and not surrendering the rights of the dead to decide where their wealth goes, I do not see where Minnow has established where the state has the right to that wealth. Putting aside nominal taxation on inherited wealth, which I could go either way on. I don't see where the state has a "right" to that wealth except as it would to tax a portion as it does in many transactions.

Also, what is completely ignored here is that the wealthy, or perhaps just those who can trust their children, can simply devise an arrangement around such confiscation. I'm not sure Minnow understands natural rights and where they come from. Or perhaps it's just a perception from which side of the pond we're sitting, but our rights are not granted by the state. The state chooses to recognize our rights, in which case such societies prosper because they are more in tune with the natural order. States that fail to recognize or comprehend natural rights do not result in societies as productive as those who do. Not to be taken as absolutes, just a sliding scale of course.

David

Oh wow. I’d forgotten about the Logan’s Run spin-off TV series, which traded Ms Agutter for Donald Moffatt.

Patrick Brown

Jenny Agutter? The red triangle goddess of my adolesence was Nastasja Kinski. Does she whip ass in any superhero films?

David

I think whipping ass is a more specialist sub-genre.

David

Also, via Instapundit, more on the “white privilege” conference mentioned above. According to Kim Radersma, a former high school English teacher now entranced by “critical whiteness studies,” anyone who goes into teaching “must be political,” by which she means leftwing. Those who wish to teach but aren’t entirely persuaded by the voodoo on offer should, and I quote, “get the fuck out of education.” You see, being a white person is “like being an alcoholic” and white people must, simply must, “admit they have a problem.”

Dr Cromarty

” You see, being a white person is “like being an alcoholic”

My name's Dr Cromarty and I'm a white person.

There. I feel so much better

bgates

I would be much poorer if the inheritance laws were changed.

Or if you were the sort of person who could dispose of his own money in what you consider a moral fashion without the coercive power of the state forcing you to do it.

But I don't think I deserve to be richer just because I happen to have been born how and where I was.

Allow me to direct your attention to the orange-yellow 'Donate' button at the top of the page.

Rafi

And bgates wins the thread.

dicentra

I think it perhaps easier and more informative to simply drop some acid than it is to bother viewing the world through the lens of Miley Cyrus.

Bears repeating.

dicentra

I just don't think that people should get special privileges when they are dead.

So I write up a document to specify that X is entitled to Y, which belongs to me.

If the property is transferred 5 minutes before I die, according to the document, that's jake with you. If the property is transferred 5 minutes after I die, according to that same document, it's a "special privilege."

WHAT special privilege? The same thing happens when I'm alive as when dead.

Your argument isn't even based on observable, metaphysical reality. Where do you get this stuff?

FURTHERMORE, estate taxes are designed to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich.

Such as the family that owns a chain of dry cleaners. The parents die, leaving the stores to their offspring. The value of those stores is assayed to be X and the tax on that is 0.50X, an amount far exceeding the liquid assets in their collective possession.

So they're forced to sell the chain to pay the inheritance tax. Who buys up the stores?

The larger dry-cleaning chain, because they're the only ones who can afford to buy them up, and they're offering a better price than Joe Schmoe, who can afford maybe one store at a lower price.

Please start with what's happening on the ground and THEN draw a conclusion.

That's how we roll around here. Quirky, I know, but humor us.

Charlie Suet

There's a strong element of Chesterton's fence with all this bleating about tax. Anybody who has ever looked at inheritance tax, with its CLTs, PETs, gifts with reservation of benefit etc must realise that it's pretty complicated stuff. Fiddling with it from a point of total ignorance isn't likely to be a roaring success.

The charitable view of Minnow's demands is that he only wishes to prevent people from bequeathing homes and land upon their descendants. He doesn't actually mention chattel goods, but presumably even he wouldn't object to people handing down rings and things like that.

The effect of introducing a law like the one he appears to advocate would hardly be egalitarian, however. Taxes on wealth in a sense have the worst effect on those whose assets are illiquid. Preventing those whose wealth is tied up in a house would do nothing to create a 'level playing field'. The truly rich would go on giving their children an allowance, a superior education and the self-confidence that riches bring in life. It is these things that really give people a head start in life.

In contrast, those whose parents could provide no support in their earlier years would be denied even the compensation of an inheritance later in life.

The argument for consequential theft, as advocated by Minnow, is fairly weak at the best of times. But where the ends are not even achieved, the means are even less appealing.

dicentra

There are no solutions to political problems,

I categorically deny that inheritance, tax-free or no, is a political problem. I don't think I'm alone here.

But I don't think I deserve to be richer just because I happen to have been born how and where I was.

The term "deserve" is a weasel-word. You can insist in this thread that "deserve" comes from performing labor, but in another thread you'll observe that not all types of labor reap the same recompense, and off we go again.

Yes, it is the case that the neurosurgeon is compensated at a higher rate than the surgical nurse who assists him, who is paid more than the orderly who sterilizes the room and equipment, who is paid more than the guy who empties the gut bucket into the incinerator.

Go ahead and apply "deserve" to that scenario. The knots you'll tie yourself into should entertain us for the nonce.

Hal

What Can Educators do to End White Supremacy in the Classroom?

Well, the simplest answer is to move to a non Caucasian majority country.

Of course there is the lathe of heaven, but that's a bit specialized.

D

I'm not sure I understand the idea to begin with. There seem to be two ideas that I don't see a connection between -- one, that dead people have no rights, and two, that people ought not to benefit economically from relatives and should have to earn their own money because otherwise it's unfair.

Even if it were the case that dead people have no rights, live people can enter into contracts which are triggered by their deaths. If we're going to have copyright laws that allow a company to have rights until the creator's death plus some number of years (in the US at least) we're dealing with a scenario where someone's death is an element of the lives of others, not the cessation of their existence in all senses. It's also been pointed out that it's certainly not more rational for a person's belongings to default to the government, a government which may have actively hindered that person from acquiring what he acquired while his children may have spent all their time and efforts helping him do so. That's far from a more fair or just outcome.

It also doesn't take into account any scenario wherein an older person may be supported in their efforts and wealth creation by a younger person; my family consists primarily of farmers, so the older family members own fields which they purchased when they were younger which are now worked by the younger members, who will inherit them. In many cases a man and his son would work together to build a successful farming business. Most everything would be in the father's name because he had better credit. If he happened to die of a heart attack unexpectedly the son would own nothing and would lose all his own efforts, as well as those of his father. I don't see that as a meritocratic outcome.

Secondly, the meritocratic argument is nonsensical. People have various advantages, some economic and some of other kinds. Let's say Joe and I both have wealthy parents, but while my parents sent me to the best schools and got me a great education and raised me with solid values, Joe's parents ignored him and did nothing for him. Even if the government confiscates both of our parents' wealth, my parents still bequeathed things to me that will allow me to succeed more than Joe in the future. As a result he may try twice as hard with half the return. If I produced twice as much, do I "merit" more compensation, even if I didn't have to try nearly as hard? Or does he "merit" more because he tried harder? Who gets to decide what standard we use?

I didn't "earn" the intelligence I likewise inherited from my parents. When you really come down to it, very little of what we have is "earned" in the sense that we have it due to our own efforts, and even then our ability to achieve enough to produce anything by our own efforts relies very much on things we inherited and circumstances beyond our control. Poor Africans don't "deserve" to be poor in the cosmic sense, and I don't "deserve" to have the advantages of being American. On the other hand you can't blame me for being American and having all the advantages because it wasn't my choice. We can't fix all the cosmic injustices. All we can do is try to set up impartial systems that allow society to function as well as possible.

And when you think about it, inheritance is just contract enforcement, where people are considered to have a default will giving their wealth to their next of kin unless they have written a custom contract. That doesn't seem so magical.

Minnow

"The term "deserve" is a weasel-word."

It really isn't. Nobody deserves to be wealthy just because they were born to wealthy parents. It is a injustice. If we can rectify it, we should. Surely you agree with that much? You don't really think that Prince Andrew or Peaaches Geldof have what they have because they deserve it?

Minnow

" It's also been pointed out that it's certainly not more rational for a person's belongings to default to the government, a government which may have actively hindered that person from acquiring what he acquired while his children may have spent all their time and efforts helping him do so."

Really, these people should stop exploiting their children while they are alive and compensate them for their time and efforts, rather than hoarding the wealth until they die. A change in the law may inspire them to do the right thing.

Hal

Nobody deserves to be wealthy just because they were born to wealthy parents.

Yeah, there's always that annoying wine, women, and loose living bit isn't there?

Charlie Suet

Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

That's all it boils down to.

WTP

Really, these people should stop exploiting their children while they are alive and compensate them for their time and efforts, rather than hoarding the wealth until they die.

Who's exploiting? And again, why does the state "deserve" this money? People who know how to generate wealth are more often than not more qualified to determine where it should go both while they are living and after they are dead. The give away here is this "hoarding" perception. You seem to be under the mistaken belief that most wealthy people keep their wealth in bags buried in the yard, in a safe, or under a mattress and sit around counting it a thousand times. That wealth that you so covet is invested in businesses or deposited in banks. It is being used by society to create more wealth.

tempdog

Of course there is the lathe of heaven, but that's a bit specialized.

But are you authentically green?

D

Really, these people should stop exploiting their children while they are alive and compensate them for their time and efforts, rather than hoarding the wealth until they die.

Do you not understand my farming example? You seem to discount the possibility of an older person and a younger person working together on any sort of project. When you're dealing with a complex enterprise you may have all sorts of tax or other reasons for putting the money in one place rather than the other. If one relative gets hit by a truck, now all the other person's work is gone, given to a government that did none of the work, for no reason, just so nobody gets anything "undeserved."

Deserve is a weasel-word because it's subjective nonsense. You don't deserve to live; you didn't do anything to be born, nor do I know what you could do to deserve to live in the first place. I could rectify that situation, it's within my power, but what people "deserve" according to me isn't something I'm going to impose on them in the real world. You don't deserve anything you have because the life you used to gain those things was a pure gift; the skills you have were genetically inherited; your education was done and seen to by others; the country you lived in was made by others and you did nothing to deserve to live in a place they sacrificed for. I could go on and on. I could credit others with everything you've ever done, or blame them for it. If you're considering giving me money, then whether I "deserve" it according to you is meaningful. When we're talking about what Thomas Sowell calls "cosmic justice," it's just a way for you to say that whatever you like should be enforced on others by the state.

In the end, "There is no one righteous, not even one." We all have things happen to us that we didn't deserve in the cosmic sense, and we get things we didn't deserve too (starting with life itself). Just being born in the US or Britain, we've gained a windfall so great that it's hard to imagine. Will you give that windfall away so you're not starting ahead of any others? Will you go live in Ethiopia to see how far your merit gets you?

dicentra

You don't really think that Prince Andrew or Peaaches Geldof have what they have because they deserve it?

I made it clear that I am rejecting the concept of "deserve" entirely, because reality does not employ it, and it's damned near impossible for us to implement it ourselves. "Deserve" by what criteria? Administered by whom? Who "deserves" to stand as judge over great and small?

I would, however, make one exception to the rejection of "deserve": People should have to live in the world that they dreamed of for others.

Let's raise power bills to the highest levels in the country with all sorts of green mandates — given that we live in 70-degree year-round temperatures, while "they" who are stupid enough to dwell in 105-degree Bakersfield deserve the resulting high power bills. We need cheap labor, open borders, multiculturalism, and identity politics, but not too near my kids' Santa Monica or Atherton prep schools. I like my beamer in La Jolla and my Mercedes in Menlo Park, but not the fracking that might provide cheaper gas for Juan and Jose who drive a used 10-year-old Yukon 40 miles to work in Mendota.

Darleen

Minnow

No, quite the opposite, I would be much poorer if the inheritance laws were changed. But I don't think I deserve to be richer just because I happen to have been born how and where I was

Covetousness (and the commandment against it) is about your desire for things that are not yours. And nothing says more about coveting than a desire to have people who earn/own stuff not do with it as you desire... so better to have The State come in and take it, even if it means you are poorer too, at least you got to inflict pain on the other guy.

It's the basis of trying to bring up the "well, some heirs are bound not to use the property wisely." Guess what, still not your property nor concern. If someone wants to buy a house, feed the homeless or blow it all on booze & broads, it is none of your business.

And really, if you can root out the covetous motivations at base of your obsession with Other People's Stuff, you'll be a happier person.

Darleen

Nobody deserves to be wealthy just because they were born to wealthy parents. It is a injustice.

Injustice? Yikes, what a perversion of the word.

dicentra

What was I thinking? The concluding paragraph is even better:

There is a great sickness in California, home of the greatest number of American billionaires and poor people, land of the highest taxes and about the worst schools and roads in the nation. The illness is a new secular religion far more zealous and intolerant than the pre-Reformation zealotry of the Church. Modern elite liberalism is based on the simple creed that one's affluence and education, one's coolness and zip code, should shield him from the consequences of one's bankrupt thoughts that he inflicts on others. We are a state run by dead souls who square the circle of their own privilege, who seek meaning in rather selfish lives, always at someone else's expense.

It is that simple — that pernicious.

Y'all need to find an uninhabited island — northern Canada is lousy with them — or some vast wilderness — most of Siberia and Australia is free — and build ya the paradise you so long have dreamed of where everyone gets exactly what they deserve.

Because you would get it. Good and hard.

dicentra

So Minnow was walking along the beach and came upon an odd little brass lamp. S/he grabbed it and buffed it up a bit and a big old genie appeared.

Genie: I will grant you one wish, but I must warn you, whatever you wish for yourself, your neighbor will get double.

Minnow: [thinks a bit, then thinks some more] Put out my eye.

David

I’m not sure I’ve much to add. I think Minnow has made his/her own position sufficiently disreputable.

Though Darleen’s comment about covetousness and happiness bears repeating. Being fixated with other people’s earnings and property, the size of their homes and their choice of school, isn’t a recipe for happiness or clarity or kindness. The feelings that grow around such preoccupations tend to be unflattering and corrosive, very often spiteful or openly sadistic. It’s a phenomenon that’s illustrated by the Guardian on a weekly basis, as the archives here demonstrate. And being ostentatiously peeved that others aren’t being coerced into actions that you choose not to take voluntarily, despite professing the virtue and necessity of such oddly untaken actions, is a dissonance that invites mockery. Hereabouts at least.

Dan

Minnow - where do you stand on organ donation? Are my wishes on that score to be ignored?

How about old ladies who leave everything to the Cats Protection League? Should their bequests be taken away and used as bureaucrats see fit? What will be the impact of this on how charities act?

What about restrictive covenants on property? The landowner - if we are permitted to own land! - can no longer benefit from the view of the estuary, so can we just build over it?

Actually, why are we permitted to own land? Is it fair? Why should we tolerate it while people are alive but not the passing on of it when they die?

Should we allow private education? If so, why is that 'just'?

Ultimately, how will you enforce your view of justice? And why is your view just?

Dom

I hesitate to add one more comment to this insanely long thread, but I should add (if no one has already) that the desire to end (or tax) inheritance is just one fight in the battle. Since "nobody deserves to be wealthy just because they were born to wealthy parents" then parents can not pass their wealth or their knowledge or their skills to their children even when they are alive. That is the reason the left hates private education, even home schooling.

There is a mind set in the western world that holds that any differences among children must be "an injustice". To this mind set, we must tell Duke Ellington that he has to work as a shoe-repair man, because his musical genius was acquired unjustly. They have not figured out that the rest of us profit more from Ellington's music that we do from Ellington's shoes. What they want is poverty, because poverty is justice.

Patrick Brown

Minnow: "Nobody deserves to be wealthy just because they were born to wealthy parents. It is a injustice. If we can rectify it, we should. Surely you agree with that much?"

No, I don't. Your way would have deprived us of The Origin of Species, which only came about because Darwin had enough time to do the research, because he was independently wealthy thanks to his father's investments and his wife's share of the Wedgwood porcelain fortune. Darwin didn't earn any of that, but he put it to good use.

Wealthy people pay taxes. Some wealthy people invest their surplus wealth in large-scale enterprises, which pay taxes, and employ people, who pay taxes. Not all wealthy people do this, of course, but only wealthy people can. The state and its welfare provision depend on taxation, and taxation is only possible where there is surplus wealth. Arrange things so everybody has the same amount of surplus wealth, and you get inflation, as the price of goods and services rises to what everyone can afford, and that surplus is wiped out.

Our entire economy, NHS, free education, welfare state and all, depends on the unequal distribution of wealth. If you're clever enough to create an economic system that doesn't, that still provides the poorest with a comparable standard of living, and doesn't require the execution of vast numbers of inconvenient people, have at it.

Randy

I'm not quite sure why we're discussing the property rights of dead people. When someone dies, the property vests instantly in the living; the dead don't own anything. Probate might take a while. It's not like the property is hanging around in some kind of limbo.

Jonathan

Minnow: "Nobody deserves to be wealthy just because they were born to wealthy parents. It is a injustice. If we can rectify it, we should."

Ah, a wonderful principle on which to base a society. But why stop at wealth? We won't even need plastic surgeons.

Nobody deserves to be tall just because they were born to tall parents. It is an injustice. If we can rectify it, we should. Bring out the hacksaws.
Nobody deserves to be handsome just because they were born to handsome parents. It is an injustice. If we can rectify it, we should. Bring out the boric acid.
Nobody deserves to be musically talented just because they were born to musically talented parents. It is an injustice. If we can rectify it, we should. Bring out the 2-pound hammer.
Nobody deserves to have nice rounded breasts just because she were born to a mother with nice rounded breasts. It is an injustice. If we can rectify it, we should. Bring out the corsets and the pulley systems.
Nobody deserves to be intelligent just because they were born to intelligent parents. It is an injustice. If we can rectify it, we should. Bring out that vintage lobotomy equipment.
Nobody deserves to be possessing White Privilege just because they were born to White parents. It is an injustice. If we can rectify it, we should. Bring out the tanning beds and the voltage converters.

All joking aside, I'm surprised no-one brought up certain strictly utilitarian arguments against the 100% inheritance tax. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, considering how weighty all the other arguments against it are. But for the fun of it, consider this -

Britain is pretty much bankrupt, and here we have a suggestion to let the government confiscate all your worldly goods the moment you die. How conducive would this be to British longevity? Do you think the state will be funding any new mammography equipment any time soon? How about fixing broken railings on high-speed roads? No? What about speed limit enforcement? Would a dozen speeding tickets be more or less profitable than one fatal accident? Lucius Cornelius Sulla is starting to look like an amateur.

How many soldiers would remain in uniform? We'll have to make an exemption for them. What about firefighters? Policemen? Lifeguards? Bomb disposal squads? Test pilots? You'll have more exemptions than for Obamacare.

Lots of prime ministers have been assassinated, it's a risky job. Gotta add the big man. And ex-prime ministers, of course. Plus the cabinet. And the house of Lords. Both houses, actually. What about senior civil servants? How soon would you have a two-class society, those with exemption from the tax and those without? And how soon would the exempt try to bequeath that privilege to their children?

Interestingly enough, this is a revival of an ancient Feudal concept - land tenure - and its application to the entirety of a man's property. Land is not owned; it his Held from your Lord, who holds it from his, all the way up to the King. When you die, your son may inherit it, but not directly - he must give an oath of fealty to your Lord, who will then give it to him to Hold, minus a small tax. Progress!

You seem to have forgotten a fundamental fact of human existence. "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. For man also knoweth not his time; as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them." - Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

Man knoweth not his time. If you expect men to keep working as if they will live forever, you must honor their Wills when they are dead.

WTP

Jonathan, I'm with you on all of that, except the land issue. I wish it were otherwise but fundamentally you don't own land unless you have an army to defend it. Real estate law recognizes this fact in much more polite and obfuscated language than I can muster. But fundamentally, by natural law, it is thus.

abacab

Hmmm. What Minnow is speaking in favour of is certainly interesting, in the sense of the old Chinese curse.

Fundamentally, he has invalidated the entire concept of life insurance, and turned it in to a marvellous new form of taxation: pay into an LI scheme all your life, and on your death the Treasury gets a payout! On top of getting your house complete with your collection of 1990s acid jazz CD's. Never mind the upkeep of the widow or the children, dead people clearly have no right to provide for their dependents in their absence. How selfish of me to think that my LI planning such that, in the event of my untimely demise, the wife & kids could relocate "back home" and live off the LI payout for a good long period, would be in vain, since the moment I kick the bucket I have no further rights, and all my base are belong to the State.

As to his suggestion that parents transfer their wealth to their children during their lifetimes, what a marvellous suggestion. The parents are then entirely dependent on the good will of the children not to kick them out of the house they paid for, and to give them an allowance or permission to dispurse funds not locked away in an annuity or other form of pension scheme. If they need to sell the house or the business to go into care, they have to get the new owners to do it. Fantastic! And what happens if one of the kids goes bankrupt? Bye bye parents, the county court has just sold their house from under them.

Also, I look forward to my parents handing over 50% of their house and their other assets to me, and me enjoying the eye-watering international taxation consequences of such a transfer.

Of course, such exempt transfers during the lifetime will be seen by the Richard Murphies of this world as tax avoidance. So we'll have to have some kind of gift tax as well to remedy that, like they do in the US and in much of mainland Europe. Call it a kind of pre-death death tax. Maybe the EU could insist on gift-tax harmonisation? Remember already that transfers during life are only "potentially exempt" - if the old girl carks it within 7 years, it is still counted for IHT.

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