Free and Proper Elections

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Free and Proper Elections - NCFPE Poltical Blog and News Tracker

Should There Be A Inheritance Tax?

At what point does great wealth held in a few hands actually harm democracy, threatening to turn a democratic republic into an oligarchy?
In a letter to Joseph Milligan on April 6, 1816, Thomas Jefferson explicitly suggested that if individuals became so rich that their wealth could influence or challenge government, then their wealth should be decreased upon their death. He wrote, “If the overgrown wealth of an individual be deemed dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law of equal inheritance to all in equal degree…”
In this, he was making the same argument that the Framers of Pennsylvania tried to make when writing their constitution in 1776. As Kevin Phillips notes in his masterpiece book “Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich,” a Sixteenth Article to the Pennsylvania Bill of Rights (that was only “narrowly defeated”) declared: “an enormous proportion of property vested in a few individuals is dangerous to the rights, and destructive of the common happiness of mankind, and, therefore, every free state hath a right by its laws to discourage the possession of such property.”
With Thomas Jefferson taking the lead in the Virginia legislature in 1777, every Revolutionary state government abolished the laws of primogeniture and entail that had served to perpetuate the concentration of inherited property.
Jefferson cited Adam Smith, the hero of free market capitalists everywhere, as the source of his conviction that (as Smith wrote, and Jefferson closely echoed in his own words), “A power to dispose of estates for ever is manifestly absurd. The earth and the fulness of it belongs to every generation, and the preceding one can have no right to bind it up from posterity. Such extension of property is quite unnatural.” Smith said: “There is no point more difficult to account for than the right we conceive men to have to dispose of their goods after death”
The states left no doubt that in taking this step they were giving expression to a basic and widely shared philosophical belief that equality of citizenship was impossible in a nation where inequality of wealth remained the rule. North Carolina’s 1784 statute explained that by keeping large estates together for succeeding generations, the old system had served “only to raise the wealth and importance of particular families and individuals, giving them an unequal and undue influence in a republic” and promoting “contention and injustice.” Abolishing aristocratic forms of inheritance would by contrast “tend to promote that equality of property which is of the spirit and principle of a genuine republic.”…

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  • I VOTE says:

    I agree with T.J.

    August 5, 2013 at 7:15 am
  • McNamara says:

    No. It is a blatant violation of property rights. Besides, wealth is only dangerously influential in government to the extent that government is corrupt. If some wealthy family manages to essentially take over the government, it’s only because the government was rotten to begin with. In short, it’s a lousy excuse, no matter who gives it.

    August 5, 2013 at 11:41 am
  • pdooma says:

    The ways the laws are written now, it penalizes thousands of small businesses. It doesn’t just address those with obscene amounts of money.

    August 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm
  • You would like to know says:

    Should Government steal families after tax savings? Think about what you just asked?

    August 5, 2013 at 9:58 pm
  • RockHunt says:

    What’s moral and right about double-taxation?

    August 6, 2013 at 4:04 am
  • NEO-SOC says:

    There already is..

    August 6, 2013 at 8:23 am

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