The View From 1776
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Building Businesses And The Estate Tax
You didn’t build your business; the political state created it. So the political state is entitled to take it, not your heirs.
Estate and inheritance taxes, as sources of government revenue, date back thousands of years, at least as far back as the Roman Empire. But estate taxes as a means to redistribute wealth date to the French Revolution of 1789. Henri de Saint-Simon, one of the earliest codifiers of socialist doctrine, advocated confiscation of estate assets at death, aiming to have all property over several generations revert to state ownership.
“Progressives, including President Theodore Roosevelt, advocated both an inheritance tax and a graduated income tax as tools to address inequalities in wealth. This thinking eventually led to the passage of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and the enactment of the Federal income tax.”
(The Estate Tax: Ninety Years and Counting, by Darien B. Jacobson, Brian G. Raub, and Barry W. Johnson)
As President Obama put it, “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” Ergo, your heirs have no right, beyond what the government deigns to grant, to property you accumulate by whatever legal means.