Friday, March 11, 2011

Why the Estate Tax Is So Hated?

The NY Times gives Frances Fukuyama's upcoming book a plug. This time the author of "The End of History" tackles "The Origins of Political Order." In academia some are already hailing the work as a magnum opus.

Dr. Fukuyama examines ways in which various societies evolved from families to extended families or tribes, and from tribes to states. The latter step is difficult because the power of kinship is strong. (Current news analysis describes Libya as a group of tribes held together only by a take-no-prisoners ruler.)

States emerged by means of several practices that broke family and tribal ties. according to Dr. Fukuyama. Islam in its heyday enslaved boys captured from Europe, raised them as Muslims and trained them for war. One such group, the Mamluks, defeated the Crusaders. Feudal kings in Europe removed promising young people from their family homes and brought them to court.

(Don't know whether Dr. Fukuyama mentions the Scots; they did not proceed to invent everything until the Highland Clearances dispersed the clans, replacing them with flocks of sheep.)

Does the strong and enduring power of kinship explain why we find the estate tax so hateful? How dare the State place its revenue requirements above the family's!

1 comment:

Jim Gust said...

The estate tax is broadly hateful because we all secretly believe that we will win the lottery. When we do, we want to keep all the winnings.

Those who like the estate tax try to keep the focus on the deceased, who no longer needs the wealth. The focus needs to be on the heirs, who do need it.

Ironically, the probability of keeping the estate tax has been enhanced significantly with the drop in the tax rate coupled with a meaningful increase in the exempt amount.