Inheritance Taxation, Equal Opportunities and the Desire of Immortality

  • Toon Vandevelde
Conference paper
Part of the Studies in Economic Ethics and Philosophy book series (SEEP)


The question of the legitimacy of inheritance and inheritance taxation disturbs the familiar oppositions in economic and ethical thought and in political philosophy and practice. Some libertarians, who otherwise advocate an absolute respect for property rights, are nevertheless in favour of limitations to the freedom to bequeath. Socialists who proposed to abolish inheritance encountered strong resistance in their own organisations. Even in the First International the abolition of inheritance failed to obtain a majority.1 Communitarians who mostly take side with socialist reformists tend to disagree with them on this issue. Liberal economists using efficiency arguments clash with liberal political philosophers defending equity and equality of opportunity. The disruption of the fixed ideological and philosophical landscape is, however, not necessarily a bad thing. Ultimately the discussion about a topic like inheritance taxation shows better than any abstract controversy between schools of thought the limits of communitarian, liberal, libertarian, egalitarian or socialist theory. By pointing to some examples of ambivalence towards inheritance (taxation) we try to highlight the implicit value debate at stake here.


Distributive Justice Moral Ideal Bequest Motive Estate Taxation Inheritance Taxation 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1997

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  • Toon Vandevelde

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