What is the sure sign of a decadent nation? One that is steadily losing territories and markets, while obsessing over the glories and rituals of the past. Another? The growth of a vast ecology of lawyers and propagandists devoted to shoring up the causes of that decline. What are the consequences? When the inefficiencies become unsustainable, a collapse into a murderous nihilistic revolution, whose consequences last for generations. Ask any of the inmates of Russia, Iran, or Venezuela.
As go nations, so go individuals. No heir will possess the hunger and aggression for risk of the dynasty’s founder. For an heir, the smart move, as Michael Corleone would say, is stay cautious, preserving all that is, rather than risking it in adventures. Admirable, no doubt; but not the qualities to win new markets, or prevail in negotiations. Once the energetic merchants and sailors who had built the Italian Republics like Venice and Genoa passed on to their heirs, those states quickly declined from world powers to tourist attractions. In England, the system of inherited power and wealth has produced leaders like Cameron and Johnson. If men like these reach the top, it is because they have not had far to climb. Compare them with Margaret Thatcher who, born far from the networks of privilege was forced to weigh every decision, and make it count. And ask yourself who was by far the better Prime Minister. By its very existence inheritance is inimical to the meritocracy which capitalism promises.
Opponents of Inheritance Tax argue; “why should I be taxed twice on the money I have earned.” But it is the heirs who pay the tax, not them. A sure sign of a narcissistic father is that he cannot separate himself psychologically from his children. Healthy parents have no interest in the private financial arrangements of their offspring. The best inheritance to give a child is a good education, health and the promise of a society in which there is a low chance of being murdered by a stranger. All the evidence suggests that this is best achieved in high tax equal societies like Japan or the Scandinavian countries.
A real capitalist society offers the true promises of efficiency and meritocracy. The bravest and most able, ruthlessly sieved in the schools of learning and decision, rise by their efforts to the best houses and incomes and so on. A strong inheritance tax would keep it that way. Patriots of all sorts ought to applaud.
 Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson The Spirit Level Allen Lane 2009
 Thomas Piketty Capital in the 21st Century Editions de Seuil 2014
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