May 08, 2006

The Death Tax Is Immoral

That's the argument I make this morning in The Oklahoman:
In 1848, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels made the case for "wrest(ing), by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie ... by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property." This included "abolition of all right of inheritance."

Regrettably, despite socialism's abysmal track record, many modern-day liberals are very much influenced by their socialist forebears. They either don't know or don't care that it's unjust and economically counterproductive to make death a taxable event.

Here in Oklahoma, the estate tax doesn't generate much revenue (less than one percent of what the state collects and spends each year), and the revenue it does generate is counterbalanced by the loss of residents, family farms, small businesses, and employment -- not to mention the loss of other tax revenues.

Economic arguments aside, consider the moral argument: Oklahomans have a right and a duty to transmit property to their children. Politicians should protect that right and not interfere with the performance of that duty.

Legal scholar James Kent, sometimes called "America's Blackstone," declared that "the right to acquire, to hold, to enjoy, to alien, to devise, and to transmit property by inheritance, to one's descendants, in regular order and succession, is enjoyed in the fullness and perfection of the absolute right." This is consistent with Blackstone himself, who believed the right of private property "consists in the free use, enjoyment, and disposal of all [personal] acquisitions."

In short, men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable, inherent rights, including the right to own property and transmit that property by inheritance. This is a right that inheres in men, not a right granted by politicians. State legislators should respect and protect this right, not violate it.

Not only do Oklahomans have a right to transmit property to their children, they also have a moral duty to do so. Our nation's political charter tells us that men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." That Creator has made it clear that parents have a moral duty to save up for their children (2 Corinthians 12:14), and that government shall not interfere with that duty by "tak[ing] from the people's inheritance, thrusting them out of their possession" (Ezekiel 46:18).

Is it appropriate to make these sorts of moral arguments at 23rd and Lincoln? Well, if Sen. Mike Morgan can argue that raising taxes for Medicaid is "morally right," if Rep. Terry Harrison can say voting for a certain lawsuit reform bill is "morally incorrect," if Gov. Brad Henry can argue that education is our state's "greatest moral obligation," and if Rep. Richard Morrissette can quote Scripture in defense of a minimum-wage hike, then yes, it would appear that moral arguments are within the pale.

The state House has voted to abolish the death tax. Will state senators follow suit? Or will they choose to trample our rights and interfere with the performance of our moral duty?

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