Sunday, October 30, 2011
I'm sure there's a lot to be said for rich people, but they sure do consume a lot of resources. I wish they'd leave more for the rest of us. That's why I oppose the death tax.
The death tax sends a powerful message to rich people: "You can't leave everything to your heirs, so spend now, before it's too late. Burn more fuel. Demand more timber for your mansions, more steel for your private planes, and more fiberglass for your yachts.''
Then all those resources—the fuel and timber, the steel and fiberglass—become unavailable to build factories, so the rest of us get worse jobs at lower wages. Those resources are unavailable to build farm equipment, so we all pay higher food prices. They're unavailable to build roads and schools and hospitals.
I don't begrudge anyone the fruits of his labor. But the death tax encourages people to pick extra fruit, leaving the trees a little barer for the rest of us. ...
Every tax discourages work, and every tax discourages risk-taking. That's sad but true, and it's a reason to hesitate before you raise any tax. But the death tax is a double whammy, compounding the damage by encouraging overconsumption. (The same is true, incidentally, of taxes on interest and dividends.) So my message is this: If you must tax the rich, please do it in a way that minimizes the collateral damage to the poor.