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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bird-Pollan Presents Nozick, Libertarianism, and the Estate Tax at Harvard

Bird-PollanJennifer Bird-Pollan (Kentucky) presented Nozick, Libertarianism, and the Estate Tax at Harvard yesterday as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium, organized by Daniel Halperin and Stephen E. Shay:

Contemporary policy discussions of taxes in general, and of the estate tax in particular, are often dominated by arguments that start from libertarian premises.  However, these libertarian views are rarely fully unpacked, and, as a result, the conclusions of these arguments often extend beyond what can be justified by those libertarian premises.  With regard to the estate tax, many libertarians argue that government interference with the free transfer of assets after death is an immoral violation of the property rights of the deceased.  In this Article, I work through the libertarian arguments of Robert Nozick in his seminal work, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, with special attention to his views of property and inheritance rights.  By demonstrating that libertarianism cannot justify property rights that extend beyond death, I show that, in fact, libertarianism is entirely consistent with a robust estate tax.  While this does not mean that the libertarian views of property rights require an estate tax, those views do not, on moral grounds, preclude the imposition of the tax.

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Sounds straw-manny to me. If the accepted premise is that taxes are "immoral violation of the property rights", then there's no need to claim, as the author claims "many libertarians" do, that an estate tax is an immoral violation of the deceased rights. One can easily claim that it's an immoral violation of the heirs' property rights. The heir earned those rights just as much as someone paying in cash, services or property.

Imagine a poor heir, having her compensation confiscated like that, after decades of absorbing the deceased's withering criticisms about her clothes and music, his awkward vaguely-rascist jokes in front of her friends, the annual confinement within the smelly Dodge Voyager on trips to musty grandparents, his public complaints that her $100,000 Classics degree wasn't worth a job at Subway, and his teary, plaintive complaints about her childless '30s and so on.

Posted by: Yo Gabba Gabba | Nov 15, 2012 2:35:24 PM

Is a link available to download her paper?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Nov 16, 2012 3:49:07 AM

Suppose Doe gives Roe $100 in exchange for receiving all of Roe's assets at Roe's death.

Or suppose Doe gives Roe $100 in exchange for receiving all of Roe's assets 5 minutes before Roe's death. That maybe is contrary to contract law--- a nice question.

Or suppose Doe gives Roe $100 in exchange for all of Roe's assets immediately, but Roe gets a life interest in them, with no restriction on wastage.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Nov 19, 2012 9:25:51 AM