The current debate about wealth transfer taxation has its themes of morality as well. Opponents have labeled the tax as “immoral.” Taxation is about morality. It is both useful and necessary to consider moral arguments in the debate about the estate tax. In an area largely consigned to economists and philosophers, it is beneficial to broaden perspectives. One could expand the range of academic disciplines considered-to history, psychology, and sociology, for example. One should also take into account the narratives of those affected by the issue. This essay can only probe into this question, beginning with Andrew Carnegie and the similar sentiments of his contemporaries. My project is to consider such moral arguments more seriously than many estate tax opponents have. The lens of moral hazard provides a way in which to more critically analyze various moral arguments about the estate tax. In the end, the estate tax provides a particularly vivid example of the ways in which taxation touches on questions of identity, individuality and one's relationship to family, to society and to the state.


Symposium: The Death of the Death Tax