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« The Wide World Of News. | WILLisms.com | Quotational Therapy: Part 2 -- Founding Fathers, On Taxes. »

The Death Tax: A Socialist Notion.

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives voted 272-162 to repeal the estate tax. Texas Republican Louie Gohmert, brandishing a wooden music box that he bought at a forced IRS sale of his great Aunt Lilly's farm property, said the death tax "is a socialist notion and it needs to go away."

We just happened to watch this moment live on C-SPAN.

In the background, members of the other party immediately snickered, presumably at Gohmert's assertion that the death tax is a socialist notion. Could they have been snickering at something else? Possibly. Perhaps someone just happened to crack a joke at that very moment.

But it was pretty clear they were paying close attention to Gohmert's speech, and when he delivered his soundbite line, they launched into derisive laughter.

So, is Gohmert some kind of nutjob who goes around calling everything socialist, and therefore worthy of petty snickering, or does he have a valid point?


Well, in The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx explains ten action-items (much like the Ten Commandments of communism, or similarly, a "Bill of Wrongs") "generally applicable" for the beginning of a successful transition to communism.

Number three:

"Abolition of all right of inheritance."

Marx contradicted himself on the matter just a couple of months later, putting less emphasis on abolishing all inheritance, in Demands of the Communist Party in Germany:

14. The right of inheritance to be curtailed.

More than twenty years later, Marx argued,

The disappearance of the right of inheritance will be the natural result of a social change superseding private property in the means of production; but the abolition of the right of inheritance can never be the starting point of such a social transformation.

In other words, death taxes are NOT "generally applicable" for the beginning of a transition to communism, although that's what his most famous work declares. However, the ultimate goal of abolishing inheritance remained.

Marx himself, later in life, seemed to admit that securing private property rights under a free enterprise system and abolishing inheritance rights are incompatible. Together, they do not compute.

Well, what about today? Does modern socialism demand the abolition of inheritance?


Socialist Party USA:

We need a steeply graduated estate tax...

So, Gohmert was pretty much dead-on. The death tax is a socialist notion. That individuals would dismissively snicker at that idea speaks volumes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 April 2005 05:41 PM


I just got a glimps of the socialist blog. Wow! That is really hard to understand. I wonder how they got that way? HMmmmm, What is a republican girl to think? I like to think we work all our lives to take care of our families. It seems so unatural to not want your children to have everything, after you we are gone!... You know the communist party people were one of the only groups that came out and really backed Michael Schiavo... Maybe that is why I just don't get it! WHAT A Way To Fly...

Posted by: Marge at April 14, 2005 06:10 PM

So what if socialist like the estate tax? If one party you don't like is for you something you're automatically against it? Please explain to me why Paris Hilton shouldn't pay any tax on her inheritance?

Posted by: Jason Cuevas at April 14, 2005 07:49 PM

This "death tax" is what keeps America from becoming an aristocracy like so much of Europe. There's nothing conservative or capitalistic about being against the estate tax. Hard work, self-reliance, bootstraps -- what does any of this have to do with some lazy schlub inheriting millions of dollars from his/her parents?

Europe is full of inbred bluebloods who did absolutely nothing to earn their wealth and high social standing (i.e. Paris Hilton, as Jason mentioned above).

Millionaires are bribing their puppets, er, I mean legislators, to end the inheritance tax so they can keep all their wealth. America's democratic and capitalistic society is what enabled these people to get wealthy; they should give something back to the country that made their wealth possible. I don't care how brilliant and innovative you are -- if you were born a serf in a 3rd world country, you're gonna die a serf.

Posted by: tomharper at April 15, 2005 03:27 AM

"[t]hey should give something back to the country that made their wealth possible."

You guys are a riot. What do you think income, dividend, sales, and property taxes are for? I say we let people decide what to do with their money instead of the government.

Posted by: Hoodlumman at April 15, 2005 10:20 AM

I think we all really don't mind having taxes. I think most of us just really enjoy griping about having to pay them. It is so stressful when you feel like the IRS can come and get you!!...and you hear all the stories of the IRS coming with machine guns to peoples homes and taking them to jail...And if you make a mistake, for heaven sake! Yikes... I enjoy having nice roads and the military. Shouldn't there really be a better way to pay them? You dig?

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at April 15, 2005 02:17 PM