Toward a citizens’ inheritance?
The question of how to justly distribute assets across society is one which has consumed political thinkers for generations. In 1797 the great democratic thinker and politician Tom Paine argued that every citizen reaching 21 years of age should receive the capital sum of £15. This was to be financed from a tax on the wealth people left at death. Two hundred or so years after Paine wrote, scholars are still addressing this question. In 1999 Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott, professors at Yale University, argued that every US citizen should receive an $80,000 grant in early adulthood, financed from a tax on wealth and inheritance. These proposals are fundamentally for a citizens’ inheritance: tax a portion of the wealth that is passed between the generations and use this to finance a capital grant in early adulthood for every citizen. Dr Stuart White examines the question of whether citizens’ inheritance something we should have if we want a just society.