A simple question… why do we inherit the possessions of our parents? It makes sense that we would desire to do so – the evolutionary imperative and all that – but why do we see it as just? It seems in some respects markedly unfair – if you’re born rich, you become rich when your parents die, and if you’re not, you don’t, with no reflection of your own merit.

Does anyone have a good argument for why inheritance is justified?

I’m not sure, but it perhaps is related to how we see the Constitution as having authority over us even though no one alive ever voted for it. It has been handed down to us, and so keeping it preserves order – there would be chaos if we had to rewrite our constitution every generation. Similarly, there would be chaos if all wealth was redistributed constantly from generation to generation. It is better to allow us to be bound by tradition, which G.K. Chesterton actually called “the democracy of the dead”.


8 Responses to Inheritance

  1. e7th04sh says:

    If USA was still bind to it’s tradition, it would remain best place in this world of misery.

    I wander how do you find election’s result?

    Anyways, i thought about this in the past… to generalize the problem, it’s conflict between: we should be fairly awarded (Despite of understanding of what’s fairly – i don’t want to write an essay as a comment for *your* blog ;) ) and we should be free to use our resources.

    Of course one has the right to make gifts for others, but we assume that those gifts are well-earned, don’t we? And i find it generally both unfair and harmful in long distance, that people are free to donate their goods to others.

    Alltough i am *rather* in favor of preventing such things, i fear it would be hard to implement restrictions in practice.

  2. e7th04sh says:

    Also it’s a problem that one being might want to coddle other being. I’d be called cheuvinist for that :D but it often happens between man and woman, when man is truly in love, he takes the struggle with life, letting woman enjoy the bright sides.

  3. What do I think of the election results? Not a big fan. I’m still somewhat ambivalent about the economic issues, but in terms of foreign policy I think McCain was clearly better (Obama has no experience – none – and the fact that a bunch of Europeans love him doesn’t make me think he’s a good choice, it scares me). I think McCain would do a better job with the war in Iraq.

    And then there’s all the “cultural” issues – homosexual “marriage”, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, etc. On every single one of which (except, perhaps, the death penalty, which I think is the least important of any of them) McCain was clearly a better choice.

    In fact, given the issue of abortion alone, I couldn’t in good conscience have voted for Obama even if I agreed with him on every other issue – sorry, but the fact that he supports murdering over a million unborn children a year while McCain opposes it kind of overrules everything else. Disagreeing with this is like saying “yeah, Hitler had the Holocaust, but he also fixed the German economy, so overall he was the better choice – and after all, I voted for him despite the Holocaust, not because of it”. Would anyone find that argument convincing?

  4. And, now that I’ve made that rant in a comment, I don’t have to make an actual blog post about the election. Excellent. I really didn’t want to – that’s not what this blog tends to be about.

  5. e7th04sh says:

    Yep, rants is not what most people enjoy reading. But then couldn’t care less if many people read my political rants. ;P I care only if those people i aim at read – cause i believe sucessful propaganda must be aimed at upper middle class.

  6. Uzytkownik says:

    Well – I guess arguments runs as follow:
    1. Can parents give presents to their child?
    2. Can the parents specified moment when they recive the present?
    3. Can the moment be ‘just after death’?

    Second – pragmatic. If we believe that the savings cause the grow of economy in long term[1] the inheritance lowers the time preference and create more investing/saving and less consuming society.

    [1] Including disbelieve in paradox of savings.

  7. e7th04sh says:

    The thing with practical results is convincing, Uzytkownik. And you are from Poland, right? :]

  8. The gifts argument is an interesting one. I suppose it makes sense. It also emphasizes the personal nature of the inheritance – it’s just because it’s not just the child receiving this advantage or disadvantage from nowhere, it’s the child, who would by nature have received nothing except his own flesh, receiving a gift from his parents so that he can survive. It’s just a natural extension of how the parents have to provide for the child’s needs while they are alive.

    The only alternative, I guess, would be a kind of Plato’s Republic-esque communism where all the children are raised collectively without even knowing their parents. Which is in some ways more ideal, but also more inhuman – these familial relationships, “unfair” though they may be, are integral to living in a human society…

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