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Tuesday, 16 February 2021, 6:00PM - 7:00PM
Museum of London

Should We Inherit?

Martin Daunton

Transfer of resources between currently existing generations. There is a clear link with the previous time scale, for a collective solution will mean that the cost of those currently drawing benefits is paid by those currently in employment. But there are further ramifications. Should the assets of the older generation pass to the younger generation or not? 

One tradition, going back to JS Mill and supported by Bill Gates snr is that the inheritor has done nothing to earn the wealth which might be morally dangerous for the individual, and harmful for society in stultifying enterprise. Gates pointed out that the US Olympics team is not selected from the children or grandchildren of those who won gold medals in Los Angeles – so why should the same apply to wealth and enterprise? 

The alternative view is that inheritance taxes should be abolished as theft. Again, different societies have adopted different approaches, with England opting for primogeniture and testamentary discretion, where countries with the Napoleonic code have partible inheritance and no or limited discretion. Why are there such differences, and what impact do they have on social mobility and inequality?

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Martin is a British academic and historian. He was Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, between 2004 and 2014. He is Emeritus Professor of Economic History at the University of Cambridge.

He has written two books on the history of taxation in Britain –Trusting Leviathan and Just Taxes, and recently co-edited with colleagues in Berlin a volume of essays on the political economy of public finance in leading OECD countries since  the 1970s.

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