You’d think the Robin Hoods of the political left would be content with stealing money from the living, but oh no. They just love to mug the dead too. And oh such pleasure they take in it. I speak of course of inheritance tax: the tax on the dead.

Stephen Byers, a Labour MP (surprisingly), proposed that inheritance tax be scrapped. The number of estates that currently pay this tax increased by 70% in the past few years, with estates valued at under £500,000 accounting for 71% of all those paying (estates over £2 million in value account for less than 20% of the total). And any estate worth £285,000 or more is liable to cough up the cash.

It’s quite a disgusting tax, but leftists run to it like dogs to a pile of vomit: and they lap it up. Increasingly I’ve taken the political left less and less seriously, but they’re still worth dealing with, even if only for a bit of sport. And they’ve had such an outcry in defence of inheritance tax in the past week.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, columnist for the Independent, is one such advocate. Her article “Soak the Rich (When They are Dead)” begins with a general dig at rich people. After listening to some “rich” people criticise the tax on a radio show Yasmin comments, “Few things are more nauseating than the privileged bewailing their lot…” Perhaps leftist spew? After another dig at rich “spoilt cats” and free-marketers who “know the price of everything and the value of nothing” she finally dumps her tiresome clichéd mutterings and hysterical shrieking about the rich to make her first point: Byers policy will simply help the rich keep even more of their money than they have typically been allowed to do under this “friendly [?] government.” Hardly a great first argument by any stretch. Before it even works as an argument you must first establish that “allowing” “rich people” to keep more of their money is generally a bad thing, but Yasmin never quite gets around to it. It helps the rich, and the rich people are bad. Need anything further be said about such irrational, irrelevant diatribe?

After wadding through a little more rich-bashing and a bit more cliché (“there is such a thing as society”) we can discern the fragments of a second point: “Good governance should result in a reduction of distance between rich and poor.” Oh come on! Since when was it the proper function of government to take the money produced by some people to support the lives of others? That’s not governance. That’s mob rule; the law of Sherwood forest. If people have no right to their own lives and to the produce of their own lives then they really have no rights at all, since any other right is merely a derivative of these. They’re at the mercy of the “collective” – ceasing to be an individual and forced to bow in allegiance to the tribe.

But, “argues” Yasmin, if we abolish inheritance tax do we not confirm that rich kids have more intrinsic worth than poor kids, even if the rich kids are “indolent” and “useless”? Huh? If the government begins to reduce the level of taxation how on earth is that to be construed into a value judgment on the lives of the rich over others? In fact the exact opposite is true. In taking money from tax-payers to pay for services used by other people, many of whom don’t pay any taxes at all, government is forcing an entire group of people to play the part of a sacrificial animal leached off by whosoever will. They are forced to work for the good of other people (which in effect is a form of slavery) and to give up the produce of their efforts. If Yasmin wants to stick an “indolent” or “useless” badge onto anyone the best individuals to start with are the members of the can’t work won’t work unemployed classes.

Her next point is jaw-droppingly stupid, and blatantly inconsistent with her wider political beliefs: “By definition, inheritance tax gives to those who have not put in the effort and skills that went into the making of the wealth. It is bestowed, not earned.” Now, that was a precious moment folks. You see, Yasmin loves a good bit of redistribution of wealth and enjoys nothing more than a good tax. In fact I suspect the very thought of our benefits system brings her to orgasm. So let me change her quote a little: “By definition, welfare benefits (and tax-funded public services), gives to those who have not put in the effort and skills that went into the making of the wealth. It is bestowed, not earned.” I wonder does Yasmin still agree with her logic? Scrap benefits? Scrap tax-funded public services, or at least ban the unemployed from using them? And I wonder would Yasmin be quite so indignant if someone left their entire estate to charity? Is this wrong too, since it “gives to those who have not put in the effort and skills that went into the making of the wealth. It is bestowed, not earned?” I really wonder what these people smoke in the mornings, I really do. I would have thought that any human being with at least 3 neutrons firing in their heads would have noticed such a blatant inconsistency. Yasmin is a real special lady.

Of course, she hasn’t finished yet. Not by a long shot. We’re only half way through the tirade. And it shows no signs of getting better either. Her next point is that we really do our kids no favours by leaving them so much wealth, and that rich children suffer high levels of mental and emotional problems, engage in self-harming, and are “spending their way to hell.” So, to placate her own conscience she blabbers that we’re really saving the rich, taking their money for their own good before it destroys them. And herein lies the basis of our nanny-state philosophy: people can’t look after themselves so we must do it for them. C.S. Lewis was on to something when he wrote “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” True words.

After a little bit of personal tear-jerking story-telling about how she got no money when her parents died, Yasmin seems to run out of steam altogether. So then of course in a “Eureka” moment she does what all good British left-liberals do: she blames the United States of America. More specifically she blames Neo-conservatives. She writes: “Like many of Labour’s impulsive bad policies this one is a bastard child of the US neo-cons and their libertarian economist supporters.” Is this what a middle-aged woman sounds like when she takes leave of her senses and her grasp on reality begins to slip? For a start this isn’t a Labour policy. Nor is it at all motivated by US neo-cons or anything remotely related to American policy. Yasmin’s mind has performed the typical left-liberal short-circuit: X is bad, and although we might not be able to prove it we can be certain the USA must have something to do with it. Despite yapping about the USA Yasmin provides absolutely no evidence of any US influence beyond stating that George Bush abolished estate tax in 2001. Instead she goes off on a rant about how the campaign against estate tax was run, moves on to praise Bill Gates for giving his money away and concludes that “not all the loaded are hopelessly greedy and venal.” No. Not all. Just most of the buggers, eh Yasmin? God woman, you’re obsessed.

Yasmin hopes that “there are still some Labour MPs prepared to stop the sale of their most precious values – equality and meritocratic competition.” Ha! Meritocratic! Just what is meritocratic about the welfare state? What is meritocratic about government confiscation of wealth? The very socialist philosophy under-girding Labour policy totally flies in the face of meritocracy. And this Labour government has done more to undermine the concept of meritocracy than any other for decades. But this shouldn’t surprise us, since meritocracy and equality are incompatible. If you’re a meritocrat then you’ll hold that people rightly receive rewards in accordance to their skill, intelligence, strength, creativity, flair, hard work and resolve. But, if you’re an equalitocrat you’ll hold that none of these attributes matter when it comes to reaping rewards and benefits. Meritocratic competition will inevitably lead to inequality: because some people are more intelligent, more skilful at certain pursuits, more motivation and drive, greater creativity and resolve than other people. If a philosophy is built on these two principles then something has to give.

Yasmin ends her rant with the hope that her children will be properly taxed on all their inherited wealth (so, Yasmin, you mean to say that won’t voluntarily give it to poorer people in your lifetime?). She fears that if her kids get too much of a leg-up they will become careless and “consumerist.” I guess it never occurred to Yasmin’s tiny brain to figure that she doesn’t have to leave her kids a single penny. She can donate it to any cause she likes, hell she can even buy a massive tombstone for herself, perhaps with the entire text of her article engraved for the benefit of future generations.

Arguments on both sides of this debate have thus far completely missed the point. This issue isn’t primarily about fairness, social justice, equality: terms which both sides have tossed about with reckless abandon. It’s an issue of rights: the right to property and to dispose of it as one sees fit. It doesn’t matter whether or not the beneficiary is “worthy” – that isn’t what justifies it. Individuals produce wealth and have a fundamental right to dispose of it as they will. No one else is entitled to choose for a person what happens to their wealth. And this is why it doesn’t matter how “worthy” the beneficiary is: it isn’t his rights at stake. Left-liberals babble on that heirs have no rights to the property because they never produced it. However, they receive the wealth because of the rights of the benefactor to dispose of his or her wealth as they so choose. And if the heir has no rights to the inheritance because they didn’t work for the wealth then certainly no one else has a right to it: not the government, or “society” or “the general public.” I own a house and it should be a matter for me who I bequeath it to when I finally go the way of ashes and dust. I worked hard to buy a house, it is the produce of my own efforts. It doesn’t belong to government, or society, or “the collective,” or the tribe, or anyone else (aside from my wife). It is my property and my right. It is the responsibility of government to defend such rights, not breach them at will.

This tax should certainly be abolished.

Stephen Graham