The other day I was watching an interview with Warren Buffett and he made an interesting point about inheritance. He said he and his wife had always planned to give away the bulk of their fortune to the world in a philanthropic gift because they don’t believe in inherited wealth.
Specifically, he said he felt the idea of inheritance flies in the face of American ideals – if we’re all born equal and we all have equal opportunity to succeed, then nobody should start with great financial resources. If they do, they have a leg up simply because they won the sperm lottery, so to speak.
I’ve spent a lot of time since then thinking about that. More and more, I’m coming to agree with it (though under the terms of his deal with gates, his kids still stand to inherit more cash than most people will see in a lifetime – so I think he’s a bit disingenuous).
As a Republican, I’ve spent many a cycle complaining about the estate tax under the theory that I earned it, I should be able to leave it behind. That does, however, tend to discount the American belief in a true meritocracy. Why should my kids have a leg up over an otherwise more talented kid simply because I was successful?
A perfect example of this is Paris Hilton. She seems to be, by any measure, vacuous, insipid, and otherwise completely worthless as a human, yet she gets breaks and opportunities that are out of the reach of most Americans simply because she is the heir to a multi-billion dollar business created by a guy with a lot more above the neck than an ever-changing haircut.
I find the question to be an interesting conundrum. I just thought I’d share it and get you thinking on this fine Thursday…