Perpetuating Inequality by Taxing Wealth

24 Pages Posted: 14 May 2016 Last revised: 16 Sep 2016

Date Written: May 1, 2016


Proposals to “fix” the estate tax by making it both more far-reaching and meaningful are plentiful. While these suggested improvements are reasonable, and even modest, they have failed to confront an important part of Graetz and Shapiro’s book, Death by a Thousand Cuts: stories trump science. This Article attempts to correct this shortcoming in the progressive argument by returning narrative to its central place in the estate tax debate. Drawing on psychological insights, I hope to underscore the difficulty of the effort to preserve progressive taxation and combat wealth inequality. I argue that the proposals have not confronted the underlying narratives that estate tax abolitionists have advanced. I use System Justification Theory to explain the entrenched and persistent nature of these narratives.

Keywords: estate tax, inequality, wealth, system justification theory, wealth inequality

JEL Classification: K34

Suggested Citation

Maynard, Goldburn, Perpetuating Inequality by Taxing Wealth (May 1, 2016). 84 Fordham L. Rev. 2429 (2016), University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2016-7, Available at SSRN:

Goldburn Maynard (Contact Author)

Kelley School of Business ( email )

Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
8128555451 (Phone)

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