Why the Death Tax is a Sin

By John H Morgan     January 23, 2015

“…and God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7b)

“Thou shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17)

The death tax is a sin because it denies that people are living souls who have life and purpose beyond the grave. People are created in the image of God. God makes us living souls and what we do in our lives on earth has impact in the coming generations beyond our lives and then for eternity. The death tax is the government’s godless statement that, “You are done. Your work is over. What you did and what you left has no further meaning. It is now our right to take the work of your hands and do with it as we please because we matter more because we are living our lives now.”

The death tax steals a person’s legacy. People work and produce throughout their lives for all kinds of reasons. For many their reasons exceed their personal consumption beyond their lifetimes because they grasp that they are living souls and they have a longer term view of their relevance. They work in their lifetimes for the benefit of many who will live beyond their lifetimes: their children, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, their churches, their schools, their businesses and many non-profit causes that they care about from alleviating poverty to advancing freedom. The income of every person in the United States has been repeatedly taxed over their lifetimes from sales tax, to property tax, to income tax, to tolls and fees and regulations. Under what principle is it right to tax a person’s already-taxed money again and deny the legacy for which they spent their lives working? The only principle is the principle of theft, which is a sin.

The death tax steals a person’s inheritance. People have a right to receive the blessing of their parents’ or benefactors’ work. It’s the reason the people who earned it worked for it. It’s immoral to steal a person’s inheritance because just as it is righteous to work for the benefit of others beyond your lifetime it is righteous to receive the benefit that others created for the purpose of your being blessed by it. Inherited money binds the continuity of the human race along the lines of family, faith and friendship. To deny that is to attempt to replace the true bonds of humanity with the false bonds of the government. The government is not our family, it is not our god and it is not our friend. Government has its place and has its good, but government becomes the agent of evil when it attempts to exceed its moral bounds. When the government steals a person’s inheritance, no matter what the pretext, it is stealing the sacred bonds of humanity over generations and beyond time that flows from our god-given transcendence.

The death tax promotes shallow and short term thinking. By stealing legacy and by stealing inheritance, the death tax dehumanizes us and makes us think about ourselves and the production of our lives in empty shallow terms. While we lived we were just consumers and producers and subjects of the government. When we die, we die like a dog and there is no more meaning to what we did. So, it’s the government’s duty to come in and take our possessions and redistribute them as they see fit because the government will live beyond us, always. It also promotes short term thinking. If life just matters during our days on earth, then there is not much sense in working for greater achievements that will take years beyond our lives to be fulfilled or by our ideas or by the assets and systems that we set in motion.

But, what about those who amass large fortunes? Shouldn’t their estates be taxed to benefit the government and the government’s designs on redistributing wealth to the less fortunate? No. Those who earned a lot were gifted by God with that talent and they should not be robbed of the work of their lives. Those who earned a lot had motivations for their production that exceeded their lifetimes and they should be granted their free will to exercise their transcendent visions. Those who earned a lot often set up foundations and make donations that support all kinds of causes. Those who earned a lot usually set up business systems and investments that continue to create production that create wealth for jobs and on-going taxation. Those who earned a lot have a right to determine the future of their lives’ work. Additionally, the track record of government redistribution actually alleviating poverty doesn’t compare to the track record of the impact free market businesses development and private philanthropy. The track record of government aid domestically and internationally to alleviate poverty is dismal. In contrast, free market enterprise just lifted 1 billion people out of poverty worldwide from 1990 to 2010 (Toward the End of Poverty in The Economist. June 1, 2013). That is an historic revolution of poverty alleviation and it did not come from government schemes of redistribution.

The death tax is a dividing line between conservatives and liberals on the question of whose money it is. Conservatives believe money belongs to the individual who earned it or who legally acquired it. Liberals believe in the collective possession of all things and that the government must be the referee of its distribution; so it all essentially belongs to the government. The Christian worldview is that wealth is the possession of the person who earned it and the boundaries of private property are protected in the Commandment forbidding theft. So a death tax is theft. The socialist worldview is that wealth is the collective possession of society, so the death tax is a function of returning wealth its proper owners, the people. One view begins with the transcendence of God and people and the other begins with a spiritual vacuum and a temporal focus.

Our estates need to be protected from taxation because they are the production of our transcendent lives. It is theft to not allow the work of our hands to transcend our lifetimes to perform the transcendent will for which we earned them. Such theft de-humanizes us. It animalizes us and it deifies the government. When people are viewed as animals, or less, and when the government is viewed as god, then we are sowing the seeds of un-civilization. And un-civilization is the historic place of human misery.