Friday, September 01, 2006

Family Friendly Economics......

I am currently doing a home study course to gain some designations in estate planning, and the following quote from the textbook may be of interest here:

"Contrary to popular belief, no individual has a natural right to transfer property to others at death. The law has evolved to the point that estate transfer is a privilege granted by the state, and not a right. " - Estate Planning, Kaplan Financial, p.3

This is just the opening line from a longer exposition on the theme of estate transfer.


Obviously there are cases of obscene wealth out there which form a different case, but what is more natural to family values and a family's security than the ability to pass property to the next generation?

I do not want this to devolve into a diatribe about "the rich", the estate tax, or a financial/legal debate. The initial principle here contains plenty of food for thought.

As Christians, we are obligated to aid the poor and distraught, and the state also is involved in this activity(taxes). However, I think it was Eric a few months ago put it very well. To paraphrase Eric , state sponsored charity, connot be true charity, it is a mere caricature of true concern for others. Indeed, without being motivated by the love of Christ, poverty relief quickly degenerates into livestock management.

How far have we fallen from a family friendly system? Porn, violence, drugs, are the obvious decadent agents are symptoms of a disease in society. Principles such as the one stated in the text, though not as lurid, also erode at the creation of a pro family culture of life.

At the very least. Could one even envision a more non-distributist idea?

What do you all think?


Trubador said...

"The proprietor or owner of a thing, in the current acceptation of the word, is the person who enjoys the full right to dispose of it in so far as is not forbidden by law. The thing or object of this right of disposal is called property, and the right of disposal itself, ownership. Taken in its strict sense, this definition applies to absolute ownership only. As long as the absolute owner does not exceed the limits set by law, he may dispose of his property in any manner whatsoever; he may use it, alienate it, lease it etc."

FYI: The above text is the first paragraph on private property in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Paul Pennyfeather said...


Excellent point. This is also why people like me look askance at many "soak-the-rich" schemes, not because we weep for the super rich, but rather because we wonder what ravages will be put upon the middle and lower classes. In places like California people have houses in their families for generations. Later, they want to sell and buy somewhere else while also financing their retirement. But the capital gains tax cuts them in two.

And of course, there's the recent Kelo decision. Or small business (family owned) that are taxed as if the business' gross income were a family income, leaving the small business at a competetive disadvantage. We could go on and on.

But while property rights and subsidiary are pillars of Catholic Social Justice, the only issues one is likely to encounter in a parish social justice ministry are the death penalty and staving off cuts in welfare programs. The whole idea of property rights (or widely distributed property) is often viewed as suspect by those who run these miistries.

I'll bet a kidney most of the Bishops in the U.S. would not find anything wrong, in their eyes, with the way transfered property is described that estate planning text book.