Hello Objectivists All!
I follow Luke Setzer's Hydrino Study Group discussions, with limited scientific knowledge, because I do not like Standard Quantum Mechanics, the standard model of the electron or the Big Bang singularity - amongst other things. I do like Lee Smolin's "The Life of the Cosmos" - amongst other things. In the course of an email exchange, I mentioned to him Universal Inheritance. He has since mentioned it on the Ayn Rand versus TAS RoR thread.
I have only briefly looked into Objectivism, which I had not heard of previously. It seems to have something in common with my own humanism, rationalism, secularism and atheism. However, Luke suggested that I post this first thread on the Dissent Forum.. I am sorry to learn from him that there is not amongst you Universal Assent to Universal Inheritance, but rather the opposite - the dissent that he promises. I wonder why? Rational self interest, perhaps?
I accept the comment (in the Ayn Rand versus TAS thread) of Barney Maggru about the amateur nature of the website www.universal-inheritance.org. Moreover I have not changed it since I changed computers about a year ago, so it is somewhat out of date.
I have been banging on about the subject of "Inheritance for All" since the 1970's, ever since I twice very nearly became Liberal Member of Parliament for Newbury in 1974 (Conservative 24,000, Liberal 23,000, Labour 10,000) either side of my finals as a mature student at New College (founded 1379) Oxford reading Politics, Philosophy and Economics (having previously been in the Royal Navy and in banking). Dennis Hardin's alarm and astonishment will no doubt be increased by my telling him that my reason for obtaining the degree was my youthful ambition to be Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer. Fortunately for his peace of mind, that has not occurred.
The Liberal Party has not formed a government at Westminster since the 1920s - under Lloyd George - but it has been a source of political ideas over the years, including the Income Welfare State. It subsequently joined with the breakaway Social Democratic Party (splitting from the old Labour Party over the issue of nationalisation versus privatisation) to form the nowadays EU-fanatic Liberal Democrat Party which has quite a few seats in Parliament. I left the EU-fanatic Liberal Democrats over the issue of the European Union, once the Iron Curtain had fallen and the European Economic Community had changed into the bureaucratic, corrupt and overweening European Union, with its Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy so unsuitable for the UK.
I then rejoined the original and continuing Liberal Party, which is nowadays EU-sceptic, opposed to the Euro, the EU Reform Treaty and the Common Agricultural Policy, but with at present no seats in Parliament. Personally I would like the UK to leave full membership of the EU and join the European Economic Area, with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein and, in due course, Turkey ( to solve a problem or two) together with any other European countries who would wish to do so.
I persuaded the original and continuing Liberal Party to adopt the Asset Welfare State proposal of British Universal Inheritance at its 120th Annual Liberal Party Assembly in 2005.
I realise that the USA is very different from the UK, but I am following your primaries with great very interest - torn between supporting Clinton or Obama, while greatly appreciating McCain. I spent a few years working for an American bank in London and some time with them in Detroit. I am half-Scottish Canadian (including a bit of Native North American Cree) and rather more pro America than many in the UK these days. I was in favour of the Iraq invasion. Had we had a Saddam Hussein tyrant ruling us in the UK, I would have begged the USA to come and bomb us - and necessarily undoubtedly kill some of us in the process - in order to bring back democracy and freedom of speech and thought. Just as you helped us to defeat Hitler, thank you very much, although I often wonder how things would have turned out if the Japanese had not bombed Pearl Harbour when they did.
My own father, Commander J. Campbell Clouston, Royal Navy, was killed in 1940 after nine days in charge of the Dunkirk Mole for the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. The Campaign for Universal Inheritance is in some sense a memorial to him. I have been lucky in that there was some capital in my family, but my thoughts on the redistribution of inheritance have been influenced by the thought of those who are orphans and others with no inherited capital at all, through no fault of their own.
I yesterday sent a letter out to newspapers in the UK, following comments from a prosperous UK celebrity, Nigella Lawson, that she would leave no inheritance to her children. I have not heard whether or not she has already given them an expensive private education (I imagine she has) or lifetime gifts of capital to start them off in any way, which would make a bit of a difference to the import of her remarks.
Anyway, after a lengthy and self-indulgent introduction, here is the letter, saying that the idea of Universal Inheritance - whether USA Universal Inheritance or British Universal Inheritane - is that
"Too much or too little inheritance is bad for anyone
In a capitalist democracy, whether liberal or conservative, too much or too little in the way of lifetime capital gifts or inheritance is bad for anyone. Everyone, not just the few, should have some capital that they themselves have done nothing whatsoever to create, earn, save or make. If anyone deserves an inheritance, everyone deserves an inheritance.
Average wealth of every adult and child in the UK was £85,000 at the end of 2002, according to the Office for National Statistics. It may be about £90,000 now. All British-born UK citizens should receive at 25 the same basic minimum after-tax inheritance of ten per cent of average wealth - a British Universal Inheritance payment of, say, £10,000 less 10 per cent tax - to be broadly financed by reforming the British exemption-ridden 40 per cent 'Inheritance' Tax into a 10 per cent flat tax on the luxury expenditure of giving and bequeathing and introducing a progressive lifetime Capital Receipts Tax on receiving, starting at 10 per cent. Tax paid on giving would be deductible from tax due on receiving. (Unlike the recently introduced and serially flawed Baby Bonds, the amount would be payable to young adults from now on, not in 18 years' time, be independent of parental means or generosity and means-tested by lifetime receipts of capital rather than parental income at the time of birth.)
Who, when asked whether anyone they know should receive an after-tax £9,000 coming to them at 25, would say that they should be denied it? British Universal Inheritance would represent a transfer from rich areas of the country to poor areas in each new generation. It would enable and encourage bank accounts, enterprise, higher education, home ownership and opportunity for all. Such an Asset Welfare State measure would help reduce alienation, crime and policing costs, financial and social exclusion, poverty and Income Welfare State needism. At this dangerous time of increasing inequality and terrorism, it would encourage a stronger sense of national community and identity. It became the policy of the nowadays EU-sceptic original and continuing Liberal Party (not the EU-fanatic LibDems) in 2005. It is a meritocratic, popular capitalist, progressive nationalist proposal, comparable with the Thatcherite sale of council houses, which deserves wider discussion in other political parties."
Contrary to Luke Setzer's suggestion, I do not "frown on 'unearned wealth' through normal inheritance yet advocate 'unearned wealth' through state redistribution". As you can see from the above, I am in favour of all having some of such "unearned wealth". I would, incidentally, be interested to know an up to date figure for the average wealth of every adult and child in the USA - and am having difficulty in obtaining the latest figure for the UK.
In response to Dennis Hardin, I see Universal Inheritance as meritocratic in the sense that in each new generation it helps to bring about greater equality of opportunity than would otherwise be the case. Ayn Rand, I see, is keen on laisser-faire capitalism. Before the Iron Curtain fell, I always saw universal inheritance as a third way between communism and capitalism - popular capitalism with a wider spread of the private ownership of wealth inter-generationally and more freedom intra-generationally.
Incidentally, I discovered in 2000 that my idea was not original, but was first suggested by Thomas Paine in 1797. When the Fabian Society came out with much the same idea as "A Capital Idea" - subsequently supressed by the New Labour government - the authors pointed out that Thomas Paine had first suggested in "Agrarian Justice" in that year that all 18 year old's should receive £15, financed by a ten per cent tax on all inheritance. I do, however, lay claim to having invented the term, in this context, of Universal Inheritance and British Universal Inheritance - not to mention USA Universal Inheritance - relating it to Universal Suffrage, as a basic right in a captalist democracy. Prevous Google entries referred only to the Universal Inheritance of Sin, an idea about which I am - as I imagine objectivists are too - less keen.
I understand from Luke Setzer that posting on this site is a bit like entering the Lions' Den. So be it. Here is the idea - a judicious redistribution more widely of the private ownership of gifted and inherited capital in each new generation - for you to tear to shreds in Popper's Third World of Ideas. My aim is not only to persuade another UK political party to adopt British Universal Inheritance as policy but also to encourage the formation of a Campaign for USA Universal Inheritance. Be warned!
I hope to be brief, after this first post.
Best wishes to all
Director, OPPORTUNITY - The Campaign for British
PO Box 1148 Oxford OX44 7AT UK