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  •  You've just contradicted yourself. (6+ / 0-)

    a lot of ranchers are losing their multi-generational family ranches to developers because the estate tax forces them to sell at least part of their land to pay up.

    Or maybe they just hate America and The Founders and American and small "r" republican values....

    The Founders' Vision and the Estate Tax

    James G. Wilson
    Cleveland State University College of Law

    This article relies upon the views of leading members of the Founding generation to support the proposition that contemporary proposals to eliminate estate and gift taxes are unconstitutional. First of all, the Framers did not limit their analysis of "constitutionality" to Supreme Court opinions. They believed that elected politicians and the body politic also resolved important constitutional disputes. The public's refusal to support the Republican Party's effort to impeach President Clinton is a recent example of a major constitutional controversy's being resolved outside the courtroom. More particularly, the Founders frequently employed the Aristotelean definition of "constitution" as the actual distribution of wealth and power (not just the formal distribution of public power). Many Americans of that era were wary of luxury and concentrated wealth.

    The taxation power was a major part of their analysis. The leading members of that generation agreed with Adam Smith that proportional taxation was permissible, even desirable. Thomas Jefferson thought the silent tool of progressive taxation would stabilize the republic by preventing the wealthy from becoming a tyrannical aristocracy. Jefferson and Madison led the movement to eliminate primogeniture and entail, because those two doctrines of wealth transfer at death kept property in too few hands. Madison, however, foresaw that these reforms, combined with widespread education and protection from religious persecution,would not maintain a "happy mediocrity." Commerce and manufacturing were creating new forms of wealth that would not be affected by Jefferson's agrarian policies. Once the frontier disappeared, the poor would flock to corrupt cities where they would be manipulated by wealthy demagogues.

    Overall, this intellectual history supports the constitutional argument that we should not abolish estate and gift taxes because huge wealth transfers create many "haughty hiers" who will have the undesirable, dangerous traits of decadence and overweening ambition that accompany any hereditary aristocracy. Quite simply, the allocation of money and influence, a process invariably influenced by tax policy, is the most important constitutional issue of our time. While some may argue that conceptions of constitutionality should be limited to Supreme Court jurisprudence, this article replies that constitutionalizing these issues puts them in a richer historical context and dramatizes how central they are to the well-being of the republic.

    •  There's an important tension of interests (5+ / 0-)

      in the discussion of multi-generational family ranches.

      On the one hand, Jefferson et al. were rightly concerned about the concentration of land-ownership in the hands of a few and the idea of a large parcel of land being forever under the control of a line of heirs would be exactly what they were trying to prevent.

      On the other hand, these days, the loss of family-owned farms and ranches leads to two undesirable outcomes: the rise of agri-business ranches and/or the conversion of food producing land into housing and industrial use.

      Jefferson et al weren't contending with the reality of corporate entities that were afforded the rights of individuals without the limitations. So, now that concentration of land ownership is shifting to corporations, be they developers or agri-business. It continues to be an accumulation of wealth for the few, behind the veils of corporations.

      So, either we need to do away with the corporation having status as a legal entity (an entity which perpetuates beyond the lifetimes of individuals)  in and of itself, or we need to apply the concepts of wealth distribution to them. This would mean limiting how long they can hold assets before they are taxed heavily. And those taxes, rather than being simpy asset-based, would have to be based on the value of the asset along with the continued accumulation of wealth being earned by owning said asset.

      These days, we're trying preserve family-owned farms, as we recognize they are operated more sustainably and with  more contribution to the social good than the agri-business operations. So, we need to balance our concerns for entailment with our concerns for sustainable food production.

      Our perspective is different now, as wealth is accumulated in a different manner now. So, we need to look at the spirit of what the founding generation was getting at and find a way to achieve that spirit, though not necessarily with the exact same tools.

      •  Give corporations a maximum lifetime (0+ / 0-)

        Make it equivalent to the average life expectancy of a human.  When the corporation "dies", it can leave its assets to whomever it wants, but we the people take our cut of the proceeds.  Lifetime of combined entities is determined by the minimum remaining lifetime of the individual entities.

        Consumption is not the answer.

        by Lexpression on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 03:10:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  These are not large plantations (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Angie in WA State

      nor do their owners represent some kind of power elite. They are just hard working ranchers who are land rich and cash poor.

      Former senator Salazar understood this issue and got a lot of support from the ranching community which is pretty Republican. Not sure if our new senator has any position on it at all.

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