Perpetuating Inequality by Taxing Wealth

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

Goldburn Maynard

Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

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)

Louis D. Brandeis School of Law ( email )

Wilson W. Wyatt Hall
Louisville, KY 40292
United States
5028525563 (Phone)


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