High(er) inheritance taxes are relatively popular among people otherwise not unfriendly towards private property, including the great James M. Buchanan. On July 20, the FT has published a letter, from Mark G. Brennan, that claims that targeting inherited wealth as “unearned” may be but the first step on a slippery slope.

It is per se quite a surprising fact, as these philosophical arguments (of a libertarian kind) seldom get into letter pages.

So writes Mr Brennan:

As leftist revolutions have shown time and again, what starts off as a distaste for “hereditary” wealth often mutates into a distaste for all wealth.

Demagogues past, such as Lenin, Mao and Castro, incited rage in the masses with their attacks on the “injustice” of any wealth that created even the impression of inequality between subservient subjects of the almighty state. And to imagine that the state can somehow abolish what you profane as the “lottery of birth” leads to even worse atrocities. No two humans have the same endowment of resources such as intelligence, height, health and personality, to name just a few of the factors that provide advantages in the pursuit of property. But empirical observations have never stopped the left from pursuing its war on nature and human diversity.

I found the letter refreshingly direct.