Some members of the Democratic Party in the United States, not to mention a good portion of the American people, are upset that President Barack Obama caved in to pressure from the Republicans to extend the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. The issue speaks to one of the most contentious aspects of capitalism as it operates in a democracy: Are people who benefit the most from the democratic free enterprise system obligated to pay a larger share toward its maintenance?
A corollary to this debate is how much of their wealth should citizens be allowed to pass on to their heirs. In a purely socialist system, ideally it would be zero, but many who don’t necessarily advocate socialist government often support heavy taxation of inheritances for ethical and moral reasons: Why should the child of a rich person have special advantages in life just because of birth? Other people (usually the rich) counter that in a laissez faire economic system, no one has a right to tell anyone else what they can or can’t do with their money.
The Japanese government is now thinking about raising the inheritance tax. As everyone knows the country is running out of money, and already the Democratic Party of Japan has cut the corporate tax, increased the amount of the child allowance, and put off any increase in the consumption tax indefinitely. Because the widening income gap is becoming more of a topic in the news, the DPJ probably feels the public will be receptive to a boost on taxes for richer people.