Quote of the week...please share your favourite line from Ayn Rand's writings

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values.”

Friday, November 6, 2009

Should the state have a claim on the dead?

There was a vigorous discussion on the eGroup recently, on the issue of estate tax. Estate tax is a tax that many governments levy on the property of the dead, and claim it from those who inherit the property. The question under discussion was whether government could claim a stake in the body and property of any person after his death? On the intellectual plane, the question that was raised is does the dead possess any right? What would be the status of the property earned by the person after his death? On the practical side, the question was, given that governments are to provide the core services, such as law and order, and judiciary, could an estate tax on the property of the dead be used to finance the government. A corollary was, could the government, seize the body of the dead, and harvest the organs for the benefit of those who may need a transplant.

The detailed discussion, and the various arguments can be read at the thread "Estate tax under objectivism", in the eGroup. If you are not a member, you are welcome to join the eGroup, the goal is to discuss the implications and impact of Ayn Rand's ideas in today's world.


  1. Dear Sumantra

    While there is a large body of knowledge in the realm of "objectivism", it will be a grave mistake to look into the texts for guidance without applying the principles.

    I am of the opinion that

    1)each man is capable to achieving the highest levels of knowledge & undestading by using the senses & faculties available to him. While it helps to have guidance, it is not a pre-condition.

    2)that moral values are not different for different people. Irrespective of the circumstances & conditions that a man lives through, the moral values do not differ from man to man. So what is right for one man cannot be wrong for another.

    The reason that I am mentioning this here is because it is not possible for Ayn Rand or for any other person\Philosopher for that matter to have explicitly written about every aspect of human life.

    Imagine for a moment if Ayn Rand had not been a writer and she had not written the books that she did. Would that necessarily change any aspects of what we discussed and concluded upon ? I assume no.

  2. Yusuf - I am not sure which of my statements in the estate taxes thread your comment was directed at, because I can't recall stating anywhere that I thought it was possible for Ayn Rand or anyone else to have "explicitly written about every aspect of human life". I also don't recall talking about any of the other points you mentioned. That wasn't the topic of the discussion. In fact, the reason such a forum exists is for people to take the basic principles behind Rand's views and then apply them to areas that Rand had not written on.

    In any case, while I would tend to agree with the first point you made, I disagree with your second point. Moral values CAN differ from man to man.

    For instance, some men may consider creating or watching pornography to be a completely immoral activity. Others may consider it to be a completely moral activity.

    Of course, since creating or watching pornography is protected by free speech rights, every person does have the inalienable right to create and watch pornography. But that doesn't mean that every person in society must necessarily think that creating pornography is a highly moral activity.

    - Sumantra