NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 76, Number 3

June 2001

Democracy, Taxes, and Wealth

James R. Repetti

Congress adopted an estate tax in 1916 in response to concerns about the harmful social effects of wealth concentration. Recently, proposals have been put forward to abolish the estate tax. Professor Repetti explores traditional justifications for the estate tax and reviews political and economic research on the effects of wealth concentration. He determines that wealth concentration is detrimental to the nation’s long-term economic growth because it creates educational disadvantages for the poor and sociopolitical malaise. It also harms the democratic process because it gives the affluent a disproportionally large political voice. He then evaluates the current estate tax and concludes that it provides the important benefits of decreasing dynastic wealth concentration and raising revenues. Moreover, empirical studies suggest that the tax does not discourage savings.