It is not necessary, however, to turn to an earlier age to find a defense of the inheritance tax. Much of the earlier opposition has broken down, and ardent supporters may be found among all classes - among those interested in social as well as fiscal reform, and among the rich as well as among the poor. It is but natural that those who are socialistically inclined should be its ardent champions, for the tax easily can be made a method for the reduction of large fortunes. Those who are concerned with securing a more equal distribution of the tax burden in accordance with the ability to pay, and who are only secondarily interested in social consequences, have come to look upon the inheritance tax as a valuable addition to the fiscal system. Fiscal authorities, both Federal and state, in the severe pressure for funds which has continually arisen within recent years, have been glad to turn to this previously little used source of revenue to replenish an empty treasury. Still others sanction the use of a severe taxation of inheritances, not primarily for an equalization of wealth per se, nor as a source of revenue, but because of the good effects which a limitation of fortunes would have upon the recipients.
Views of Andrew Carnegie.1 - An interesting example of an advocate of the extreme use of inheritance taxes to secure the result just indicated, was the late Andrew Carnegie. He held, in his numerous speeches and writings, that it was a mark of misguided affection for parents to leave great fortunes to their children, especially to sons. To do so deadens the talents and energies, and results in a less useful life than would otherwise develop. A man, he thought, should be prevented from handicapping his son by bestowing great wealth upon him. He believed, further, that the proper use of great riches was to benefit society from which they had been taken. If, then, men persisted in amassing fortunes without making a just social return, the state should make sure of its proper share by the use of an inheritance tax. He advocated a steeply progressive tax to as high as 50 per cent, and believed that a large part of the needed revenue could be secured from this source, with the feeling of very little burden.
1 Mr. Carnegie's views on inheritances are elaborated in his book, The Gospel of Wealth.
Labor organizations of various kinds, as might be expected, as well as the members of the more radical political parties, have been enthusiastic supporters of this principle. Theodore Roosevelt is an example of a national statesman and leader who thoroughly believed in the justice of the tax.