It's essential to have a sense of scale about numbers

Political debate is both vital and interesting. But it does help if it's informed by a sense of scale about the underlying numbers. This is a complaint we here normally make about the arts graduates who make up most of journalism but the problem exists in the wider population as well. Here's a retired doctor (you know, one of those very bright people who got into medical school) telling us how social care and the NHS can be paid for:

The divide between medical and social care is very vague. Medical care is available 24 hours a day seven days a week and is free; social care is largely only available 9 to 5, Monday to Friday and is means tested. Breaking up the system through outsourcing and privatisation only complicates matters. Basically both need to be provided by government and be taxpayer-funded. Expensive? Why not have a levy of 5% on all inheritance over £100,000, including trusts. The rich who would benefit most in life would pay more in the end.

Of course, we disagree that both must be government provided - as do GPs of course, who are government funded but not employed by said. But our ire here is at the complete lack of understanding of the scale of these numbers. We are not, at all, blaming this individual, just pointing to the more general point that people don't understand.

For total - and yes, this is total inheritances, including that stuffed donkey Granny brought back from Torremolinos - are nowhere near enough to solve this problem.

The combined total of all inheritances received over the two year period was estimated at £75.0 billion. 


In 2015–16, the UK public sector spent £220.2 billion (2016–17 prices) on health, social care, and benefits to support people with disabilities and health conditions.

It's true that they're not directly comparable numbers but still, that proposed tax is less than 1% of the current budget. It's not going to solve anything., is it? 

In fact, if we taxed all inheritances at 100%, including that donkey, we'd only have some 15% of that budget. Which, given that higher inflation rate (usually pegged at about double the one for the entire economy) of the NHS and such services is an amount that will get swallowed in only a few years.

We most certainly have strong opinions on a number of things and we admit and agree that others have equally strong and different ones on the same points. But really, we've got to be doing this informed by reality.

The taxation of inheritance just isn't enough to solve the costs of the welfare state. There's just not enough of it about to tax.