Supporters of inheritance taxes do love to argue that we really should tax dead people. After all, they are dead so aren't going to squeal about it. Such taxation does therefore at least pass one test, the maximisation of feathers plucked with the least hissing.
However, this idea does meet one major obstacle, which is that the major economic unit among humans is not the individual but the family:
Ageing parents are drawing up legal documents to make clear that they would rather die than allow excessive care home fees to eat into their child’s inheritance.
The rising cost of elderly care is leading the middle-aged to create powers of attorney enshrining their desire to refuse treatment should they become incapacitated, a leading law firm said.
True, that is a piece of puffery from a law firm advertising, through he kind editors at The Times, their ability to write such legal documents. But even puffery has a basis in truth - why bother to advertise what no one is interested in?
Which brings us to that family thing. Marriage, or at least pair bonding, are essential to the continuation of the species. We don't do that because sex is fun - it's because those for whom sex was fun bonded and thus raised more children through those decades human children need. There are indeed other species which take longer to reach sexual maturity than we do. But none that require such parenting for so long.
All of which has made the family that basic economic unit of us humans. At which point the detestation of inheritance tax makes sense. The aim and purpose of our travails in the vale of tears is the production of grandchildren. Passing on money rather than J. Corbyn getting to spend it on diversity advisers accords with our deeper instincts. Those rationalisations about how taxing dead people harms no one notwithstanding.
There's a larger point to this. We can build abstract arguments for many things just as sandcastles in the air are entirely possible. But we do have to recall, at least occasionally, that we're dealing with Homo Sapiens here. And he and she can be contrary little buggers at times. We must therefore check that our grand abstractions accord with what humans actually do.
Sure, it would be great if everyone would work flat out to create the perfect society, sharing everything equally as they did so. We've also tried that and it didn't work - because humans. So too with inheritance tax. There are all sorts of logical reasons why it's a stunningly good idea. But that people would seemingly rather pop their c logs rather than not be able to pass on inheritances would seem to indicate that this is one of those times when logic and humans don't mix well. Or perhaps that the wrong logic about humans is being deployed.