Abstract: Jennifer Bird-Pollan has recently argued that Nozickians are wrong to oppose the estate tax. Promising to argue from within the Nozickian framework, she presses the fundamental point that the estate tax does not violate anyone’s rights: neither the deceased nor their would-be heirs can claim a right to any holdings subject to the estate tax. This paper shows that Bird-Pollan’s discussion fails on three fronts. First, she frequently misinterprets Nozick, and thus does not defend the estate tax from a Nozickian perspective. Second, even if Bird-Pollan is correct in denying that the deceased and their potential heirs have a right to the holdings in question, it does not follow that the estate tax is licit, because Nozickians can oppose it on other grounds. For example, Nozickians may hold that the enforcement of the estate tax will violate other rights people have. The government’s preemptive claims to holdings subject to estate taxes, along with the force required to enforce those claims, are unjustified. The crucial premise motivating these conclusions is the Nozickian denial that our current state possesses the authority to enforce the estate tax. This is the third front on which Bird-Pollan’s argument fails: she must show that Nozickians ought to believe government has the moral authority to enforce the estate tax, yet she makes no effort to do so.
Keywords: Robert Nozick, estate taxes, minimal state
JEL Codes: H24, K34