Historical Entitlement and the Practice of Bequest: Is There a Moral Right of Bequest? [Book Review]

Law and Philosophy 29 (6):695-715 (2010)
Abstract
Entitlement theorists claim that bequest is a moral right. The aim of this essay is to determine whether entitlement theorists can, on their own grounds, consistently defend that claim. I argue that even if there is a moral right to self-appropriated property and to engage in inter vivos transfers, it is a mistake to contend that there exists an equivalent moral right to make a bequest. Taxing or regulating bequest does not violate an individual’s moral rights because, regardless of whether bequest safeguards certain interests, those interests are not the interests of a living, morally inviolable being. Instead, they are the interests of a deceased entity that has lost the ability to track what it values and pursue projects in accord with those values – a quality that by entitlement theorists’ own arguments renders persons morally significant and deserving of rights in the first place
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