Justice, entitlement and inheritance : exploring theoretical grounds for the rectification of manifest injustices through an analysis of inheritance

Spies, Frances (2013-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis explores the possibility of promoting social justice through the direct confrontation and rectification of manifest injustices in our existing social institutions and practices, as opposed to the more conventional theoretical approach of attempting to offer comprehensive accounts of ideal justice based on the identification of ultimate principles of justice or perfectly just institutional arrangements. Through an analysis and moral evaluation of the intergenerational transfer of wealth through the practice of inheritance, the study attempts to illustrate how a narrower theoretical focus on specific existing social institutions and practices will enhance conceptual clarity regarding their morally relevant features and, by taking the actual social and political context into account from the outset, increase the political and real-world relevance of the resulting proposal. This study also offers a thorough examination of property rights, because an understanding of the nature of ownership and the justificatory theories of entitlement claims necessarily provides the background context against which the issue of inheritance has to be addressed. As property rights give specific people claims to resources to the exclusion of others, any considerations on property rights also brings up questions of distributive and social justice. Within this broader framework of property rights and distributive justice, this study seeks to show that inheritance is not only inconsistent with the values underlying capitalism, but also an unfair and outdated practice that helps to perpetuate economic and social inequality, which undermines the ideal of democratic citizenship. To this end, a proposal is made to cap inheritance by placing an upper limit to the amount an individual will be allowed to bequeath to any other individual(s). It is argued that this limit should be high enough to allow for the transfer of a family home and objects with sentimental value, but not so high as to ensure a life of complete leisure to future generations. The merits of inheritance taxation will then be discussed in detail and arguments in favour of limiting inheritance will be subdivided into three broad categories: The first concerns the legitimacy of the practice of inheritance itself, as well as the tension between the liberal-democratic principles underlying capitalism and the practice of inheritance, the second relates to the undesirability of the social outcomes that are realised based on the practice of inheritance, and the third focuses on the potential gains that the alternative arrangement will bring.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die tesis ondersoek die moontlikheid dat sosiale geregtigheid deur die direkte konfrontasie en regstelling van ongeregtighede in ons bestaande instellings en praktyke bevorder kan word, in teenstelling met die meer konvensionele teoretiese benadering wat poog om alomvattende teorieë van ideale geregtigheid op die identifikasie van finale beginsels van geregtigheid of volmaakte institusionele organisering te baseer. Die studie poog om deur die analise en morele evaluering van die praktyk van erflating te illustreer dat ‘n nouer teoretiese fokus op spesifieke bestaande sosiale instellings en praktyke die konseptuele duidelikheid aangaande hul moreel relevante aspekte kan verbeter, en dat die relevansie van voorstellings verhoog kan word deur die werklike politieke en sosiale konteks uit die staanspoor in ag te neem. Die studie bied ook ‘n deeglike analise van eiendomsreg aan, omdat ‘n begrip van die aard van eienaarskap en die teorieë wat besitsreg regverdig noodwendig die agtergrond konteks skep waarteen die kwessie van erflating aangespreek moet word. Omdat eiendomsreg vir spesifieke mense regte tot hulpbronne gee tot die uitsluiting van ander, bring enige oorwegings aangaande eiendomsreg ook die kwessie van sosiale geregtigheid na vore. Binne hierdie breër raamwerk van eiendomsreg en sosiale geregtigheid, poog die studie om te wys dat erflating nie net teenstrydig is met die waardes onderliggend aan kapitalisme nie, maar ook 'n onregverdige en verouderde praktyk is wat bydra tot die voortbestaning van ekonomiese en sosiale ongelykheid, en dus die ideaal van demokratiese burgerskap ondermyn. Die studie stel voor dat erflating beperk moet word deur ‘n limiet te plaas op die bedrag wat enige persoon van ander persone af kan erf. Die meriete van erflatingsbelasting word in detail bespreek en argumente ten gunste van ‘n limiet op erflatings word breedweg in drie kategorieë verdeel: Die eerste betref die legitimiteit van die praktyk van erflating self, sowel as die spanning tussen die liberaal-demokratiese beginsels onderliggend aan kapitalisme en die praktyk van erflating; die tweede het betrekking tot die onaanvaarbare sosiale uitkomste wat ontstaan vanweë die praktyk van erflating; en die derde fokus op die verbeteringe wat alternatiewe praktyke kan bring.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80180
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