Is it Time for a “Death Tax”?

Given there’s not much in the way of fish to fry during our parliament’s extended winter holiday, err, budgetary recalibration, or whatever Team Harper is calling it these days… thanks to the Internets, I’ve taken to watching and listening to a lot more British politics these days.

Aside from the inside baseball cricket, which is always lively and highly enjoyable, especially now as things are warming up in advance of the next general election, some of the issues being raised are quite interesting in the sense they might very well be precursors of future debates here in this country.

Recently, I mentioned the tentative steps towards proportional voting that have been introduced by the Labour government — a comparable move that may well attract considerable support from many people who presently feel alienated from the political process for whatever reason, not least of which, younger voters with less allegiance to traditional parties. Another interesting trial balloon being floated ahead of the upcoming election is that of a so-called “death tax” to fund long-term and terminal care of the elderly.

The epithet is unfortunate, of course, and naturally invites confusion with a completely unrelated debate in the US, albeit one that shares some common roots that seem to run quite deep in conservative soil, so to speak. Anyway… the scheme being considered in Britain, at least as I understand it, would impose a compulsory tax as a percentage of assets levied at the time of death (presumably in addition to the more onerous estate tax that applies only to a small fraction of extremely wealthy individuals) in order to fund healthcare programs for the elderly. Seems like an eminently reasonable idea to me, but as expected, all of the usual ideological divides are quick to surface in the debate.

All that quite aside — great fodder for heated discussion as it is — the primary reason I mention this, and what strikes me as most fascinating, is the glaringly different nature of the debates being waged on our political battlefield as opposed to those currently taking shape in Britain.