Inheritance, bequest, and devise: Property rights on the graveyard shift 公开

Hansard, Seth Andrew (2012)

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Inheritance, bequest, and devise: Property rights on the graveyard shift

The purpose of this inquiry is to determine whether the powers to bequest and devise, as part of a group of property rights, are justifiable according to present-day American values. The first chapter is a summary of certain political-philosophical revisions of inheritance laws and their purposes since the recorded emergence of bequest and devise in medieval England. Reviewing this series of shifts throws into question whether any specific right to inheritance can be said to exist, suggesting it has merely been a useful convention throughout history. In chapter two, the discussion of bequest and devise as such is suspended temporarily in order to discuss the interaction of two contradictory and sometimes loosely-delineated sets of values in America. These value sets are discussed in relation to the philosophers John Locke and Robert Nozick on one side and John Stuart Mill on the other, aiming to maximize individual liberty and social utility respectively. Finally, the inquiry re-introduces bequest and devise within the philosophical
framework developed in the second chapter. Bequest and devise are debated as rights potentially beneficial and potentially harmful. The alleged negative effects of these powers gain attention in Bruce Ackerman's and Anne Alstott's Stakeholder Society and in Mark Ascher's Curtailing Inherited Wealth. Both these works suggest major reductions to the powers of bequest and
devise, along with other property rights, as justified by the needs and rights of society. The conclusions of the inquiry ultimately oppose these suggestions, citing the necessity to protect incentives for accumulating wealth, including, at least in small part, the rights to bequest and devise.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction: Inheritance and its critics 1

Chapter 1: Prior debates and revisions 8

Chapter 2: A confluence of concerns 25

Chapter 3: The merits of bequest and devise 40

Works Cited 59

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