On August 25, the U.S marked the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. In the words of historian Wallace Stegner, the parks are “the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”
Several weeks after President Woodrow Wilson penned the act creating national parks, he signed America’s second best idea into law, the federal estate tax, our nation’s only levy on the inherited wealth of multi-millionaires and billionaires.
Like the park system, the estate tax is a fundamentally American notion, an absolutely democratic intervention against a drift toward plutocracy and extreme wealth imbalances. Taxing inheritances set the U.S. apart from the monarchies and wealth dynasties of Europe.