Taxes

What the Toronto Blue Jays' Infielders Can Teach Us About the Inheritance Tax

Some parents with valuable skills will find some way to transmit those skills to their children, and some children will find ways to learn them from parents.

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A fact from the world of sports with public policy implications: The Toronto Blue Jays have been starting an infield in which all four players are the sons of major league baseball players.

The Blue Jays first baseman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., is the son of Vladimir Guerrero, who retired with a .318 career batting average and 449 home runs and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2018. The Blue Jays' second baseman, Cavan Biggio, is the son of Craig Biggio, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015 after 20 seasons with the Houston Astros in which he accumulated 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases, and 250 home runs. The Blue Jays shortstop, Bo Bichette, is the son of Dante Bichette, a four-time all-star who hit a total of 274 home runs during 14 years in the majors, mostly with the Colorado Rockies. And the Blue Jays third baseman, Travis Shaw, is the son of Jeff Shaw, a two-time all-star who pitched in the major leagues from 1990 to 2001.

It's the second time in recent baseball history this has happened. As the Twitter account MLBStats noted, on June 1, 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers started Scott Van Slyke, Jerry Hairston Jr., Ivan De Jesus Jr., and Dee Gordon. Scott Van Slyke's father Andy Van Slyke was a three-time all-star over 13 years in the majors. Hairston's "father, uncle, grandfather and brother were all professional baseball players," a 2012 article in the Los Angeles Daily News reported. Ivan De Jesus Sr. also played for the Dodgers. And Dee Gordon's father Tom Gordon had a 21-year career as a major league pitcher.

The pandemic-shortened season is still young. So far, at least, though, the second-generation infield hasn't translated into dominance for the Blue Jays. The Toronto team has a losing record and is at the bottom of the standings in the American League East division. They've been denied a home-field advantage, exiled to Buffalo, New York, by coronavirus-cautious Canadian health officials.

But what is striking to me, in an environment in which inherited privilege is under attack as an affront against equity, is the lack of complaint about the Blue Jays.

The legacy preference for college admissions faces increased criticism. A September 2019 New York Times editorial noted that some in Congress want to outlaw the practice, and concluded, "Preferential treatment for legacy admissions is anti-meritocratic, inhibits social mobility and helps perpetuate a de facto class system. In short, it is an engine of inequity." A January 2020 Washington Post editorial praised John Hopkins for getting rid of its preference for children of alumni. The Post quoted an admissions official at MIT, which says it does not give children of alumni a preference, as saying, "I am not interested in simply reproducing a multigenerational lineage of educated elite."

A June 2020 New York Times op-ed by Lily Batchelder, an Obama administration official who is now a professor at NYU law school, asserted, "We know how to tax inheritances more fairly. We need to act before the massive wealth transfers on the horizon further entrench a hereditary economic elite." It's funny to see arguments against "a hereditary economic elite" in the pages of a newspaper whose publisher is A.G. Sulzberger, the sixth member of the Ochs-Sulzberger family to control the paper since Adolph Ochs acquired it in 1896. The strongest argument for increased inheritance taxes may be that it would liberate heirs from the guilt that too often accompanies the inheritance. But there are ways of achieving that purpose without the use of state force.

The Blue Jays example shows the futility of leveling efforts. In the absence of randomly controlled trials involving adoption and identical twins of professional baseball players, it's impossible to know for sure whether the advantage enjoyed by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Cavan Biggio is primarily genetic or environmental, nature or nurture, talent or work ethic. In the end, it doesn't matter. Some parents with valuable skills will find some way to transmit those skills to their children, and some children will find ways to learn them from their parents.

Congress can impose a 100 percent tax on inherited wealth and seize the endowment of any college that offers the slightest admissions preference to children of alumni. But unless the government is going to take children away from parents at birth or outlaw father-son backyard batting practice or after-dinner games of catch, preventing what the levelers decry as a "hereditary elite" is impossible.

That doesn't mean that first-generation ballpayers won't sometimes win, or that some children of Hall-of-Fame baseball players might not be better off going to law school. But it does mean that when fans are finally allowed back into ballparks, rather than booing the Blue Jays infield for reproducing multigenerational lineage of hereditary elites, we can cheer them for exemplifying family values.

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  2. Same for movie stars.

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  3. Some parents with valuable skills will find some way to transmit those skills to their children, and some children will find ways to learn them from their parents.

    Congress can impose a 100 percent tax on inherited wealth and seize the endowment of any college that offers the slightest admissions preference to children of alumni. But unless the government is going to take children away from parents at birth or outlaw father-son backyard batting practice or after-dinner games of catch, preventing what the levelers decry as a “hereditary elite” is impossible.

    But isn’t the implicit premise of a 100% inheritance tax that the inheritance isn’t skills being passed on, just money? There are certainly good arguments against an inheritance tax, but “the heir could work his ass off and be just as successful as his well-off father, so what good is a tax anyways” isn’t really one of them.

  4. Can you stop giving the equality above all else people ideas?

  5. >>A fact from the world of sports with public policy implications

    don’t. wonk. baseball. at least not with not-baseball wonk.

    Andy Van Slyke used to come into my restaurant when the Pirates were in town I loved talking ball w/him. Also he was the best glove in CF in the game for many years.

  6. How about we don’t listen to the assholes on the left attempting to fuck over our society. Their words are meaningless nonsense.

    1. appreciate the appropriate and necessary level of expletive.

  7. Nice try conflating inherited wealth with baseball prowess. The difference, which you ignore, is that even idiots can inherit wealth (and often do, Trump bring a case in point). Undeserving trust fund kids still get to have all the advantages of wealth. Second generation baseball players admittedly have an advantage, but that only goes so far. If they can’t hit above the Mendoza line, they don’t make the majors. There’s a legitimate meritocratic test in baseball, which doesn’t exist in an aristocracy. That makes all the difference.

    1. I suppose you’re confident that you’re prepared to answer the question about who is and who isn’t deserving? Please outline your criteria for what it means to be deserving and more importantly, why you and your criteria deserves to be the one we all live under.

      1. Probably just the typical progressive claptrap that the state should seize assets once someone dies.

    2. I think Trump is more an example of how starting from something matters. And that’s not just having a rich parent, but two parents.

      Families that pass one money to their children are growing wealth in the family. OTOH you have single parents who don’t do this, and their kids grow up poor because they weren’t given anything.

      1. 70% of inherited wealth is lost by the second generation, and 90% by the third. If the children don’t have the skills to maintain (and grow) the wealth then it doesn’t matter what they start with, they end up poor anyway

        https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/generational-wealth%3A-why-do-70-of-families-lose-their-wealth-in-the-2nd-generation-2018-10

    3. and if inherited athletic ability is unfair to the equality worshippers, the remedy would be to modify their genes to put them back within one or two standard deviations from the median level, not to take their money away. I doubt many people would be okay with that.

    4. He may be an idiot, in certain areas I do agree, but he did become a billionaire and got himself elected POTUS. They don’t just hand out either of those as participation ribbons.

      1. Well borrowing lots of money and not paying it back is one path to that kind of rich.

        Building successful businesses is another.

  8. Most arguments for an inheritance tax that treats inheritance more favorably than work are weak.

    This one is aggressively stupid.

    1. What I find interesting is the left hate inheritance, not just un-taxed inheritance. But they also hate hard-work. A decade ago, I’d have asked what, exactly it is they’re for. But now I know, so I no longer ask.

      1. What they want is everything for the state, all supporting the state, nothing against the state. Everyone is supposed to be dependent on the state and they are supposed to do what they are told to do, by the state.

        I think that redistribution of children at birth will be the next big thing. They are getting some success from the public schools re-educating the kids, but the results, in terms of equality, are not positive. They cannot seem to figure out to make all the women strong, the men good looking and all the children equally above average. So, the next great experiment will be to assign parents. They have a manual for it (Brave New World), and another manual for the hard cases (1984), so onward and forward to the progressive future!

    2. You would know about being aggressively stupid. Bigot clinger.

    3. Inheritance taxation is inherently immoral by its very nature.

  9. Whether or not idiot children “deserve” to inherit the money of their fathers, the government sure as hell doesn’t deserve it. Arguing against an inheritance tax on the grounds that children can’t be denied their due is like arguing that you shouldn’t be mugged because you’re a nice person – no, you shouldn’t be mugged because the mugger has no right to take your money and arguing over whether or not you “deserve” to be mugged is only playing the mugger’s game by the mugger’s rules. “Fuck off, slaver” is the only valid retort to that sort of nonsense.

  10. Like people won’t find ways around a 100% inheritance tax. Put it in a trust before you die

  11. Family “advantage” will be the ultimate rock that sinks the equity movement (if it does not founder before that). The war of the truly woke against privilege will go beyond money and influence to just plain home and family environment. I am sure some of them hate the fact that some parents are just more capable and committed, and their kids end up doing better–so UNFAIR! But when they start suggesting relocating kids into more equitable family assignments, they will see what The People really think.

    1. Are they not already there?

  12. This is a weird fucking argument. Sports are a meritocracy. Nobody is just handed an invitation to the big leagues. Sure, guys who have famous last names may get a few extra opportunities to prove themselves, they may get scouted more extensively, but in order to reach the level of Major League Baseball, they’ve demonstrated their skills repeatedly and extensively.

    There’s plenty of baseball players who had famous fathers who never did anything. Have you ever heard of Taylor Mattingly? Pete Rose Jr? Bobby Bench?

    1. You’ve got it. Notice how much they have to exaggerate the other side to make their own arguments seem reasonable.

    2. Why is it that the concept of meritocracy in sports, entertainment, and the arts is not controversial, but when it comes to using your mind to make stuff or do science, meritocracies are evil racist constructs?

  13. Tax lesson is….don’t play in Canadia

  14. Ozzie Canseco is Jose Canseco’s twin. He sucked.

    1. there was one minor difference in the Canseco brothers’ abilities though… one was willing to enhance it with steroids

  15. If someone worth multiple millions of dollars cashes it all in and on their dying day puts it down on one hand of blackjack in Vegas and loses, that’s ok, and the government may or may not eventually get a cut of that as the casino pays income taxes on its profits.

    If the guy cashes it all in and hands it to a charity on his dying day, the goverment won’t see much of that ever, especially if in “cashing it all in” he actually gives the charity appreciated assets.

    If the guy cashes it all in, puts in into a pile, and sets it on fire on his dying day, the government certainly gets nothing.

    But if the guy cashes it all in and hands it to his kid on his dying day, the government “deserves” a huge cut, with some desiring a 100% cut?

    1. When I die I wish to have my entire net worth converted to bullion and interred in my casket with my body

      To my family I bequeath 1 flashlight, 1 shovel, and 1 crowbar

      1. Too late – the second you expire the assets are on the gummints radar – that bullion coversion needs to happen at least one day before you croak.

  16. Some nutcase apparently was shot by the Secret Service just outside the White House a few hours ago, and Im wondering if everyone on the Reason staff has a good alibi and can be accounted for?

    1. They were all busy working on the four part blockbuster examining the Russiagate hoax revelations from Halper’s mentee

  17. Sounds fair.

    Folks that can prove, preferably in a double-blind meritocratic manner, that they can get their parent’s old job should be able to get a waiver to inheritance taxes.

    Deal?

    1. How about it’s my money and I’ll give it to whomever I please? Oh, and I’ve already paid taxes on that money btw.

      1. exactly. Libertarians don’t need any new arguments against death taxes. The money was already taxed once. Libertarians think that’s enough. Anarchists think that’s one time too many

        1. I’m against inheritance taxes, but I don’t buy the argument that it’s been taxed already. Most forms of income for someone has been taxed already. If instead of you dying and leaving it to someone, let’s say you lived and hired a gardener. Whatever you pay the gardener is income to the gardener, even though you already paid taxes on what you paid.

  18. Testing…

  19. Testing 2…

  20. “…it’s impossible to know for sure whether the advantage enjoyed by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Cavan Biggio is primarily genetic or environmental, nature or nurture, talent or work ethic.”

    Not impossible at all. It’s athletic ability of the highest order. It’s primarily genetic.

    1. Bulllshit – genetic ability will only take a person so far. To achieve the top level in athletics it requires a lot of hard work as well. Michael Jordan clearly had the right genetics, but he also worked his ass off.

      One needs the genetic foundation, without which all work is futile (as far as achieving elite status), but to truly excel requires a lot of effort.

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  22. While I understand that libertarianism is anti-government (simplified explanation, yes) meddling, I believe the core of that belief is to resist entrenched power. Inheritance tax is a way to reduce the entrenchment of power via birth. As you note, those with talent and hard work (sometimes not necessary) will rise to the top naturally.

    I don’t really think this piece does a good job of proving your anti-inheritance-tax view.

    1. I think the core is to leave people free to do what they want as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

      Resisting “entrenched power” for it’s own sake is not leaving them free.

    2. Not when you have a system that kicks people in the balls for hard work, and rewards sloth.

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  24. In the NFL it’s the Mannings, both sons performed at a higher lever (more Superbowls) than the father. There may well be a third generation, Arch Manning son of Cooper is a prep quarterback, Archie, his granddad, thinks he is ahead of Eli and Peyton at his age..

  25. Don’t forget their other 2nd Baseman, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. son of Cuban great Lourdes Sr. who was certainly good enough to be a star in the majors if he defected from Cuba like his son did

  26. Analogies are one of the more abused methods of reasoning and argument, because it is so easy to make a really bad one – like this one.

    Yes, families pass down knowledge and skill sets and connections. My family has been in technical/professional careers for generations. When I started a business, I borrowed $20k. George H W Bush borrowed 10 million and had his family’s connections to work with. We didn’t start out from the same place. Who is “deserving” is a misleading question. Was H.W. more deserving? No, just more fortunate.

    In sport, even if you start out with a talent advantage, you still have to work hard to develop it. With wealth, after a certain level it is self-sustaining (unless you’re a fool like DJT). It doesn’t multiply from generation to generation – the 4rd generation is not 8 times as skilled as the 1st. Nor do differentials in baseball talent bleed over into politics and threaten democracy.

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