This tweet by Heystek, in turn, incited Prof de Vos to respond
by asking Heystek, whether, if he values hard work, he could make an argument as to why it is "morally just for people to inherit something they've not done anything to earn?"
The professor's request for a moral argument in favour of inheritance deserves to be dignified with a response.
My response will not touch on the economic issues pertaining to an inheritance tax because this has already been done in An open letter to Professor Pierre de Vos
, a respectful, well-reasoned counter-argument constructed by Deon Gouws, to which Prof de Vos himself gave credit
The notion that one should not receive anything without working for it seems to be the knee-jerk response that most people had to Prof de Vos's suggestion. Yet, somehow, the notion that it is inherently immoral to receive something which you did not work for does not hold up to scrutiny.
Those who are regular travellers on William Nicol Road through Bryanston, especially where it intersects with Main Road in the north, would be familiar with the sad sight of black mothers sitting at the base of traffic lights with their toddlers or infants, asking for assistance. It is difficult not to help the mother by giving her some money, or perhaps something to eat or drink. Surely none of de Vos's detractors would argue that the interaction which just occurred, where a person who did not 'work' for something but received it anyway out of the goodness of someone else's heart, was immoral in any way.
The "earn what you get" counterargument is thus flawed. In fact, it bolsters
the argument against inheritance if it were assumed to be a principle that should apply universally. It seems that many of Prof de Vos's detractors are blissfully unaware of their hypocrisy, as Prof de Vos also pointed out
. It is not a principle. It is a purely contextual rule of thumb (at best) that people try to pass off as some sort of golden rule. If it is inherently
immoral to get something without giving something first, something as simple as receiving birthday gifts should be considered morally dubious. The whole act of giving without getting something in return would have to be thrown out the window because the receiver would be in the wrong
. An absurd notion.
The issue, however, is that Prof de Vos himself seems to subscribe to the type of reasoning that his detractors employ. While his use of the same argument might be less hypocritical and more coherent than that of his detractors, Prof de Vos argues that "Intergenerational inheritance benefits individuals who, through no effort of their own
, happen to have been born to parents who have amassed some wealth. These parents, in turn, may well have inherited from their parents, also through no effort of their own. There is a double injustice here… (my italics)"
Prof de Vos also tries to argue for "work for what you own" as an acontextual principle, barring any misinterpretation of him on my part. To quote him further:
and that it should be corrected, even when this is unrelated to white privilege (my italics)."