Futuribles Journal n° 393

Économie, emploi - Société, modes de vie

Public and Private Transfers between Generations. Ideological Issues and Perspectives (2): How to Reduce the Importance of Inherited Wealth in French Society

In this second strand of the investigation in this issue of Futuribles into public and private transfers between generations in France, Luc Arrondel and André Masson look at avenues for reducing the importance of inherited wealth in French society. After a brief discussion of the reality of the inter-generational imbalance that can be seen to have come about between today’s seniors and their children, they analyse the features attesting to the increasing importance of such inherited assets: the increasing proportion of national wealth that consists of inter-generational bequests and the growing concentration of assets in the hands of the oldest citizens. They also emphasize that, for at least the last 30 years, French society has assigned increasing importance to assets, inherited wealth and unearned income, and has seen inequalities of wealth develop between the different age-groups and also, at any given age, between inheritors and non-inheritors, property owners and tenants etc.

Hence the need for reforms, though the nature of these and their duration (whether they are to be temporary or long-term) very much depends on one’s preferred social paradigm (cf. previous article). In a free-market perspective, where the liberty of economic agents is favoured, the aim would be to stimulate the consumption of (affluent) seniors’ accumulated wealth. In an approach that pursued equality between citizens, there would be more intervention on taxation and increased taxes on the holding of assets or on asset yields. Lastly, in a “multi-solidarity” vision, the solution might consist in taxing sizeable family legacies more heavily. Arrondel and Masson detail the lines of action that might be taken in these three policy directions, together with the practicalities and time-scales of their implementation. Lastly, they conclude that the orientations to be pursued imply a clear choice of one of the three major Republican values (liberty, equality or solidarity), while attempting not to offend too greatly against the other two.

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