Roger Bowen’s Nov. 18 Maine Voices column provides us with a readable account of how Republicans would like to increase the amount not taxed by the estate tax. Raising that amount, he argues, will increase the disparity in wealth in this country.

Being born into a poor family, he says, is a curse, while being born into a rich one is a blessing. And both are based on luck. However, redistribution makes birth count for less and opportunity count for more. For example, progressive income requires that higher earners pay more, because they have benefited more from the nation’s bounty.

However, there are a number of issues he does not address:

First, the estate tax provides for less than 1 percent of tax revenue to this country, according to the Office of Management and Budget. So, apparently, its function is not to provide others with what they miss, but simply to take away from those who have acquired wealth. So one might say that the function of that tax is to satisfy envy, one of the seven deadly sins.

Second, although whether one is born into a poor or rich family may depend entirely on luck, one can ask whether the tax code should be there to even out luck. Should those who are attractive pay more? Those who escaped inheriting a gene for Alzheimer’s disease? How about those who learned valuable lessons from thoughtful parents? For example, there’s a phrase that many Chinese children hear, a New York Times Magazine intern reports: ” ‘Xin k hòu tián.’ First bitter, then sweet.” Should those who learn that lesson be taxed more?

 Third, Bowen says the tax code is about values. But this means that the values of those in power determine what is taxed, and how much. If a more objective basis of taxation were possible, we might all be better off.

William Vaughan Jr.

Chebeague Island