In countries like France, inherited wealth accounts for a large part of all wealth possessed (generally estimated at around 40%) and represents the largest descending monetary transfer: three times as much as wealth received in the form of an inter vivos gift, for example.2 In general, transfers of property by means of inheritances and gifts also play a very important role in the processes that determine the distribution of income and wealth. When the bequest is voluntary, its motivations can be altruistic, paternalistic, "retrospective," either grounded on mere exchange or on various strategies.6 This version, quite remote from the traditional and popular picture of bequest, is specifically relevant, however, because it allows us to identify (i) the vector of the bequest, (ii) the kind of relations existing within the family, (iii) the structure of preferences, (iv) the kind of information held by each member of the family, and finally (v) the characteristics, in terms of capabilities or life expectancy, of the family members.
AN ETHICS OF
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