Many thanks to Maya MacGuineas for her contribution to this discussion, which I almost completely agree with. In fact, she goes a bit further than I would--for example, in her desire for thorough means testing of Social Security and Medicare. I would say either my suggestions (such as claiming some of the money back when a recipient dies) or means testing--but not both.
Perhaps I phrased my question badly. I was not asking whether taxes had some purpose other than paying for the government. I was asking whether Jamie believed the government could function without collecting any taxes and financing its entire budget through borrowing. As for the estate tax, it is not performing brilliantly at the moment, since at the moment it doesn't exist. But I wonder why Galbraith is so hostile to the notion of applying the estate tax to more than just a tiny number of extremely wealthy people, so that it would bring in some serious revenue AND have the effect he wants on more than just those few.
Actually, I don't wonder all that much. Let's call it quits, Jamie, and thanks for participating.
The debate continues here.