The most singular response to Stephen Byers' call for the death of inheritance tax came predictably from the Treasury. IHT was "fair" it said because it caught only six per cent of estates.
The notion that a tax is "fair" because most people don't pay it may be democratic in a tawdry way, but nonsense. People who have become rich by living in the place they bought 30 years ago while a lucky, if you like skilful, Chancellor presides over a historic fall in interest rates -vastly inflating the borrowing power of home-buyers - are a sitting target for the taxman.
But fairness has nothing to do with a tax that forces the sale of a nondescript family home that would have gone untaxed five years ago.
The reality is that Gordon Brown is a manse-born Chancellor for whom work is a Presbyterian virtue. Apart from any vestigial Labour yearning for equality, he would rather tax inherited money than earned money.
Mr Byers was being mischievous, of course. He was the Transport Minister who plotted to dispossess the shareholders of Railtrack, allegedly dismissing them as an undeserving bunch of whingeing grannies.
Yet he may have touched a nerve suggesting that when inherited "wealth" takes the form of a family home bought painstakingly with a mortgage, it is money that has been taxed already.
So is VAT, so is council tax. But there is a sense that IHT should not be. It was supposed to be a levy on great dynastic fortunes, that no one's grandparents had bought in monthly instalments without, in recent years, any mercy from the taxman.
A generation ago there was an outcry against what was then called capital transfer tax. Widows were being forced to sell their family homes. A wary Chancellor changed the rules so as to exempt gifts and bequests between spouses - that was before politicians got round to worrying about the cohabitee vote.
After a while the Treasury collected more money, not less. When the second spouse dies, the estate is liable to more IHT because there is only one tax-free allowance, not two.
Fair or unfair, the explosion in house prices has made IHT burdensome again, sometimes disproportionately - for instance when the heir or heiress has been caring for and living with an elderly parent who owned the place. They stand to lose their home to pay the tax.
West Midlanders may be tempted to shrug this off as a regional problem for the undeserving South-East. That is where easy money has driven the price of ordinary homes into the IHT bracket. What is so dreadful about a regional tax, when one region is better able to pay than the rest?
Unhappily, IHT is not going to stay a regional tax for long. City bonuses may have set off this year's surge in London house prices. But we have seen time and again how what starts as a metropolitan phenomenon ripples across the country.
Halifax calculates that 20 per cent of all homes will be liable to IHT by 2020. They won't all be in the South-East.