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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/126

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

capable of sustaining himself in comfort and welfare. This conclusion—that labor receives a constantly increasing share of an increasing product, and that capital receives a diminishing share of an increasing product—which Mr. Atkinson has demonstrated, is one of the most encouraging facts that have been discovered in the progress of modern civilization. It tends to show, what we now know to be the fact, that there is a gradual equalization in the distribution of property, and that a larger number of persons in this age possess a competence than in any other period of the history of the race.

The proposition that the burden of a tax upon any commodity is measured by its ratio to the margin of profit rather than to the entire cost of the product, is vigorously presented in an article on "The Visible and Invisible in Protection," which was published in the "Atlantic Monthly" for February, 1872. Its truth is even more evident in the condition of our country to-day than it was at that time. Classifying commodities subject to taxation, as those which are of necessary use in processes of domestic production, and those which are of voluntary use on the part of the consumer, the paper lays down the principle that, "in accordance with the rule that it is fit to take, under the necessity of taxation, a small portion of the luxury or even the comforts which men seek as the end of their labor, rather than to impair their means of subsistence, taxes should not be imposed upon articles of the first class, but may be imposed upon those of the second class." The effect is then considered of the taxes then and now imposed upon articles of the first class in their relation to profits, and is gauged by comparison with an imaginary tax upon an article in Universal use on which no tax would be tolerated, if it were imposed. Such an article is milk, with its products, butter and cheese. Suppose their price were increased by the imposition of a tax of fifty per cent. "There would surely be controversy, bitter discussion, and perhaps violent resistance, should such a tax be imposed; and yet the general cost of subsistence would be no more increased, while the power of enlarged production would be far less restricted and hampered, by a tax of fifty per cent upon dairy products, than they are now by the tariff taxes imposed on foreign imports of crude or partially manufactured materials. Nor would the burden be distributed more widely. The use of dairy products is no more universal or necessary than the use of the articles of foreign import named in our list" (including a number of articles of the first class); "and there is almost as much luxurious consumption of dairy products as there is of foreign imports. It may be asserted, without fear of contradiction, that all these articles imported from other countries are as much the product of American labor as the dairy product, or as if they