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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/317

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

the money metals, may be anticipated in the perhaps not-distant future.

In the year 1893 the burden of taxation on the people of India, inclusive of the revenue derived from the rent of land, was officially estimated at two rupees and four annas, or nominally less than fifty cents per head; or, exclusive of the revenue from land, at about twenty-three cents per head—a rate relatively much lower than the taxation of England; so that, if the taxable ability of the people of India is low, the poorer classes of that country, it is claimed, are more lightly taxed than the poorer classes of Europe, or even of the United States. Before England assumed dominion in India the system of exaction of her native rulers was so perfected that they were assured of the very last penny that could be taken from the ryots, or peasantry, without stripping them of everything; leaving to the tenant class little more than the privilege of living. To-day the existing system of taxation in India is con-j ceded to be at least eminently just. To-day it is generally admitted that there is no government in the world whose administration is more honestly conducted, and which is now doing more for the material good of the governed, than the present British Government of India. And herein is to be found the secret of England's success in ruling the vast congeries of people of different) races, languages, and religions, known to us as India.

The consideration of another matter of recent occurrence and of the highest economic and social interest and importance, appropriately finds place in any discussion of the tax system of British India; more especially because it sets forth an attempt, founded on an unwarranted sentiment, indirectly to impose a large additional burden of taxation on the people of that country. As already pointed out, a present annual receipt of some $33,000,000 of revenue from the monopoly of the production and sale of opium, the incidence of which does not fall upon the Indian people, constitutes an important factor in this system. Acting on the assumption that the continued use of this drug, as a narcotic and stimulant, is in the highest degree injurious to the consumer—worse even than the continued use of alcohol—and especially demoralizing and destructive to the people of China, who are the purchasers and consumers of the major part of the opium product of India, a body of public opinion has in recent years grown up in Great Britain whose representatives hold that it was disgraceful and positively wicked for a people professing to be moral and enlightened to engage in or sanction the business of producing and supplying opium; and that it is the duty of their Government to at once interfere and put an end to it. And in recognition of this public opinion, and in deference to a numerously signed address to the Crown, the British Government, in