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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/599

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APPLETONS’

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

SEPTEMBER, 1896.



PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.
By DAVID A. WELLS, LL.D., D.C.L.,

CORRESPONDANT DE L'INSTITUT DE FRANCE, ETC.

III.—THE DEFINITION, OBJECT, AND SPHERE OF TAXATION.

IT would seem to be in the nature of an economic or commonsense axiom, that a large and varied experience in respect to the management of any one of the great departments of the world's business, would result in the gradual evolution and final definite establishment of certain rules or principles, which would be almost universally recognized and accepted as a basis for practical application and procedure. But in respect to the matter of taxation—which is a fundamental necessity for the maintenance not only of all government, but of civilization—no such result has been achieved. In no department of economic science is there, moreover, so much obscurity and conflicting opinion. Most economists teach that there is "no science of taxation as there is a science of exchanges"; and "that there are no great natural laws running through and controlling taxation and its effects." And while the student will find examples in the history of states or governments of the practical application of almost every form of appropriation of private property under the name of taxation which human ingenuity, prompted by necessity, selfishness, or greed, could devise,[1] and a sufficient record


  1. "In Austria everything, it is said, is taxed except the air, and even that has to be paid for in places famous for their salubrity. Dogs, cycles, newspapers, advertisements, and innumerable other articles—pleasures and necessaries—are included in the money-producing list; nothing, indeed, seemed excluded until a very short time ago, when a provincial financier forwarded an exhaustive report to the finance ministry on a neglected source of