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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/606

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

tion and construction of any just and intelligent system of taxation, and also for any such collocation of general truths relative to taxation as will raise the subject to the dignity of a science. But, be this as it may, it seems certain that such recognition and acceptance would at once sweep away many obstacles that would otherwise stand in the way of such a consummation, and bring a high degree of order into what is now a comparative chaos.

And, as one illustration of this, consider how entirely, and yet how naturally, the proposed definitions and limitations change the generally accepted idea of the relation of a tax to the individual taxpayer.

As has been already pointed out, the popular idea of a tax is that it is always an evil. Most writers also on political economy, in discussing the subject, start with the idea that the act or exercise of taxation necessarily implies perpetual antagonism between the state, the sovereign, or the executive, and the private citizen. The parties concerned are the citizen on the one side and the state on the other, and the former being comparatively weak and the latter exceedingly strong, the state is always assumed to get the upper hand. M. Proudhon, in his work Théorie de l'Impôt maintains that "all taxes are iniquitous," and that "if a sole tax was established it would be the sum of fiscal iniquities," "There are no taxes," says Ricardo, "which have not a tendency to lessen the power to accumulate," J. B. Say, the eminent French economist, declared that, by whatever name known, taxes are always a burden upon the private citizen. M. Garnier, another French economist, defines taxes "as the reduction made on the private fortunes of the citizens by the Government to meet public expenditures." According to John Stuart Mill, "it is impossible in a poor country to impose any tax which will not impede the increase in the national wealth."

"None of us feel, when the tax-gatherer comes, that to be taxed is a favor; or that, as to the money exacted, we as individuals are the better off for its having been taken from us. We know the tax is a burden; as such it is recognized by every person upon whom it is imposed,"—Hon. Thomas M. Cooley.

All such conceptions of the position of the state in respect to the taxpayer are, however, monarchical, implying the relation of master and subject, lord and serf;[1] and from such a point of view


  1. When the Jewish people, weary of the tax despotism of a sacerdotal class—i. e., the tribe of Levi, to whom the land was held to have been given by Jehovah—manifested an intention of setting up a king, the prophet Samuel foretold that under royalty taxation would be still more oppressive, and "this," he said, "will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you. He will take your sons and appoint them for himself, and set them to ear his ground and reap his harvest; and he will take your daughters to be cooks," etc.; "and your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive-yards, even the best of them; and the