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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/607

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

this general idea of antagonism between the taxpayer and the government is correct and has been in accord with the great mass of the world's experiences. In fact, these conceptions undoubtedly originated with the first or old economists, who, living under arbitrary, despotic governments, and unable to comprehend the modern ideas respecting personal liberty and a free government, came to the only conclusion respecting the nature of taxation that their limited sphere of observation and experience would permit,[1] And so to-day, under an absolute government, the interests of the sovereign—czar, sultan, emperor, king, whatever name he bears—are always in a greater or less degree in antagonism to those of the nation, and these same conceptions have also to a large extent been generally accepted in states whose form of government is not monarchical, but free or popular, as in the United States, where, through lack of intelligence or interest on the part of the general public and of the law-makers, systems for raising revenues have been built up and tolerated which almost without exception are unjust in their administration and incidence. When an eminent lawyer and member of the Constitutional Convention of the State of New York in 1867-'68 stood up before that assemblage when the subject of taxation was under consideration and said, "I insist that a people can not prosper whose officers either work or tell lies—there is not an assessment roll now made out in this State that does not both tell and work lies,[2] no man gainsaid him, for no man who had ever given any attention to the subject could.

But such conceptions are not true of taxes levied under a popular form of government, and in accordance with conditions essential to justify their right to be called taxes; for there is no one act which can be performed by a community which brings in so large return to the credit of civilization and general happiness as the judicious expenditure, for public purposes, of a fair percentage of the-general wealth raised by an equitable system


    tenth of your seed, of your sheep, and your goodliest young men and put them to his work," etc. And the prediction then made was verified, as under like circumstances it has always since been.

  1. With the old economists the state always preponderates. It is the master of the citizen instead of being merely the steward of the nation. "It addresses the citizens imperiously. They are its contributables, and must pay. According to such doctrine, life is a tollgate. They must give so much a head for the right of living in the country. Man is the debtor of the state. Man pays, not the commodity, and the citizen remains the serf of the state."

    "Under monarchical right, taxation is speculation by the king upon the people. In a word, there is an antagonism between those who pay and those who levy taxes. Taxation is the expression of that antagonism."—M Menier.

  2. Speech of Hon. M. I. Townsend, Delegate at Large, Constitutional Convention of New York, 1867-'68. Proceedings and Debates, vol. iii, p. 1945.