the necessity of raising increased revenues has drawn especial attention to the subject of local taxation; but in neither of these two countries has any prominent speaker or writer advocated the direct taxation of personal property, or even alluded to the subject, except to scout the very idea of such a proposition."
And yet, notwithstanding this record of disastrous and discreditable experience, and the opposition to the almost unanimous judgment of all whose investigations warrant the expression of opinion, the strength of popular prejudice in the United States in favor of the infinitesimal system of taxation is so great as to make the substitution of any better system a matter of very great difficulty, and perhaps a present impossibility. "Although all Europe, as already pointed out, has tried and discarded taxation of personal property, our own people have grown up under the opposite system. Every State tries to tax it. No American has any personal experience of a system which does not pretend to tax it. The proposition to dispense with such taxation, therefore, strikes every American as an experiment. Few Americans know or care anything about the experience of other nations."
There is, however, at the present time, some gratifying evidence of a change in popular sentiment in favor of radical tax reforms. Thus, in October, 1897, the grand jury of the county of New York made a presentment on the subject of taxation under the following circumstances: A complaint was made against the tax officials, charging undervaluations of property, and therefore perjury, but the grand jury finds in effect that the State laws are of such a character that assessors are almost inevitably led into blunders, and it recommends a general revision of the tax laws imposing upon the State the duty of assessing personal property, so that local expenditure may be paid by real-estate taxes alone, and the "question of continuing or abolishing personal taxes" be "fought out on State lines."
A special tax commission, appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts, and composed of men of wide financial experience and business ability, after careful study of this subject, reported in October, 1897, in favor of the entire exemption of personal property
- Holland, by reason of her immense national debt, the largest, comparatively, of any country, has been obliged to maintain a most rigorous and extensive system of taxation in order to raise revenue sufficient to the wants and requirements of the state. But it has been prominently brought out, in recent years, that the decadence of Holland dates almost from the hour when taxes were imposed on manufactories, commerce, fishing industry, and moneyed capital. Business went elsewhere, and with the decline of business the ability to pay taxes diminished, and the burden of taxation augmented. (See Journal des Economistes, November, 1871; also Principles of Political Economy, J. R. McCulloch, pp. 470, 471.)