Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/529

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

No. 2. "Professor—— seems to ignore the fact that debtors hold all their property which is not mortgaged or incumbered, as trustees to pay their creditors generally, and it is this same principle which gives value to unsecured credits.

"But the professor says, 'So far as we can sell we make values.' Does he mean that a counterfeit which is so good that it can be sold is a creation of value? Would a credit sell at all if it was not an inchoate right to the unsold and unincumbered property of the debtor? Of what value is a claim on a man if the claimant has no rights on the debtor's property? Such a claim would be no better than a claim on the northeast wind."

It is also important to note that while a deed to realty, properly executed and recorded, is regarded as the highest form of title, we have the decision of the United States Supreme Court (Fletcher vs. Peck, 6 Cranch, 87) that a deed is but an "executed contract" on the part of the grantor, not to resume the right in the thing granted; and if, therefore, a State can tax extraterritorial contracts, it may tax her citizens on deeds of land in other States.

This analysis of the meaning of property, from both an economic and legal point of view might be prosecuted with interest and profit to a much greater extent; but from what has been presented it would seem clear that nothing can not be something; or, in other words, that property is always a physical actuality, which has become valuable or property by some form of labor, and can not be created by mere paper documents, except to the extent of the value of the paper and the writing or printing upon it. Or, in other words, a title to property, a representative of property, can no more be property than a shadow can be a substance: and if this conclusion be true, then it would seem to follow, of necessity, that the act of making debts, bonds, verbal or written contracts, notes, book accounts, mortgages, warehouse receipts, titles, certificates of stock, or any form of salable or transferable rights, is not a creation or production of any new property, but simply an exchange, by contract or operation of law, of the rights and titles of parties in pre-existing property; and that any tax on any of these rights or titles is only another form of burdening the property which is the subject of the rights or titles. But some, in answer to the assertion that rights, debts, and titles are not property, for if they were we might make property by making rights and titles, might reply, "But we do make property in that way every day." But we can not do this indefinitely because we can not sell the title indefinitely; and why not? Let us, therefore, stop and think about it, and ask ourselves why we can not sell titles and credits indefinitely. We can sell property in the sense of embodied labor indefinitely. Why not titles and credits? The answer is simply that when we buy a title or credit we pay for and in a legal and economic effect buy the physical actuality, or right of dominion over it, which the credit or title represents, and nothing more. The moment one undertakes to sell titles