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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/344

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

rate which the United States imposed in 1894 on all its dutiable imports—namely, fifty per cent—Great Britain obviously had to pay some $557,000,000 in that year for the support of foreign governments; and while this has been the experience of Great Britain for more than forty years of this century, she has as a nation been increasing in wealth during this whole period.

Some of the recent official experiences of the Government of the United States that are pertinent to the topic under consideration are sufficiently curious to make them worthy of an economic record. In a speech introducing a bill into the United States House of Representatives, which subsequently resulted in the tariff act of 1890, the then chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means laid down the following proposition: "The Government ought not to buy abroad what it can buy at home. Nor should it be exempted from the laws it imposes upon its citizens."

This would seem to warrant the characterization of a discovery that the United States had some reliable and important source of revenue independent of taxation,[1] and that, by compelling the application of a part of this income to the payment of taxes to itself, the Government is placed upon an equality with the citizens. A legitimate criticism on this proposition is that the idea that all the income of the Treasury is derived from the people, and that to transfer portions of this income from one official recipient to another can have hardly any other result than an additional cost of bookkeeping, seems never to have entered the mind of the speaker.

Again, the United States tariff act of 1883 contained in its free list a provision for the admittance of "articles imported for the use of the United States, provided that the price of the same did not include the duty" imposed on such importations. Under the tariff act of 1890 this provision was stricken out of the statute, with the result that when the Government imported any articles for its own use which were subject to duties (as, for example, materials to be used in the National Bureau of Printing and Engraving), it was obliged, in virtue of its nonexemption from the laws which it imposed on its own citizens, to pay such duties itself. But as the Government has no authority to expend money for any purpose without the authority of Congress, the latter body accordingly authorized the Federal Treasury to apropriate money from its tax receipts and make payments with the same to the customhouse, which the customhouse was to immediately pay back into the Treasury. Just what process


  1. Of the net ordinary receipts of the Federal Government ($385,819,000) in 1893, only about $12,000,000 was derived from sources that could not be regarded as taxes, and were mainly receipts from the sales and surveys of public and Indian lands ($4,120,000) and of other Government property.