away from any store or shop an article, we buy and carry away with it the accompanying and inherential taxes.
Any primary taxpayer, who does not ultimately consume the thing taxed, and who does not include the tax in the price of the taxed property or its products, must literally throw away his money and must soon become bankrupt and disappear as a competitor; and accordingly the tax advancer will add the tax in his prices if he understands simple addition. How rapidly bankruptcy would befall dealers in imported goods, wares, and merchandise in the United States who did not strictly observe this rule will be realized when one remembers that the average tax imposed by its Government (in 1896) on all dutiable imports is in excess of fifty per cent.
When Dr. Franklin was asked by a committee of the English House of Commons, prior to the American Revolution, if the province of Pennsylvania did not practically relieve farmers and other landowners from taxation, and at the same time impose a heavy tax on merchants, to the injury of British trade, he answered that "if such special tax was imposed, the merchants were experts with their pens, and added the tax to the price of their goods, and thus made the farmers and all landowners pay their part of the tax as consumers."
Taxes uniformly levied on all the subjects of taxation, and which are not so excessive as to become a prohibition on the use of the thing taxed, become, therefore, a part of the cost of all production, distribution, and consumption, and diffuse and equate themselves by natural laws in the same manner and in the same minute degree as all other elements that constitute the expenses of production. We produce to consume and consume to produce, and the cost of consumption, including taxes, enters into the cost of production, and the cost of production, including taxes, enters into the cost of consumption, and thus taxes levied uniformly on things of the same class, by the laws of competition, supply, and demand, and the all-pervading mediums of labor, will be distributed, percussed, and repercussed to a remote degree, until they finally fall upon every person, not in proportion to his consumption of a given article, but in the proportion his consumption bears to the aggregate consumption of the taxed community.
A great capitalist, like Mr. Astor, bears no greater burden of taxation (and can not be made to bear more by any laws that can be properly termed tax laws) than the proportion which his aggregate individual consumption bears to the aggregate individual consumption of all others in his circuit of immediate competition; and as to his other taxes, he is a mere tax collector, or conduit, conducting taxes from his tenants or borrowers to the State or city treasury. A whisky distiller is a tax conduit, or tax collector,