Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/510

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

and sells more taxes than the original cost of whisky, as finds proof and illustration in the fact that the United States imposes a tax of one dollar and ten cents per gallon on proof whisky which its manufacturer would be very glad to sell free of tax for an average of thirteen cents per gallon. The tax, furthermore, is required to be laid before the whisky can be removed from the distillery or bonded warehouse and allowed to become an article of merchandise. Tobacco in like manner can not go into consumption till the tax is paid. In Great Britain, where all tobacco consumed is imported, for every 3d. paid by the consumer, 2.5d. represents customs duties or taxes. In Russia it is estimated that the Government annually requires of its peasant producers one third the market value of their entire crop of cereals in payment of their taxes, and fixes the time of collecting the same in the autumn, when the peasant sells sufficient of his grain (mainly for exportation), and with the purchase money meets the demands of the tax collector. Can it be doubted that the sums thus extorted enter into and form an essential part of the cost of the entire crop or product of the land? It is, therefore, immaterial where the process of manufacture takes place; the citizens of a State pay in proportion to the quantity which they consume. The traveler who stops at one of the great city hotels can not avoid reimbursing the owner for the tax he primarily pays on the property; and the owner, in respect to the taxation of his hotel property, is but a great and effective real-estate and diffused tax collector. Again, the farmer charges taxes in the price of his products; the laborer, in his wages; the clergyman, in his salary; the lender, in the interest he receives; the lawyer, in his fees; and the manufacturer, in his goods.

The American Bible Society is always in part loaded with the whisky and tobacco taxes paid by the printers, paper-makers, and bookbinders, or by the producers of articles consumed by these mechanics, and reflected and embodied in their wages and the products of their labor according to the degree of absence of competition from fellow mechanics who abstain from the use of these and other taxed articles.

These conclusions respecting the diffusion of taxes may be said to be universally accepted by economists so far as they relate to the results of production before they reach the hands of the final consumers; but they are not accepted by many, as Mr. Henry George has recently expressed it, in respect to taxes on special profits or advantages on things of which the supply is strictly limited, or of wealth in the hands of final consumers, or in the course of distribution by gift, and finally in respect to taxes on land. But a little examination would seem to show that all of these exceptions are of the kind that are said to prove the rule. Special profits and advantages in this age of quick diffusion of knowledge and intense competition are