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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/511

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

exceedingly ephemeral, and are mainly confined to results which the State with a view of encouraging removes for a limited time from the natural laws of competition by granting patents, copyrights, and franchises. Of things which are strictly limited in respect to supply, what and where are they? Only a very few can be specified: ivory, Peruvian guano, whalebone, ambergris, and the pelts of the fur seal. Of wealth in the process of transmission, or in the hands of final consumers, it is not tangible wealth unless it is tangible property, which conforms under any correct system of taxation to the principles of taxation; and if any one advocates the taxation of the right to receive property which has already been taxed, he in effect advocates a double exaction of one and the same thing. If it be asked, Will an income tax on a person retired from business be diffused? the answer, beyond question, must be in the affirmative, if the tax is uniform on all persons and on all amounts, and is absolutely collected in minute sums. Would any one pay the same price for a railroad bond which is subject to an income tax as he would for it if it was free from tax? If one's land is taxed, either in the form of rent or income, will not the tenant have the burden primarily thrown upon him? And, finally, will not the consumer of the tenant's goods pay through or by reason of such consumption?

Respecting the incidence of the tax on mortgages, it does not make any difference how mortgages are taxed—no earthly power can make the lender pay it. If the borrower would not agree to pay the tax, the lender would not loan him money, and whenever possible loans would be foreclosed and payment insisted upon if the borrower should refuse to pay the tax.

Let us next subject to analysis the incidence of the so-called taxation of land. Considered per se (or in itself), land, in common with unappropriated air and water, has no value; and it can not in any strict sense be affirmed that we tax land; and when such affirmation is made, its only legitimate and justifiable meaning is that we tax the value of land; which value is due entirely to the amount of personal property (in the sense of embodied labor) expended upon it, and the pressure or demand of such property or labor to use, possess, and occupy it.

Vattel, in his Law of Nations, enunciates as a self-evident and irrefutable proposition that "Nature has not herself established property, and in particular with regard to lands. She only approves this introduction for the advantage of the human race."

One of the most striking examples of evidence in illustration and proof of this proposition is to be found in an incident, which has heretofore escaped attention, which occurred during a debate in the Senate of the United States in 1890 on a bill for revision of duties