Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/517

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

of an opera box, given to obtain a mere pleasure, constitutes a part of the fund out of which the musicians are paid, and if they are not so paid they will not play or sing. The rent given for the right to fish on a certain part of a river or its shores is a part of the cost of producing the fish as a marketable commodity. If a house is hired for the purpose of conducting any business in it, the price of that hire does most certainly enter into the cost of that business, whatever it may be, assuming that the use of the house is a necessity for carrying it on. As no man will produce a commodity by which he is sure to lose money, or fail to obtain the ordinary rate of profit, the tax must be added to the price, or the production will cease. If a uniform tax is imposed on all land occupied, it will be paid by the occupier, because occupation (house-building) will cease until the rent rises sufficiently to cover the tax. The landlord assesses upon his tenants the tax he has paid upon his real estate; each tenant assesses his share upon each of his customers; and so perfect is this diffusion of land taxation that every traveler from a distant part of the country who remains for even a single day at a hotel pays, without stopping to think about it, a portion of the taxes on the building, first paid by the owner, then assessed upon the lessees, and next cut up by them minutely in the per diem charge. But of course neither the owner nor lessee really escapes taxation, because a portion of somebody else's tax is thrown back upon them.

Is it possible to believe that in a city like New York, where less than four per cent of its population pay any direct tax on real estate, or in a city like Montreal, where the expenses of the city are mainly derived from taxes on land and the building occupancy of land, the great majority of the inhabitants of those cities are exempt from all land taxation? In China, where, as before shown, the title or ownership of all land vests in the emperor, and the revenue of the Government is almost exclusively derived from taxation of land in the form of rent, does the burden of tax remain upon the owner of the land? If the tax in the form of rent is paid in the products of the land, as undoubtedly it is in part, will not the cost of the percentage of the whole product of the land that is thus taken increase to the renter the cost of the percentage that is left to him; or, if the product is sold for money with which to pay the tax rent, will not its selling price embody the cost of the tax, as it will the cost of every other thing necessary for production? To affirm to the contrary is to say that the price which the Chinese farmer pays for the right of the exclusive use of his land is no part of the crops he may raise upon it.

Consider next the assertion of those who maintain the non-diffusion theory that taxes on land are paid by the owners because the