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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/519

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PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.

Rouher, a French economist, and for a period a minister of commerce, thoroughly investigated this matter, and proved by incontestable data that almost invariably when the yield of breadstuffs in Europe was large in the country drained by the Black and Baltic Seas, it was small in the countries drained by the Atlantic. This variation in the yield of agricultural crops forces the countries where crops are deficient to purchase from those where they are abundant, or who have a surplus on hand from previous abundant harvests. In the United States, when the harvests are abundant, the American farmers, rather than sell below a certain price, keep a portion of their crops on hand until bad crops in Europe produce a foreign demand, which has to be supplied at once. Under such circumstances those who hold the surplus stock of breadstuffs, or any other product, would control the price, and not the foreigners who stand in need of it. The only check, then, to the cupidity of the holders of breadstuffs is the competition between themselves, which invariably suffices to prevent any undue advantage being taken of the necessities of the countries whose harvests are deficient. These bad crops occur frequently enough to consume all the surplus of the countries that produce in excess of their own wants. In fact, this transient, irregular demand is counted upon and provided for by producers just as much so as the regular home demand—hence is one of the elements that regulate production and control prices.

At this point of the discussion it is desirable to obtain a clear and true idea of the meaning or definition of the phrase "diffusion of taxes." As sometimes used in popular and superficial discussions, it is held to imply that every tax imposed by law distributes itself equitably over the whole surface of society. Such implication would, however, be even more fallacious than an assumption that every expenditure made by an individual distributes itself in such a way that it becomes equally an expenditure by every other individual. On the other hand, a fair consideration of the foregoing summary of facts and deductions would seem to compel every mind not previously warped by prejudice to accept and indorse the following as great fundamental principles in taxation: First, that in order to burden equitably and uniformly all persons and property, for the purpose of obtaining revenue for public purposes, it is not necessary to tax primarily and uniformly all persons and property within the taxing district. Second, equality of taxation consists in a uniform assessment of the same articles or class of property that is subject to taxation. Third, taxes under such a system equate and diffuse themselves; and if levied with certainty and uniformity upon tangible property and fixed signs of property, they will, by a diffusion and repercussion, reach and burden all visible property, and also all of