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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/763

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THE BEST METHODS OF TAXATION.

a profit, this labor must be bestowed in cultivating some product as find a market in international trade. Hence arose the importance of the sugar, coffee, tobacco, and spice crops of these Dutch islands, and for many years a handsome profit to the treasury was obtained from the management and sales of product. With the great fall in prices of sugar and coffee throughout the world, and the narrowing of the market for cane sugar, the Government obtained a less income each year, and has found it of advantage to relax the conditions surrounding cultivation, and to throw the management of the plantations more and more into private hands. To such an extent has this transition been effected that the state can no longer be considered as controlling a monopoly in product or sales, and is content with a revenue from other sources, one that does not even cover the expenses incurred in the colonial system. This experiment differs widely from those industries undertaken with the aid or encouragement of the state to be found in India. It was not with a fiscal object that they were established, and not infrequently the state sacrifices revenue by releasing them from tax burdens they would ordinarily endure. As one of the few remaining instances of the direct participation of a state in the production of products intended for foreign markets, yet undertaken and maintained for fiscal reasons, the history of the Dutch colonies in the East is instructive.

In Prussia the working of certain mines is in the hands of the state, and was originally looked upon as an important contribution to the income of the state. As in the Dutch experience, the changes in production throughout the world have greatly reduced the returns and made the income variable; yet there is little disposition to dispose of these possessions. "The danger of mineral supplies being worked in a reckless and extravagant manner without regard to the welfare of future generations, and the dread of combinations by the producers of such commodities as tin, copper, and salt, with the aim of raising prices, have both tended to hinder the alienation of state mines."[1]

The more common form of state monopoly is that which occupies a middle position, established for reasons of public safety or utility as well as of revenue. The salt monopoly enforced in Prussia was only abolished in 1867, and is still maintained in every canton of Switzerland. The strongest plea in its defense has been the guarantee by the state of the purity of the article sold, and this phase of the question has superseded the revenue aspect. Few articles of prime necessity, like salt, are subject to monopolies imposed by the state, and by a process of elimination it is only articles of luxury or voluntary consumption that are regarded as fit objects of monopoly for the benefit of the state.


  1. Bastable. Public Finance, p. 181.