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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/765

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741
THE BEST METHODS OF TAXATION.

The transit dues, once commonly used by different countries, have been generally abandoned, and in China must they be sought for in their original forms of vexatious and unprofitable force. They arose from a desire to derive some benefit from a commerce permitted grudgingly, and rarely attaining any high results. The same end was sought by duties on exports, much employed when the country was supposed to be drained of its wealth by what was sent out of it. The conditions necessary for a successful duty on exports are not often found, and only in a few countries are they now existent. In Italy, South America, and Asia, exports of certain natural products are taxed, and, as in the case of Brazil, yield a notable revenue. In view of the rapid advancement of production in new countries and of inventions in the old, whereby many natural monopolies have been destroyed and competition made more general, such duties prove to be more obstructive to trade than productive of revenue, and are rapidly being abandoned. In spite of a formal prohibition of export duties in the Constitution of the United States, they are sometimes suggested in all seriousness.

In thus clearing the path of what may be called dead or dying methods of recent tax systems, the advantages enjoyed by the United States in their freedom from such survivals become more evident. The practice of farming taxes never gained a foothold in any part of the country. Lotteries have been occasional, and with two exceptions have been conducted on a limited scale—that of Louisiana is well known; an earlier instance is less known. During the Revolution one of the means resorted to by the Continental Congress for income was a lottery, but the attempt proved disastrous to all concerned, and was finally abandoned even more thoroughly than was the continental currency. State monopolies of production and sale of any commodity have never met with favor, and stand condemned in the desire for individual initiative. As sources of revenue, the public lands, state control of the post office, and of such municipal undertakings as the water and, in a very few cases, the gas supply, has been employed, and in place of profit the mere cost of management is sought. More than any country of continental Europe, the United States has depended upon taxes, pure and simple, unsupported or modified by state domains, state mines, state manufactures, or state monopolies. Even Great Britain in her local taxation is bound and hampered by precedent, and pursues a system that is notoriously confused, costly, and vexatious. Long usage and the erection of independent and conflicting authorities on principles other than fiscal have imposed upon the local agents the duty of assessing and collecting county and borough taxes which are as indefensible in theory as they are difficult in practice.