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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/766

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742
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

From this weight of tradition and precedent the United States has been almost entirely free, and it was possible to construct out of small beginnings systems of Federal and State taxation at least reasonable and consistent, producing an increasing revenue with the rapid development of wealth and the larger number of taxable objects; and so elastic as to adapt themselves to such changes as are inevitable in any progressive movement of commerce or industry. That no such system has resulted after a century of national life, and an even longer term of local (colonial and State) activities, these papers have tended to show. That the time is at hand when the problem of a thorough reform of both State and Federal taxation must be met, current facts prove beyond any doubt. If I have aided in a proper comprehension of these problems, and, by collecting certain experiences in taxation among other peoples and in different stages of civilization, contributed toward a proper solution, the end of this work will have been attained. It is not possible to introduce a complete change of policy at once; it is not only feasible but necessary to indicate the direction this change should take, and the ends to be secured in making them. And first as to Federal taxation:

In a democracy like that of the United States, the continuance of a mixed system of direct and indirect taxes is a foregone conclusion. Not that there is an absence of change or modification in the details of this double system, or in the application or distribution of a particular impost or duty. To deny such modification is to deny any movement in the body politic, or any progress in the industrial and commercial economy of the people. There is a steady and continuous movement in every direction, and the mere effort to escape taxation results in a new adjustment of related facts. This development has, partly through necessity and partly through a rising consciousness of what a tax implies, been tending from indirect to direct taxes. Ever restive under a rigid supervision by the state of private concerns, there has been a wholesome opposition to inquisitorial taxes. But this opposition has been carried too far, and is due more to the ignorant and at times brutal disregard by the agents selected for enforcing the law than to an appreciation of the injustice of the tax. Whether in customs or excise, the same blunders of management have been committed, and created a spirit in the people that is injurious to their best interests. On the one hand, private enterprises have been unduly favored by the removal of foreign competition, a favor that is now disappearing through the remarkable development of domestic competition. Thus taxes have been extensively used for other purposes than to obtain revenue, and for private ends. On the other hand, there has been created the feeling that taxation is a proper instrument for effecting a more equal distribution of