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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/767

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THE BEST METHODS OF TAXATION.

wealth among the people, and readily becomes an instrument of oppression.

The almost absolute dependence of the Federal Government upon the customs duties for revenue through a great part of its existence was a striking fact The simplicity of collection and the comparatively moderate scale of duties, although considered high at the time of imposition, gave this branch of the possible sources of revenue a magnified importance. The development of the country was slow, and at times greatly hampered by the tariff policy; but until about 1857 no other source of income was needed to meet the expenditures of the Government in a time of peace.

In recent years this has all changed, and not for the better. The immense development in manufactures and financial ability accomplished since 1860 has made a tariff for protection an anachronism. The political features of customs legislation have been pushed so far as almost to overshadow the fiscal qualities. The wave of protectionism that followed the abrogation of the commercial treaties of Europe about 1880 has resulted in tariffs framed with the desire to injure the commerce of other states rather than to meet the needs of a treasury. In the United States this policy has been carried beyond that of Europe, and the tariff now in existence is more protective than any hitherto enforced, short of absolute prohibition of imports.

In more respects than one the tariff law of 1897 was an extreme application of the protective policy. Each year the United States has demonstrated its ability not only to meet the industrial competition of the world on an equal footing, but to engage with it aggressively and with complete success. It is not necessary to give the figures of exports of manufactures to establish this fact; it is now beyond question. To frame a measure of extreme protection was, therefore, to overlook the most striking phase of the industrial situation existing in the United States. With an ability to manufacture cheaply and on a grand scale, and with a capacity to supply the demands of a market larger than any home market, there was no foreign competition to encounter, and the higher rates of duties meant nothing, either for protection or for revenue. In carrying further into action a tariff framed more for protection than for revenue, a twofold error was committed. The provisions were so complicated as to make the application difficult, and in applying these provisions inquisitorial and vexatious regulations were necessary to assure even a reasonable fulfillment of the requirements. In former tariff laws a general description carried a large class of articles, and a uniform duty, usually ad valorem, was collected. But under the demand for a more scientific tariff, these general classes were broken up into a number of enumerated articles, each one carrying a specific or mixed duty, and an omnium