Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/665

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

they were $1.89, in 1890 they were $2.15, and "in 1897 the estimated per capita expenditure reached the alarming amount of $4.95." That is to say, the combined expenditures of the State and national governments gave a rate as high as that prevailing in France before the outbreak of the Revolution. "The tendency to increase," says Mr. Roberts, commenting on these figures, "is a persistent one. In 1881 the amount expended by the State was $9,878,214.59; in 1884, $10,479,517.31; in 1887, $14,301,102.48; in 1890, $13,076,881.86; in 1893, $17,367,335.98; and in 1896, $20,020,022.47." Coming to municipal expenditures, where the hand of the prodigal has been most lavish, Mr. Roberts says that "between 1860 and 1880 the municipal debts of our Union increased from $100,000,000 to $682,000,000, and in fifteen cities, believed to represent the average, the increase in taxation was 362.2 per cent, while the increase in taxable valuation was but 156.9 per cent, and of population but 70 per cent. In the year 1860 the direct taxes for State, county, town, and city purposes in New York were $4.90 per capita, in 1880 it was $8.20, and in 1896 it had reached $10.43, an increase in thirty-six years of 213 per cent." It should be added that the bonded debt—State, county, city, town, village, and school district—in the State is estimated by Mr. Roberts to be $450,000,000. Is it any wonder that people so mercilessly plundered feel that the times are out of joint? Is it any wonder, either, that in 1896 Mr. Roberts was moved to say that, without the discovery of new sources of revenue, "a low tax rate would never again be enjoyed in this State"? Is it any wonder, finally, that he declared again that if "we have not yet passed the danger limit of taxation," we have reached "a point where there is a deep feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction, and where a halt should be called or there will be danger"?

The stock explanation of this growth of expenditure is that with the advance of civilization the cost of government must increase in like degree; there must be more regulation and supervision of the activities becoming more numerous and complex. But this means, if it means anything, that the more enlightened and humane people are, the more difficult it is to maintain order and enforce justice, the more inclined are they to attack and plunder one another—in a word, the more barbarous they are. Preposterous as this theory of civilization is, it is precisely the one upon which the American people are acting with unparalleled energy. While we should naturally think them moving toward a point where they could get along without government, they are moving toward a point where they will have nothing but government. Referring to the increase of expenditures already mentioned, Mr. Roberts