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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/667

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A STATE OFFICIAL ON EXCESSIVE TAXATION.

tious young ones, and at all times as centers of political intrigue and personal profit, is gradually dawning upon the public. Already several Governors have demanded, in their annual messages to the Legislature, that they be consolidated or abolished. As yet, however, it has been impossible to relax their grip on the taxpayer. Obedient to the instincts of their kind, they are inventing new arguments to establish their claims to the confidence and gratitude of the victims of their greed and incompetency.

But the creation of new and needless offices is not the only manifestation of what Mr. Roberts fitly calls "the vicious tendencies of legislation." More demoralizing are the laws that actually encourage the robbery of one class of people for the benefit of another. A familiar example is the bounty law for the destruction of fishing nets. Almost as soon as passed it produced a new industry—namely, the manufacture of cheap nets, which were deposited in fishing waters, subsequently discovered and seized by a prearrangement, and made the basis of demands upon the public treasury out of proportion to their value. So great have been the frauds perpetrated under it that the cry for its repeal comes from every quarter. Another law even worse morally was passed to meet the clamor of the bicyclists and bicycle manufacturers. It provides that twenty-five per cent of the cost of so-called good roads to be built under it shall be paid by the State. As cities and villages are exempt from its provisions, this sum, which comes out of the pockets of all taxpayers, urban as well as rural, is, as Mr. Roberts says, simply "a gratuity to the towns for the benefit of country roads." As a sign of the moral decadence of the times, I ought to add that one of the most powerful and effective arguments in favor of the law was this very discrimination. Still more shameless was one of the chief arguments in favor of the Raines liquor law. With a moral callousness truly astounding, its advocates framed tables of figures to show how great a percentage of taxation it would shift from the country to the city districts. In the heated political campaign that followed, these tables were made to do service again to save from defeat the party responsible for the enactment. To indicate, finally, how legislation may encourage vice, I must not omit to mention the provision that created the Raines hotel. Under it assignation houses have multiplied to a degree that Satan himself could not have foreseen nor have been more enchanted with.

But the greatest inroads on the pockets of the taxpayer have been made under the pretense of charity. I say "pretense" because it is a gross misuse of language to decorate with so fine a word the seizure of a man's property under the forms of law and