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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/672

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the penalty of extermination. Only the people that refuse to be killed, or robbed and enslaved, which are modified forms of the same crime, can respond to a scriptural injunction; they alone can be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth. All others must succumb to the pitiless law of the survival of the fittest. Efforts to escape taxation not sanctioned by justice, so common throughout the United States, are not, therefore, exhibitions of hopeless depravity; they are exhibitions of the natural desire for self-preservation that demands study and heed.

In New York State the efforts of taxpayers to escape this increasing aggression have had a deplorable effect. To still the voice of discontent and complaint, legislators have tried to lay on their burdens as lightly as possible. Acting upon a familiar definition of taxation, they have tried to pluck the goose so as to get the most feathers with the least squawk. But in their observance of the principles of humanity they have shown but slight regard for the principles of economics or justice. Mr. Roberts characterizes their enactments as "confused, illogical, and conflicting"; he adds that they are "nearly all legislative makeshifts, and many of them blunders." The moral effect of the aggression has, however, been more disastrous than either the economic or statutory. To escape it, the owners of every class of property, no matter what their intelligence, their religious professions, or their social standing, resort to every possible subterfuge. With the cries of the tortured fowl ringing in sympathetic ears, complaisant officials refuse to assess real estate, as required by law, at its full value. "The assessor," says Mr. Roberts, describing this form of evasion and its evil consequences, "undertakes, by reducing valuations on his own responsibility and in defiance of law, to protect his own county or town from paying more than its fair proportion of tax, and self-interest lulls the moral sense of the community into support of his action." The same law of assessment applies to the whole State, yet there are twenty-five rates of assessment in the sixty counties, and these rates range from fifty to ninety-two per cent of the value of the land. The owners of personal property avoid their obligations in a manner still more reprehensible. They either conceal it or lie about it. While its amount during the past forty years has reached the enormous total of $18,000,000,000, or more than four times the value of the real estate, its assessed value has not increased. It is Mr. Roberts's conviction, based upon "study and observation," that not "more than three per cent" of it is assessed. The result is that, although real estate pays a revenue of over $9,000,000 a year, personal property pays one of only about $1,000,000. As to the corporations, they are equally alert in