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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/673

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657
A STATE OFFICIAL ON EXCESSIVE TAXATION.

avoiding their obligations. Before the enactment of a recent law they did it by watering their stocks and issuing bonds, thus creating an indebtedness equal to their capital. They do it now by incorporating in other States and carrying on business in this State. They do it also by neglecting for a certain time to make the reports required by law, and then taking refuge behind the statute of limitations. If the burdens thrust upon them can not be shirked or borne, they fly to other States, where the aggressions of the tax collector are less ruinous.

To compel officials to do their duty, countless expedients have been invented from time immemorial. In the face of proof mountains high that no legislative or administrative device can uproot the selfishness imbedded in human nature or reshape the conduct molded to this immutable fact, social quacks still continue to spawn their schemes to work the miracle. Slight as is Mr. Roberts's sympathy with them, he is no exception. As a panacea for the dishonesty and incompetency of the county treasurers that mismanage court and trust funds, he recommends the substitution of State for local inspection. By a similar application of hocus-pocus, he would transmute the extravagance of the managers of charitable institutions into exemplary economy. Disgusted with the charlatans in charge of certain duties connected with these institutions requiring special skill and knowledge, he thinks "it would be well to provide a corps of enthusiastic scientists . . . who have more than a pecuniary interest" in their work. But another recommendation of his is a direct assault on this simple faith in the honor and integrity of specialists. Already many of the departments of the State are in the hands of men supposed to have a special aptitude and liking for their duties. But Mr. Roberts finds that "leaving the department to expend the money as it deems best," instead of appropriating it for a specific purpose, "is not in the interest of economy." He says that "it absolutely deprives the Legislature of that judicial scrutiny of the necessity of appropriations" that "it should always exercise, and leaves to the judgment of one what could often be better decided if considered by several." Could a deadlier blow be given to a common theory that under government management we have the same division of labor and the same perfect adjustment of means to ends that we have under private management? What legislative body, chosen by universal suffrage, the most perfect instrument ever invented for the selection of incompetents, would enable it to exercise the supervision over the thousand activities of life that Mr. Roberts recommends?

The same futile ingenuity exhibited in making officials do their