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SELIGMAN : THE SHIFTING AND INCIDENCE OF TAXATION 241.
the doctrines of incidence in their rudimentary form, with a number of important quotations from many scarce, in some cases almost inaccessible, works. In noticing the first edition we felt bound to protest against the scanty space assigned to the Physiocrats. Professor Seligman has removed this objection by opening the second book of his historical part with a chapter of nearly twenty pages on "The Physiocratic Theory,” in which he sketches the main positions of the school on the question of incidence with somewhat fuller detail than can be found in any other English work.
Again, a single chapter on “ The Equal-diffusion Theory” is formed by combining the sections on the “optimistic” and “pessimistic"
" theories, and this is also an improvement. But we believe that further progress might have been made in this direction. By a slight alteration of title Held's agnostic theory could have been brought into the chapter just referred to. It seems, too, that writers who use the mathematical method could easily have been distributed under different categories. If Ricardo had employed mathematioal symbols instead of clumsy language and arithmetical illustrations, would he have ceased to be a member of what Professor Seligman calls the "absolute" school ? Finally, as a personal matter we may demur to the inclusion of writers of financial text-books under the head of “ eclectics,” even though we derive consolation from the fact that our author would appear to place himself under the same heading (p. 160).
In the second part, devoted to the exposition of “The Doctrine of Incidence," there are also important improvements. A new chapter, containing, however, some of the material formerly placed in the section dealing with " taxes on profits," opens the part and deals with "General Principles." After the assertion that the problem of the shifting of taxation is primarily a question of prices (p. 179), and therefore a "part of the wider theory of value" (ib.), there follows an exhaustive enumeration of the circumstances that affect the incidence of a tax on commodities. In succeeding chapters the more prominent forms of taxation are considered in respect to the shiftings that they undergo and their ultimate incidence. From some of the conclusions reached we have already expressed dissent (ECONOMIC JOURNAL, vol. iii., pp. 97-8), and we may therefore select one point on which it seems that an undue extension of the modern theory of profits has been the cause of error. “ Profitable production at the same cost implies," says Professor Seligman, “in the long run a monopoly” (p. 196), and in a note he criticises the distinguished Italian writers, Pantaleoni and Graziani, for not reoognising this as a necessary
a condition. But the reasoning in support of the position seems extraordinarily weak, coming from an economist of Professor Seligman's eminence. It is simply, “There could not then be any permanent profits to all the producers, because prices could not permanently remain above the mere rate of production” (p. 186). But it may
be asked in reply, “ Would not cost of production include profits sufficient No. 34.- VOL. IX.
to retain producers in the business?” By regarding profits as altogether a differential return, Professor Seligman exaggerates Walker's well-known theory, and at the same time leaves out that writer's conception of the no, or, as we should prefer to say, minimum, profits employer. That there may be a uniform cost of production at which producers receive interest on their capital, and proportional wages of superintendence (the two elements of profit on the older view), appears a perfectly possible condition of things. There is no adequate reason given why some one producer should be led by competition to lower his price with the probability of initial loss.
The theory of incidence, however, derives a good deal of its attractiveness from the difficulty and uncertainty of so many of its doctrines, and each fresh attempt at expansion is sure to present objects for criticism. One great merit of Professor Seligman's work is found in his clear presentation of accepted truths, but another is the brilliant and incisiye mode in which it brings some doubtful propositions into notice.
C. F. BASTABLE
Saggi di Economia e Finanza. By A. DE VITI DE MARCO. (“Giornale degli Economisti.” Rome. S. a.)
. This volume consists of three studies, one belonging to the history of economics, the others to State finance. Following the laudable German custom the disciple of the erudite and amiable Luigi Cossa prepared a series of essays to celebrate his thirty years of devotion to economic science. Signor Viti de Marco took the theories of Serra (a topic after Cossa's own heart) as his theme. After criticising the earlier critics of his subject the writer shows that Serra is dealing with a theoretic problem, that his work is not on international trade in general, or still less on political economy, but on the special problems of international payments and the causes governing the value of money. Our author contends, however, that Serra had not reached the principle of comparative cost, and consequently the true conditions of the territorial division of industry (pp. 27-8). In like manner he failed to grasp the quantity theory of money value. His real merits consist in his clear statements respecting international payments, and his recognition of the regulation of the quantity of money in a country by definite causes. It is also in his favour that he advocated the free export of money, though he was not a free trader (p. 49). A brief notice of another writer-Biblia—who is used as a foil to raise Serra's reputation concludes the essay.
The second study deals with the oft-debated question as to the relative effects of taxation and borrowing; but it enters into a detailed discussion of the way in which the interests of different economic classes and of successive generations are affected by the system of a public debt.
In a closing essay the position of the state domain is considered,
first, in its legal and economic aspect, secondly, from the financial point of view. In particular the conditions under which the sale of public property is admissible are examined at some length. The last section discusses the interesting problem of the method of valuing State property.
C. F. BASTABLE
Libero Scambio. By ARNALDO AGNELLI. (Milan : Hoepli.
Pp. xv., 175. 1897.)
PRIZE essays are not in general valuable additions to literature, but such exceptions as Bryce's Holy Roman Empire and Prof. Nicholson's Effects of Machinery on Wages warn us against altogether neglecting works of this class. Signor Agnelli has not, indeed, found any new arguments of importance on either side of the hackneyed free trade question, but he has brought together all or nearly all the old ones, placed them in their logical order and estimated their relative weight. To the student who wanted to get in concise form a critical account of the state of the controversy, the book would be decidedly useful. Its main fault-perhaps one cause of its success in the contest for the Cossa prize-is its undue reliance on authority. A good many of the references in the notes might have been omitted on the revision of the book for press and their place taken by an index.
C. F. BASTABLE
La Costituzione Economica Odierna. AchilLE LORIA. (Turin:
Bocca. 1899. Pp. 822.) We have here a continuation of Professor Loria's Analisi della Proprietà Capitalista (1889). In the Analisi he had dealt with the historical genesis, and organic development of the present economical constitution of society. He now deals with its present structure and tendencies. His method (as we are told in his Preface, p. viii) is the rigorous method of the Classical School, applied by him to Distribution, while they confined it to "Redistribution and Exchange.” Distribution, he insists, is not a mere question of exchange : there are deeper causes (174, &c.). This is true, but in applying the old method he runs the old risk, the risk of positing as a historical fact what was only assumed as an abstract result of logical analysis and the first step in the subsequent logical synthesis. For we are asked to begin by supposing that land is free to all, and all the land equal in quality, and each man cultivating a unit quantity; then there will be dispersive extensive cultivation. Then as the productiveness of the land becomes less, the men will help each other, still dispersedly and independently in extensive association); next they will help each other by devoting one half their unit to capital and the other half to labour (in intensive association); in the third place they will be driven to mixed association, one man devoting his unit to labour only, another to capital only, the division of product still remaining equal (ch. i, 1--4).
Of all these stages, and the further in which the growth of population plays a decisive and revolutionary part, we must say that they do not, any of them, cease to be a priori by being arranged in a series, easily mistaken for a historical series. The first is less abstract than in the famous hypothesis, “ Suppose yourself poised on a pivot in free space"; but it is still an abstraction,
Professor Loria's sketch of the growth of modern capital and property out of the suppression of free land has been given in a former number of this Journal (March, 1894, pp. 77–78). It may be enough to say
that the modifications here of the statements in the Analisi and in Les Bases économiques de la Constitution Sociale are inconsiderable. We are spared, however, the sensational extravagances of the earlier book in the ascription of all events sacred and profane to economical causes.
The course of development is thus summed up: “If in that economical system, in which the product is assigned in its entirety to the labourer, capital and labour are so employed as to give the maximum product-if under bipartition between wages and profits capital gets the maximum profits with means which may make the product less than the maximum-given the tripartition between wages, profits, and rent, the land obtains (for its holder] the maximum rent with means which may make both product and profit less than the maximum" (95—96).
It does not follow that wages are at the minimum ; in fact the complete appropriation of the soil tends to raise wages, for thus greater production is secured. “The capitalists act like the Arab who gets his camel to start by first overloading him and then taking part of the load off; the creature feels the relief, rises, and moves on. So the capitalists, as long as there are lands to dispose of, load down the workers with the leaden hood of minimum wages, and, as soon as the lands are all gone and the hood is not absolutely necessary to them, lighten the burden a little and get better work” (123). This is true both in agriculture and in manufacture at the present day ; wages are everywhere higher than the minimum (219–223); and Liebknecht, at the Socialist Congress at Halle in 1890, procured the omission of the “brazen law” from the official programme of the German Socialists (224). Unions may have raised wages a little, but could not of them. selves have determined the upward movement (225). Neither under the
compulsory constitution” of slavery (226) nor under the " systematic constitution" of law and ordinance (235) was it so; but under the present “automatic constitution" of laissez faire, the compatibility of high wages with the persistence of “capitalism" is a characteristic feature (ibid.).
But the high wages are counteracted by the over-valuation of the land. In modern times the fuctuations in rent lead to the frequent sale of land, which, to the horror and wonder of Conservatives in all nations, has become a normal feature of present economic conditions (249, 253, &c.). Unconsciousness, imperceptibility, is the essential mark of all that is great and powerful in the world, of the force that raises up, as well as the force that strikes down; and the passing from hand to hand (circolazione) of property in land, this impalpable process which eludes general observation, is revealed to scientific investigation both as the destructive microbe of the present social system and as the fertilising germ of a new and fairer humanity" (264). The exclusive appropriation of land puts in motion the forces that tend to take away the land from the monopolisers and make it again accessible to the labourers, thus restoring to the latter their " option " and their liberty; for high wages should make it possible for the labourers to buy back their “unit of land " (265, 266, 276). But it becomes then a matter of life and death for “capitalism" to forbid the land to the labourers; and this is done by various devices (e.g., 279, 280), but especially by the Over-valuation of Land (289). We had heard something of this in the Analisi (p. 274); but it is the chief subject of three-fourths of this new book (ch. iii, seq.).
1 See, e.I., the present book, p. 191, note, 646 n.
The phenomenon is familiar to us in this country. Land fetches, as a rule, a somewhat greater price than seems warranted by the actual profits the buyer can make out of it year by year, as compared with the profits of other investments (cf. 291). Professor Loria sees in this phenomenon a defensive action of Capital against Labour. To keep off the purchasing workman, “ Capitalism ” raises the price of land ever and again a little higher; the cup reaches the lips, but the draught is not drained.
There is difficulty in seeing how far the action of the capitalists is conceived by the author as deliberate or as instinctive. In some places (e.g., 283 n., 595) it is described as instinctive. But the language of other passages implies what might be called a "quasi-consciousness" (411, 416, 421, 593). If the capitalists do not know what they are doing, and do not know how wicked they are, it seems strange to accuse them of duplicity. The French Government after the Revolution dealt treacherously, we are told, with the Church lands. revolutionary leaders, in the name of whom the new dictators had arisen, did not allow them to proclaim aloud the aristocratic meaning of their agrarian policy, and compelled them to resort to lying promises and shameful fictions” (422). This is surely more than an unconscious drifting towards an end not understood.
Our comfort is that after all the end is not gained ; agriculture and industry are brought to ruin in their present form (622, 623). Although at their first beginning the capitalistic forms of industry, by substituting compulsory association for isolated production, represent a powerful factor of productive and social progress, afterwards under the implacable influence of their inherent antagonisms they come step by step to lose their primitive superiority over isolated