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'dities. These must be paid indifferently, from whatever revenue the contributors may possess; from the rent of their land, from the profits of their stock, or from the wages of their labour.
Capitation taxes, if it is attempted to proportion them to the fortune or revenue of each contributor, become altogether arbitrary. The state of a man's fortune varies from day to day; and, without an inquisition, more intolerable than any tax, and renewed at least once every year, can only be guessed at. His assessment, therefore, must in most cases depend upon the good or bad humour of his assessors, and must, therefore, be altogether arbitrary aná ouncertain. Capitation taxes, if they are proportioned, not to the supposed fortune, but to the rank of each contributor, become altogether unequal; the degrees of fortune being frequently unequal in the same degree of rank. Such taxes, therefore, if it is attempted to render them equal, become altogether arbitrary and uncer.tain; and if it is attempted to render them certain and not arbitrary, become altogether unequal. Let the tax be light or heavy, uncertainty is always a great grievance. In a light tax, a considerable degree of inequality may be supported ; in a heavy one, it is -altogether intolerable. . In the different poll-taxes which took place in Fngland during the reign of William III, the contriButors were, the greater part of them, assessed according to the degree of their rank; as dukes, marquisses, earls, viscounts, barons, esquires, gentlemen, the eldest and youngest sons of peers, &c. All shopkeepers and tradesmen worth more than three hundred pounds, that is, the better sort of them, were subject to the same assessment; how great soever might be the difference in their fortunes. Their rank was more considered than their fortune. Several of those who, in the first poll-tax, were rated scoording to their supposed fortune, were afterwards rated according to their rank. Serjeants, attornies, and proctors at law, who, in the first poll-tax, were assessed at three shillings in the pound of their supposed income, were afterwards assessed as gentlemen. In the assessment of a tax which was not very heavy, a considerable degree of inequality had been found less insupportable than any degree of uncertainty. • In the capitation which has been levied in France, without any interruption, since the beginning of the present century, the highest orders of people are rated according to their rank, by an invariable tariff; the lower orders of people, according to what is sup- . posed to be their fortune, by an assessment which varies from year to year. The officers of the king's court, the judges and other officers in the superior courts of justice, the officers of the troops, &c, are assessed in the first manner. The inferior ranks of people in the provinces are assessed in the second. In Erance, the great easily submit to a considerable degree of inequality in a tax which, so far as it affects them, is not a very heavy one; but could not brook the arbitrary assessment of an intendant. The inferior ranks of people must, in that country, suffer patiently the usage which their superiors think proper . to give them. -
*: In England, the different poll-taxes never produced. the sum which had been expected from them, or which it was supposed they might have produced, had they been exactly levied. In France, the capitation always produces the sum expected from it. The mild government of England, when it assessed the different ranks of people to the poll-tax, contented itself with what that assessment happened to produce ; and required no compensation for the loss which the state might sustain, either by those who could not pay, or by those who would not payo (for there were many such), and who, by the indulgent execution of the law were not forced to pay. The more severe government of France assesses upon each generality a certain sum, which the intendant must find as he can.
If any province complains of being assessed too high, ... it may, in the assessment of next year, obtain an
abatement proportioned to the overcharge of the year before. But it must pay in the meantime. The intendant, in order to be sure of finding the sum assessed upon his generality, was empowered to assessit in a larger sum, that the failure or inability of some of the contributors might be compensated by the overcharge of the rest; and till 1765, the fixation of this surplus assessment was left altogether to his discretion. In that year, indeed, the council assumed this power to itself. In the capitation of the provinces, it is observed by the perfectly well informed author of the Memoirs upon the Impositions in France, the proportion which falls upon the nobility, and upon those
whose privileges exempt them from the taille, is the
least considerable. The largest falls upon those sub
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ject to the taille, who are assessed to the capitation at so much a pound of what they pay to that other tax, Capitation taxes, so far as they are levied upon the lower ranks of people, are direct taxes upon the wages of labour, and are attended with all the inconveniencies of such taxes. Capitation taxes are levied at little expence; and, where they are rigorously exacted, afford a very sure revenue to the state. It is upon this account, that in countries where the ease, comfort, and security of the inferior ranks of people, are little attended to, capitation taxes are very common. It is in general, however, but a small part of the public revenue, which, in a great empire, has ever been drawn from such taxes; and the greatest sum which they have ever, afforded, might always have been found in some other way much more conyenient to the people.
Taxes upon consumable Commodities.
The impossibility of taxing the people, in proportion to their revenue, by any capitation, seems to have given occasion to the invention of taxes upon consumable commodities. The state not knowing how to tax, directly and proportionably, the revenue of its subjects, endeavours to tax it indirectly by taxing their expence, which, it is supposed, will in most cases be nearly in proportion to their revenue. Their expence is taxed, by taxing the consumable commodities upon which it is laid out.
Consumable commodities are either necessaries or luxuries. - ,
By necessaries I understand, not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the sup=
port of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is strictly speaking, nota necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, Isuppose, very comfortable, though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable daylabourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be suppos. ed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty, which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person, of either sex, would be ashamed to appear in public without them.' In Scotland, custom has rendered them a necessary of life to the lowest order of men ; but not to the same order of women, who may, without any discredit, walk about bare-footed. In France, they are necessaries neither to men nor to women; the lowest rank of both sexes appearing there publicly without any discredit, sometimes in wooden shoes, and sometimes bare-footed. Under necessaries, therefore, I comprehend, not only those things which nature, but those things which the established rules of decency, have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people. All other things I call luxuries; without meaning by this appellation, to throw the smallest degree of reproach upon the temperate use of them. Beer and ale, for example, in Great Britain, and wine, even in the wine countries, I call luxuries. A man of any rank may, without any reproach, abstain totally from tasting such liquors. Nature does not ren