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state on their own necessaries, the amount due on those consumed by the labourers. In the last case, the tax on necessaries, like a tax on wages, is equivalent to a peculiar tax on profits; which is, like all other partial taxation, unjust, and is specially prejudicial to the increase of the national wealth.
It remains to speak of the effect on rent. Assuming (what is usually the fact,) that the consumption of food is not diminished, the same cultivation as before will be necessary to supply the wants of the community; the margin of cultivation, to use Dr. Chalmers' expression, remains where it was ; and the same land or capital which, as the least productive, already regulated the value and price of the whole produce, will continue to regulate them. The effect which a tax on agricultural produce will have on rent, depends on its affecting or not affecting the difference between the return to this least productive land or capital, and the returns to other lands and capitals. Now this depends on the manner in which the tax is imposed. If it is an ad valorem tax, or what is the same thing, a fixed proportion of the produce, such as tithe for example, it evidently lowers corn-rents. For it takes more corn from the better lands than from the worse; and exactly in the degree in which they are better; land of twice the productiveness paying twice as much to the tithe. Whatever takes more from the greater of two quantities than from the less, diminishes the difference between them. The imposition of a tithe on corn would take a tithe also from corn-rent: for if we reduce a series of numbers by a tenth each, the differences between them are reduced one-tenth.
For example, let there be five qualities of land, which severally yield, on the same extent of ground and with the same expenditiure, 100, 90, 80, 70, and 60 bushels of wheat; the last of these being the lowest quality which the demand for food renders it necessary to cultivate. The rent of these lands will be as follows:–
Now let a tithe be imposed, which takes from these five pieces of land 10, 9, 8, 7, and 6 bushels respectively, the fifth quality still being the one which regulates the price, but returning to the farmer, after payment of tithe, no more than 54 bushels:—
and that producing 60 bushels, reduced to 54, will yield, as before, no rent. So that the rent of the first quality of land has lost four bushels; of the second, three ; of the third, two ; and of the fourth, one: that is, each has lost exactly one-tenth. A tax, therefore, of a fixed proportion. of the produce, lowers, in the same proportion, corn-rent. But it is only corn-rent that is lowered, and not rent estimated in money, or in any other commodity. For, in the same proportion as corn-rent is reduced in quantity, the corn composing it is raised in value. Under the tithe, 54 bushels will be worth in the market what 60 were before; and nine-tenths will in all cases sell for as much as the whole ten-tenths previously sold for. The landlords will therefore be compensated in value and price for what they lose in - quantity; and will suffer only so far as they consume their rent in kind, or, after receiving it in money, expend it in agricultural produce : that is, they only suffer as consumers of agricultural produce, and in common with all the other consumers. Considered as landlords, they have the same income as before; the tithe, therefore, falls on the consumer, and not on the landlord. The same effect would be produced on rent, if the tax,
instead of being a fixed proportion of the produce, were a fixed sum per quarter or per bushel. A tax which takes a shilling for every bushel, takes more shillings from one field than from another, just in proportion as it produces more bushels; and operates exactly like tithe, except that tithe is not only the same proportion on all lands, but is also the same proportion at all times, while a fixed sum of money per bushel will amount to a greater or less proportion, according as corn is cheap or dear. There are other modes of taxing agriculture, which would affect rent differently. A tax proportioned to the rent would fall wholly on the rent, and would not at all raise the price of corn, which is regulated by the portion of the produce that pays no rent. A fixed tax of so much per cultivated acre, without distinction of value, would have effects directly the reverse. Taking no more from the best quali. ties of land than from the worst, it would leave the differences the same as before, and consequently the same cornrents, and the landlords would profit to the full extent of the rise of price. To put the thing in another manner; the price must rise sufficiently to enable the worst land to pay the tax: thus enabling all lands which produce more than the worst, to pay not only the tax, but also an increased rent to the landlords. These, however, are not so much taxes on the produce of land, as taxes on the land itself. Taxes on the produce, properly so called, whether fixed or ad valorem, do not affect rent, but fall on the consumer: profits, however, generally bearing either the whole or the greatest part of the portion which is levied on the consumption of the labouring classes.
§ 4. The preceding is, I apprehend, a correct statement of the manner in which taxes on agricultural produce operate when first laid on. When, however, they are of old standing, their effect may be different, as was first pointed out, I believe, by Mr. Senior. It is, as we have seen, an almost infallible consequence of any reduction of profits to retard the rate of accumulation. Now the effect of accumulation, when attended by its usual accompaniment, an increase of population, is to increase the value and price of food, to raise rent, and to lower profits: that is, to do precisely what is done by a tax on agricultural produce, except that this does not raise rent. The tax, therefore, merely anticipates the rise of price, and fall of profits, which would have taken place ultimately through the mere progress of accumulation; while it at the same time prevents, or at least retards, that progress. If the rate of profit was such, previous to the imposition of a tithe, that the effect of the tithe reduces it to the practical minimum, the tithe will put a stop to all further accumulation, or cause it to take place out of the country; and the only effect which the tithe will then have had on the consumer, is to make him pay earlier the price which he would have had to pay somewhat later— part of which, indeed, in the gradual progress of wealth and population, he would have almost immediately begun to pay. After a lapse of time which would have admitted of a rise of one-tenth from the natural progress of wealth, the consumer will be paying no more than he would have paid if the tithe had never existed; he will have ceased to pay any portion of it, and the person who will really pay it is the landlord, whom it deprives of the increase of rent which would by that time have accrued to him. At every successive point in this interval of time, less of the burden will rest on the consumer, and more of it on the landlord : and in the ultimate result, the minimum of profits will be reached with a smaller capital and population, and a lower rental, than if the course of things had not been disturbed by the imposition of the tax. If, on the other hand, the tithe or other tax on agricultural produce does not reduce profits to the minimum, but to something above the minimum, accumulation will not be stopped, but only slackened: and if population also increases, the two-fold increase will continue to produce its effects—a rise of the price of corn, and an increase of rent. These consequences, however, will
not take place with the same rapidity as if the higher rate of profit had continued. At the end of twenty years the country will have a smaller population and capital, than, but for the tax, it would by that time have had ; the landlords will have a smaller rent; and the price of corn having increased less rapidly than it would otherwise have done, will not be so much as a tenth higher that what, if there had been no tax, it would by that time have become. A part of the tax, therefore, will already have ceased to fall on the consumer, and devolved upon the landlord; and the proportion will become greater and greater by lapse of time. Mr. Senior illustrates this view of the subject by likening the effects of tithes, or other taxes on agricultural produce, to those of natural sterility of soil. If the land of a country without access to foreign supplies, were suddenly smitten with a permanent deterioration of quality, to an extent which would make a tenth more labour necessary to raise the existing produce, the price of corn would undoubtedly rise one-tenth. But it cannot hence be inferred that if the soil of the country had from the beginning been one-tenth worse than it is, corn would at present have been one-tenth dearer than we find it. It is far more probable, that the smaller return to labour and capital, ever since the first settlement of the country, would have caused in each successive generation a less rapid increase than has taken place: that the country would now have contained less capital, and maintained a smaller population, so that notwithstanding the inferiority of the soil, the price of corn would not have been higher, nor profits lower, than at present; rent alone would certainly have been lower. We may suppose two islands, which, being alike in extent, in natural fertility, and industrial advancement, have up to a certain time been equal in population and capital, and have had equal rentals, and the same price of corn. Let us imagine a tithe imposed in one of these islands, but not in the other. There will be immediately a difference in the price of corn, and therefore probably in profits. While profits are not tending downwards