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negligence. Is it no part of the duty contracts, and of the relations which of governments to enforce contracts ? they establish among human beings, is Here the doctrine of non-interference a question for the legislator; and one would no doubt be stretched a little, which he cannot escape from conand it would be said, that enforcing sidering, and in some way or other contracts is not regulating the affairs deciding. of individuals at the pleasure of govern Again, the prevention and suppresment, but giving effect to their own sion of force and fraud afford approexpressed desire. Let us acquiesce in priate employment for soldiers, policethis enlargement of the restrictive men, and criminal judges ; but there theory, and take it for what it is worth. are also civil tribunals. The punishBut governments do not limit their ment of wrong is one business of an concern with contracts to a simple en administration of justice, but the deforcement. They take upon themselves cision of disputes is another. Innuto determine what contracts are fit to merable disputes arise between perbe enforced. It is not enough that one sons, without mala fides on either side, person, not being either cheated or through misconception of their legal compelled, makes a promise to another. rights, or from not being agreed about There are promises by which it is not the facts, on the proof of which those for the public good that persons should rights are legally dependent. Is it have the power of binding themselves. not for the general interest that the To say nothing of engagements to do State should appoint persons to clear something contrary to law, there are up these uncertainties and terminate engagements which the law refuses to these disputes ? It cannot be said to epforce, for reasons connected with the be a case of absolute necessity. People interest of the promiser, or with the might appoint an arbitrator, and engeneral policy of the state. A contract gage to submit to his decision; and by which a person sells himself to an- they do so where there are no courts other as a slave, would be declared of justice, or where the courts are not void by the tribunals of this and of trusted, or where their delays and most other European countries. There expenses, or the irrationality of their are few nations whose laws enforce a rules of evidence, deter people from contract for what is looked upon as resorting to them. Still, it is uniprostitution, or any matrimonial en versally thought right that the State gagement of which the conditions vary should establish civil tribunals; and in any respect from those which the | if their defects often drive people to law has thought fit to prescribe. But have recourse to substitutes, even then when once it is admitted that there are the power held in reserve of carrying any engagements which for reasons of the case before a legally constituted expediency the law ought not to encourt, gives to the substitutes their force, the same question is necessarily principal efficacy. opened with respect to all engage- Not only does the State undertake ments. Whether, for example, the law to decide disputes, it takes precautions should enforce a contract to labour, beforehand that disputes may not arise. when the wages are too low, or the The laws of most countries lay down hours of work too severe: whether it rules for determining many things, not should enforce a contract by which a because it is of much consequence in person binds himself to remain, for what way they are determined, but in more than a very limited period, in the order that they may be determined service of a given individual : whether somehow, and there may be no quesa contract of marriage, entered into for tion on the subject. The law prelife, should continue to be enforced scribes forms of words for many kinds against the deliberate will of the per- of contract, in order that no dispute sons, or of either of the persons, who or misunderstanding may arise about entered into it. Every question which their meaning: it makes provision can possibly arise as to the policy of that if a dispute does arise, evidence P.E.
shall be procurable for deciding it, by roughfares, is another; whether done requiring that the document be at by the general government, or, as is tested by witnesses and executed more usual, and generally more ad with certain formalities. The law visable, by a municipal authority. preserves authentic evidence of facts Making or improving harbours, buildto which legal consequences are at- ing lighthouses, making surveys in tached, by keeping a registry of such order to have accurate maps and facts; as of births, deaths, and mar- charts, raising dykes to keep the sea riages, of wills and contracts, and of out, and embankments to keep rivers judicial proceedings. In doing these in, are cases in point. things, it has never been alleged that | Examples might be indefinitely mulgovernment oversteps the proper limits tiplied without intruding on any disof its functions.
puted ground. But enough has been Again, however wide a scope we said to show that the admitted funcmay allow to the doctrine that indi- tions of government embrace a much viduals are the proper guardians of wider field than can easily be included their own interests, and that govern- within the ring-fence of any restrictive ment owes nothing to them but to definition, and that it is hardly possave them from being interfered with sible to find any ground of justification by other people, the doctrine can never common to them all, except the combe applicable to any persons but those prehensive one of general expediency; who are capable of acting in their own nor to limit the interference of governbehalf. The individual may be an ment by any universal rule, save the infant, or a lunatic, or fallen into simple and vague one that it should imbecility. The law surely must look never be admitted but when the case after the interests of such persons. It of expediency is strong. does not necessarily do this through officers of its own. It often devolves 3. Some observations, however, the trust upon some relative or may be usefully bestowed on the connexion. But in doing so is its nature of the considerations on which duty ended? Can it make over the the question of government interference interests of one person to the control is most likely to turn, and on the of another, and be excused from super mode of estimating the comparative vision, or from holding the person magnitude of the expediencies inthus trusted, responsible for the dis-volved. This will form the last of charge of the trust ?
the three parts into which our discusThere is a multitude of cases in sion of the principles and effects of which governments, with general ap government interference may conprobation, assume powers and execute veniently be divided. The following functions for which no reason can be will be our division of the subject. assigned except the simple one, that We shall first consider the econothey conduce to general convenience. mical effects arising from the manner We may take as an example, the in which governments perform their function (which is a monopoly too) of necessary and acknowledged funccoining money. This is assumed 'for tions. no more recondite purpose than that We shall then pass to certain goof saving to individuals the trouble, vernmental interferences of what I delay, and expense of weigbing and have termed the optional kind (i.e. assaying. No one, however, even of overstepping the boundaries of the those most jealous of state interfer- universally acknowledged functions) ence, has objected to this as an im- which have heretofore taken place, proper exercise of the powers of and in some cases still take place, government. Prescribing a set of under the influence of false general standard weights and measures is theories. another instance. Paving, lighting, It will lastly remain to inquire and cleansing the streets and tho I whether, independently of any false theory, and consistently with a correct to consider, may be reduced to the view of the laws which regulate human following general heads. affairs, there be any cases of the First, the means adopted by governoptional class in which governmentalments to raise the revenue which is the interference is really advisable, and condition of their existence. what are those cases.
Secondly, the nature of the laws The first of these divisions is of an which they prescribe on the two extremely miscellaneous character: great subjects of Property and Consince the necessary functions of go-tracts. vernment, and those which are so Thirdly, the excellences or defects manifestly expedient that they have of the system of means by which they never or very rarely been objected to, enforce generally the execution of are, as already pointed out, too their laws, namely, their judicature various to be brought under any very and police. simple classification. Those, how- We commence with the first head, ever, which are of principal import- that is, with the theory of Taxaance, which alone it is necessary here I tion.
ON THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION. 8 1. The qualities desirable, eco- | the taxgatherer, who can either aggranomically speaking, in a system of vate the tax upon any obnoxious contaxation, have been embodied by tributor, or extort by the terror of such Adam Smith in four maxims or prin- aggravation, some present or perqui. ciples, which, having been generally site to himself. The uncertainty of concurred in by subsequent writers, taxation encourages the insolence and may be said to have become classical, favours the corruption of an order of and this chapter cannot be better com- men who are naturally unpopular, menced than by quoting them.* even when they are neither insolent
“1. The subjects of every state nor corrupt. The certainty of what ought to contribute to the support of each individual ought to pay is, in the government, as nearly as possible taxation, a matter of so great imporin proportion to their respective abili- tance, that a very considerable degree ties: that is, in proportion to the re- of inequality, it appears, I believe, venue which they respectively enjoy from the experience of all nations, is under the protection of the state. In not near so great an evil, as a very the observation or neglect of this small degree of uncertainty. maxim consists what is called the "3. Every tax ought to be levied at equality or inequality of taxation. the time, or in the manner, in which
*" 2. The tax which each individual it is most likely to be convenient for is bound to pay ought to be certain, the contributor to pay it. A tax upon and not arbitrary. The time of pay- the rent of land or of houses, payable ment, the manner of payment, the at the same term at which such rents quantity to be paid, ought all to be are usually paid, is levied at a time clear and plain to the contributor, and when it is most likely to be convenient to every other person. Where it is for the contributor to pay; or when he otherwise, every person subject to the is most likely to have wherewithal to tax is put more or less in the power of pay. Taxes upon such consumable * Wealth of Nations, book v. ch ii. goods as are articles of luxury, are all finally paid by the consumer, and first of the four points, equality of tax. generally in a manner that is very ation, requires to be more fully exaconvenient to him. He pays them mined, being a thing often imperfectly by little and little, as he has occasion understood, and on which many false to buy the goods. As he is at liberty, | notions have become to a certain detoo, either to buy or not to buy, as he gree accredited, through the absence pleases, it must be his own fault if he of any definite principles of judgment ever suffers any considerable incon- in the popular mind. venience from such taxes.
“4. Every tax ought to be so con- $ 2. For what reason ought equality trived as both to take out and to keep to be the rule in matters of taxation ? out of the pockets of the people as For the reason, that it ought to be so little as possible over and above what in all affairs of government. As a it brings into the public treasury of | government ought to make no disthe state. A tax may either take out | tinction of persons or classes in the or keep out of the pockets of the people strength of their claims on it, whata great deal more than it brings into ever sacrifices it requires from them the public treasury, in the four follow should be made to bear as nearly as ing ways. First, the levying of it possible with the same pressure upon may require a great number of officers, all; which, it must be observed, is the whose salaries may eat up the greater mode by which least sacrifice is occapart of the produce of the tax, and sioned on the whole. If any one bears whose perquisites may impose another less than his fair share of the burthen, additional tax upon the people.” Se some other person must suffer more condly, it may divert a portion of the than his share, and the alleviation to labour and capital of the community the one is not, on the average, so from a more to a less productive em great a good to him, as the increased ployment. “Thirdly, by the forfeitures pressure upon the other is an evil. and other penalties which those un Equality of taxation, therefore, as a fortunate individuals incur who at- | maxim of politics, means equality of tempt unsuccessfully to evade the tax, sacrifice. It means apportioning the it may frequently ruin them, and there-contribution of each person towards by put an end to the benefit which the the expenses of government, so that community might have derived from he shall feel neither more nor less the employment of their capitals. An inconvenience from his share of the injudicious tax offers a great tempta- | payment than every other person extion to smuggling. Fourthly, by sub periences from his. This standard, jecting the people to the frequent visits like other standards of perfection, canand the odious examination of the tax. not be completely realized; but the gatherers, it may expose them to much first object in every practical discus.' unnecessary trouble, vexation, and op sion should be to know what perfection pression :" to which may be added, that the restrictive regulations to There are persons, however, who are which trades and manufactures are not content with the general principles. often subjected to prevent evasion of a of justice as a basis to ground a rule of tax, are not only in themselves trouble- finance upon, but must have something, some and expensive, but often oppose as they think, more specifically approinsuperable obstacles to making im priate to the subject. What best provements in the processes.
pleases them is, to regard the taxes The last three of these four maxims paid by each member of the community require little other explanation or illus as an equivalent for value received, in tration than is contained in the pas- the shape of service to himself; and sage itself. How far any given tax | they prefer to rest the justice of making conforms to, or conflicts with them, is each contribute in proportion to his a matter to be considered in the dis- means, upon the ground, that he who cussiou of particular taxes. But the has twice as much property to be pro
Lected, receives, on an accurate calcu- from the protection of government, we lation, twice as much protection, and should have to consider who would ought, on the principles of bargain and suffer most if that protection were sale, to pay twice as much for it. withdrawn: to which question if any Since, however, the assumption that answer could be made, it must be, that government exists solely for the pro- those would suffer most who were tection of property, is not one to be de- weakest in mind or body, either by liberately adhered to; some consistent nature or by position. Indeed, such adherents of the quid pro quo principle persons would almost infallibly be go on to observe, that protection being slaves. If there were any justice, required for person as well as property, therefore, in the theory of justice now and everybody's person receiving the under consideration, those who are same amount of protection, a poll-tax least capable of helping or defending of a fixed sum per head is a proper themselves, being those to whom the equivalent for this part of the benefits protection of government is the most of government, while the remaining indispensable, ought to pay the greatest part, protection to property, should be share of its price : the reverse of the paid for in proportion to property. true idea of distributive justice, which There is in this adjustment a false air consists not in imitating but in reof nice adaptation, very acceptable to dressing the inequalities and wrongs of some minds. But in the first place, it nature. is not admissible that the protection of Government must be regarded as so persons and that of property are the pre-eminently a concern of all, that to sole purposes of government. The determine who are most interested in ends of government are as comprehen- it is of no real importance. If a person sive as those of the social union. They or class of persons receive so small a consist of all the good, and all the im- share of the benefit as makes it necesmunity from evil, which the existence sary to raise the question, there is of government can be made either something else than taxation which is directly or indirectly to bestow. In amiss, and the thing to be done is to the second place, the practice of setting remedy the defect, instead of recognisdefinite values on things essentially ing it and making it a ground for deindefinite, and making them a ground manding less taxes. As, in a case of of practical conclusions, is peculiarly voluntary subscription for a purpose in fertile in false views of social questions. which all are interested, all are thought It cannot be admitted, that to be pro- to have done their part fairly when tected in the ownership of ten times as each has contributed according to his much property, is to be ten times as means, that is, has made an equal much protected. Neither can it be sacrifice for the common object; in truly said that the protection of 10001. like manner should this be the prina year costs the State ten times as ciple of compulsory contributions: and much as that of 1001. a year, rather it is superfluous to look for a more in. than twice as much, or exactly as genious or recondite ground to rest the much. The same judges, soldiers, | principle upon. sailors, who protect the one protect the other; and the larger income does not $ 3. Setting out, then, from the necessarily, though it may sometimes, maxim that equal sacrifices ought to require even more policemen. Whether be demanded from all, we have next to the labour and expense of the protec- inquire whether this is in fact done, by tion, or the feelings of the protected making each contribute the same perperson, or any other definite thing be centage on his pecuniary means. Many made the standard, there is no such persons maintain the negative, saying proportion as the one supposed, nor that a tenth part taken from a small any other definable proportion. If we income is a heavier burthen than the wanted to estimate the degrees of same fraction deducted from one much benefit which difierent persons derive larger : and on this is grounded the