Зображення сторінки

of prices and profits between the islands may continue. But if, in the untithed island, capital increases, and population along with it, more than enough to counterbalance any improvements 'which take place, the price of corn will gradually rise, profits will fall, and rent •will increase; while in the tithed island capital and population will either not increase (beyond what is balanced by the improvements), or if they do, will increase in a less degree; so that rent and the price of corn will either not rise at all, or rise more slowly. Eent, therefore, will soon be higher in the untithed, than in the tithed island, and profits not so much higher, nor corn so much cheaper, as they were on the first imposition of the tithe. These effects will be progressive. At the end of every ten years there will be a greater difference between the rentals and between the aggregate wealth and population of the two islands, and a less difference in profits and in the price of corn.

At what point will these last differences entirely cease, and the temporary effect of taxes on agricultural produce, in raising the price, have en'tirely given place to the ultimate effect, that of limiting the total produce of the country? Though the untithed island is always verging towards the point at which the price of food would overtake that in the tithed island, its progress towards that point naturally slackens as it draws nearer to attaining it; since—the difference between the two islands in the rapidity of accumulation, depending upon the difference in the rates of profit—in proportion as these approximate, the movement which draws them closer together, abates of its force. The one may not actually overtake the other, until both islands reach the minimum of profits: up to that point, the tithed island may continue more or less ahead of the untithed island in the price of corn: considerably ahead if it is far from the minimum, and is therefore accumulating rapidly; very little ahead if it is near the minimum, and accumulating slowly.

But whatever is true of the tithed and untithed islands, in our hypotheti

cal case, is true of any country having a tithe, compared with the same country if it had never had a tithe

In England the great emigration of capital, and the almost periodical occurrence of commercial crises through the speculations occasioned by the habitually low rate of profit, are indications that profit has attained the practical, though not the ultimate minimum, and that all the savings which take place (beyond what improvements, tending to the cheapening of necessaries, make room for) are either sent abroad for investment, or periodically swept away. There can therefore, I think, be little doubt that if England had never had a tithe, or any tax on agricultural produce, the price of corn would have been by this time as high, and the rate of profits as low, as at present. Independently of the more rapid accumulation which would have taken place if profits had not been prematurely lowered by these imposts; the mere saving of a part of the capital which has been wasted in unsuccessful speculations, and the keeping at home a part of that which has been sent abroad, would have been quite sufficient to produce the effect. I think, therefore, with Mr. Senior, that the tithe, even before its commutation, had ceased to be a cause of high prices or low profits, and had become a mere deduction from rent; its other effects being, that it caused the country to have no greater capital, no larger production, and no more numerous population than if it had been one-tenth less fertile than it is; or let us rather say one-twentieth, (considering how great a portion of the land of Great Britain was tithe-free).

But though tithes and other taxes on agricultural produce, when of long standing, either do not raise the price of food and lower profits at all, or if at all, not in proportion to the tax; yet the abrogation of such taxes, when they exist, does not the less diminish price, and, in general, raise the rate of profit. The abolition of a tithe takes one-tenth from the cost of production, and consequently from the price, of all agricultural produce; and unless it permanently raises the labourer's requirements, it lowers the cost of labour, and raises profits. Rent, estimated in money or in commodities, generally remains as before; estimated in agricultural produce, it is raised. The country adds as much by the repeal of a tithe, to the margin which intervenes between it and the stationary state, as is cut off from that margin by a tithe when first imposed. Accumulation is greatly accelerated; and if population also increases, the price of corn immediately begins to recover itself, and rent to rise; thus gradually transferring the benefit of the remission, from the consumer to the landlord.

The effects which thus result from abolishing tithe, result equally from what has been done by the arrangements under the Commutation Act for converting it into a rent-charge. When the tax, instead of being levied on the whole produce of the soil, is levied only from the portions which pay rent, and does not touch any fresh extension of cultivation, the tax no longer forms any part of the cost of production of the portion of the produce which regulates the price of all the rest. The land or capital which pays no rent, can now send its produce to market onetenth cheaper. The commutation of tithe ought therefore to have produced a considerable fall in the average price of corn. If it had not come so gradually into operation, and if the price of corn had not during the same period been under the influence of several other causes of change, the effect would probably have been markedly conspicuous. As it is, there can be no doubt that this circumstance has had its fihare in the fall which has taken place in the cost of production and in the price of home-grown produce; though the effects of the great agricultural improvements which have been simultaneously advancing, and of the free admission of agricultural produce from foreign countries, have masked those of the other cause. This fall of price would not in itself have any tendency injurious to the landlord, since cornrents are increased in the same ratio in which the price of corn is diminished.

But neither does it in any way tend to

increase his income. The rent-charge, therefore, which is substituted for tithe, is a dead loss to him at the expiration of existing leases: and the commutation of tithe was not a mere alteration in the mode in which the landlord bore an existing burthen, but the imposition of a new one; relief being afforded to the consumer at the expense of the landlord, who, however, begins immediately to receive progressive indemnification at the consumer's expense, by the impulse given to accumulation and population.

§ 5. We have hitherto inquired into the effects of taxes on commodities, on the assumption that they are levied impartially on every mode in which the commodity can be produced or brought to market. Another class of considerations is opened, if we suppose that this impartiality is not maintained, and that the tax is imposed, not on the commodity, but on some particular mode of obtaining it.

Suppose that a commodity is capable of being made by two diflerent processes; as a manufactured commodity may be produced either by hand or by steam-power; sugar may be made either from the sugar-cane or from beet-root, cattle fattened either on hay and green crops, or on oil cake and the refuse of breweries. It is the interest of the community, that of the two methods, producers should adopt that which produces the best article at the lowest price. This being also the interest of the producers, unless protected against competition, and shielded from the penalties of indolence; the process most advantageous to the community is that which, if not interfered with by government, they ultimately find it to their advantage to adopt. Suppose however that a tax is laid on one of the processes, and no tax at all, or ono of smaller amount, on the other. If the taxed process is the one which the producers would not have adopted, the measure is simply nugatory. But if the tax falls, as it is of course intended to do, upon the one which they would have adopted, it creates an artificial motive for preferring the untaxed process, though the inferior of the two. If, therefore, it has any effect at all, it causes the commodity to be produced of worse quality, or at a greater expense of labour; it causes so much of the labour of the community to be .wasted, and the capital employed in supporting and remunerating that labour to be expended as uselessly, as if it were spent in hiring men to dig holes and fill them up again. This waste of labour and capital constitutes an addition to the cost of production of the commodity, which raises its value and price in a corresponding ratio, and thus the owners of the capital are indemnified. The loss falls on the consumers; though the capitnl of the country is also eventually diminished, by the diminution of their means of saving, and in some degree, of their inducements to save.

The kind of tax, therefore, which comes under the general denomination of a discriminating duty, transgresses the rule that taxes should take as little as possible from the tax-payer beyond what they bring into the treasury of the state. A discriminating duty makes the consumer pay two distinct taxes, only one of which is paid to the government, and that frequently the less onerous of the two. If a tax were laid on sugar produced from the cane, leaving the sugar from beet-root untaxed, then in so far as cane sugar continued to be used, the tax on it .would be paid to the treasury, and might be as unobjectionable as most other taxes; but if cane sugar, having previously been cheaper than beetroot sugar, was now dearer, and beet-root sugar was to any considerable amount substituted for it, and fields laid out and manufactories established in consequence, the government would gain no revenue from the beet-root sugar, .while the consumers of it would pay a real tax. They would pay for beet-root sugar more than they had previously paid for cane sugar, and the difference .would go to indemnify producers for a portion of the labour of the country actually thrown away, in producing by the labour of (say) three hundred men,

what could be obtained by the other process with the labour of two hundred.

One of the commonest cases of discriminating duties, is that of a tax on the importation of a commodity capable of being produced at home, unaccompanied by an equivalent tax on the home production. A commodity is never permanently imported, unless it can be obtained from abroad at a smaller cost of labour and capital on the whole, than is necessary for producing it. If, therefore, by a duty on the importation, it is rendered cheaper to produce the article than to import it, an extra quantity of labour and capital is expended, without any extra result. The labour is useless, and the capital is spent in paying people for laboriously doing nothing. All custom duties which operate as an encouragement to the home production of the taxed article, are thus an eminently wasteful mode of raising a revenue.

This character belongs in a peculiar degree to custom duties on the produce of land, unless countervailed by excise duties on the home production. Such taxes bring less into the public treasury, compared with what they take from the consumers, than any other imposts to which civilized nations are usually subject. If the wheat produced in a country is twenty millions of quarters, and the consumption twenty-one millions, a million being annually imported, and if on this million a duty is laid which raises the price ten shillings per quarter, the price which is raised is not that of the million only, but of the whole twenty-one millions. Taking the most favourable, but extremely improbable supposition, that the importation is not at all checked, nor the home production enlarged, the state gains a revenue of only half a million, while the consumers are taxed ten millions and a half: the ten millions being a contribution to the home growers, who are forced by competition to resign it all to the landlords. The consumer thus pays to the owners of land an additional tax, equal to twenty times that which he pays to the state. Let us now suppose that the tax really checks importation. Suppose importation stopped altogether in ordinary years; it being found that the million of quarters can be obtained, by a more elaborate cultivation, or by breaking up inferior land, at a less advance than ten shillings upon the previous price —say, for instance, five shillings a quarter. The revenue now • obtains nothing, except from the extraordinary imports which may happen to take place in a season of scarcity. But the consumers pay every year a tax of five shillings on the whole twenty-one millions of quarters, amounting to millions sterling. Of this the odd 250,0002. goes to compensate the growers of the last million of quarters for the labour and capital wasted under the compulsion of the law. The remaining five millions go to enrich the landlords as before.

Such is the operation of what are technically termed Corn Laws, when first laid on; and such continues to be their operation, so long as they have any effect at all in raising the price of corn. But I am by no means of opinion that in the long run they keep up either prices or rents in the degree which these considerations might lead us to suppose. What we have said respecting the effect of tithes and other taxes on agricultural produce, applies in a great degree to corn laws: they anticipate artificially a rise of price and of rent, which would at all events have taken place through the increase of population and of production. The difference between a country without com laws, and a country which has long had corn laws, is not so much that the last has a higher price or a larger rental, but that it has the same price and the same rental with a smaller aggregate capital and a smaller population. The imposition of corn laws raises rents, but retards that progress of accumulation which would in no long period have raised them fully as much. The repeal of corn laws tends to lower rents, but it unchains a force which, in a progressive state of capital and population, restores and even increases the former amount. There is every reason to expect that under the

virtually free importation of agricultural produce, at last extorted from the mling powers of this country, the price of food, if population goes on increasing, will gradually but steadily rise; though this effect may for a time be postponed by the strong current which in this country has set in (and the impulse is extending itself to other countries) towards the improvement of agricultural science, and its increased application to practice.

What we have said of duties on importation generally, is equally applicable to discriminating duties which favour importation from one place or in one particular manner, in contradistinction to others: such as the preference given to the produce of a colony, or of a country with which there is & commercial treaty: or the higher duties formerly imposed by our navigation laws on goods imported in other than British shipping. Whatever else may be alleged in favour of such distinctions, whenever they are not nugatory, they are economically wasteful. They induce a resort to a more costly mode of obtaining a commodity, in lieu of one less costly, and thus cause a portion of the labour which the country employs in providing itself withforeiga commodities, to be sacrificed without return.

§ 6. There is one more point, relating to the operation of taxes on commodities conveyed from one country to another, which requires notice: the influence which they exert on international exchanges. Every tax ou a commodity tends to raise its price, and consequently to lessen the demand for it in the market in which it is suld. All taxes on international trade tend, therefore, to produce a disturbance ami readjustment of what we have termed the Equation of International Demand. This consideration leads to some rather curious consequences, which have been

fointed out in the separate essay on ntemational Commerce, already several times referred to in this treatise.

Taxes on foreign trade are of two kinds—taxes on imports, and on exports. On the first aspect of tue matter it would seem that both these taxes are paid by the consumers of the commodity; that taxes on exports consequently fall entirely on foreigners, taxes on imports wholly on the home consumer. The true state of the case, however, is much more complicated.


"By taxing exports, we may, in certain circumstances, produce a division of the advantage of the trade more favourable to ourselves. In some cases we may draw into our coffers, at the expense of foreigners, not only the whole tax, but more than the tax: in other cases, we should gain exactly the tax; in others, less than the tax. In this last case, a part of the tax is borne by ourselves: possibly the whole, possibly even, as we shall show, more than the whole."

Reverting to the supposititious case employed in the Essay, of a trade between Germany and England in broadcloth and linen, "suppose that England taxes her export of cloth, the tax not being supposed high enough to induce Germany to produce cloth for herself. The price at which cloth can be sold in Germany is augmented by the tax. This will probably diminish the quantity consumed. It may diminish it so much that, even at the increased price, there will not be required so great a money value as before. Or it may not diminish it at all, or so little, that in consequence of the higher price, a greater money value will be purchased than before. In this last case, England will gain, at the expense of Germany, not only the whole amount of the duty, but more; for, the money value of her exports to Germany being increased, while her imports remain the same, money will flow into England from Germany. The price of cloth will rise in England, and consequently in Germany; but the price of linen will fall in Germany, and consequently in England. We shall export less cloth, and import more linen, till the equilibrium is restored. It thus appears (what is at first sight somewhat remarkable) that by taxing her exports, England would, in some conceivable circumstances, not only gain from her foreign customers; the whole amount of P.e.

the tax, but would also get her imports cheaper. She would get them cheaper in two ways; for she would obtain them for less money, and would have more money to purchase them with. Germany, on the other hand, would suffer doubly: she would have to pay for her cloth a price increased not only by the duty, but by the influx of money into England, while the same change in the distribution of the circulating medium would leave her less money to purchase it with.

"This, however, is only one of three possible cases. If, after the imposition of the duty, Germany requires so diminished a quantity of cloth, that its total value is exactly the same as before, the balance of trade would be undisturbed; England will gain the duty, Germany will lose it, and nothing more. If, again, the imposition of the duty occasions such a falling off in the demand that Germany requires a less pecuniary value than before, our exports will no longer pay for our imports; money must pass from England into Germany; and Germany's share of the advantage of the trade will be increased. By the change in the distribution of money, cloth will fall in England; and therefore it will, of course, fall in Germany. Thus Germany will not pay the whole of the tax. From the same cause, linen will rise in Germany, and consequently in England. When this alteration of prices has so adjusted the demand, that the cloth and the linen again pay for one another, the result is that Germany has paid only a part of the tax, and the remainder of what has been received into our treasury has come indirectly out of the pockets of our own consumers of linen, who pay a higher price for that imported commodity in consequence of the tax on our exports, whilo at the same time they, in consequence of the efflux of money and the fall of prices, have smaller money incomes wherewith to pay for the linen at that advanced price.

"It is not an impossible supposition that by taxing our exports we might not only gain nothing from the foreigner, the tax being paid out of our L L

« НазадПродовжити »