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The cause of this is found in the fact, that the system tends, throughout, to increasing the space, and thus augmenting the friction, between the producer and the consumer — always the road towards barbarism, as exhibited in the diagram. Five-andtwenty years since, Ireland furnished the people of England with thirty millions of bushels of grain; now, the quantity exported is insufficient to pay for that which is imported.* The deficiency here, and elsewhere, being made up by imports from more distant countries, the effect is, necessarily, that of increasing the proportion of profits, while diminishing that of wages and rents — thus producing an augmentation of the amount subject to the tax on profits. The large amount assessed under the provisions of the act imposing the income-tax, being frequently referred to, as evidence of improvement in the condition of the English people, under the existing system, we may here inquire into its operation. Turning once again to the diagram, the reader will see that, as he passes from barbarism towards civilization, the proportion borne by profits decreases steadily; while increasing with equal steadiness, as he passes from right to left—from civilization towards barbarism. The more numerous the persons standing between the producer and the consumer, the more must the profits be, but the smaller must be the value of land and labor. That the former does not become more valuable, is proved by the facts already given. That the latter does not, is proved by the extraordinary destruction of human life in Ireland, and by an emigration from Great Britain that has almost entirely arrested the growth of numbers. The average amount of taxes raised in the three years ending in 1815, exceeded £70,000,000. Since then, the population has increased more than fifty per cent.—giving 10,000,000 more of people by whom the taxes are required to be paid. The wealth of the country, too, were we to judge by the returns above referred to, has much increased; and yet, the difficulty of providing for the public service is undiminished—the oppressiveness of taxation being even more severely felt. This appears strange; * The export in 1854 was 2,073,180 quarters, nine-tenths of which conyet is it easily accounted for. The more the land becomes consolidated, the larger is the proportion that becomes subject to the income-tax—the thousands and tens of thousands of small proprietors, who would have been exempt, having been replaced by the large ones, by whom their properties have been purchased, or the farmers by whom their lands are cultivated. So, too, with the smaller manufacturers, who have passed away —giving place to the gigantic operators of the present time. Centralization growing from year to year, with every stage of its progress, the profits of trade bear a larger proportion to rent and wages—the apparently taxable income of the country increasing, as real wealth decreases.
sisted of oats; whereas, the imports of the more costly grains, wheat, barley, and Indian corn, amounted to 1,727,000 quarters.
§ 9. The Government of the United States has, throughout most of its existence, been misled by the erroneous idea, that indirect taxation was the legitimate mode of raising the public revenue. At brief intervals, a contrary course has been pursued, as in 1828 and 1842, when tariffs were arranged with special reference to the approximation of the prices of raw materials and finished commodities — revenue then becoming a mere incident, and protection being the object. In both cases, the adoption of that system of policy was followed by a prosperity rendered remarkable by comparison with the poverty and wretchedness that had, just previously, been experienced. The duration of both, however, was exceedingly limited, neither having been permitted an existence of even half-a-dozen years. As a rule, revenue has been regarded as the especial object of interference with foreign intercourse — protection being to be granted, only to such extent as was consistent with obtaining the largest receipts for the public service. Such was the policy adopted after the close of the war with England, in 1816; again in 1834; and again in 1846. In all cases, it has been followed by the same results — great apparent prosperity—large receipts at the treasury — large profit to the capitalist, at the cost of the land and labor of the country— followed in 1822 and 1842 by financial crises which, like that of 1857, almost stopped the societary circulation.
What have been the effects of this policy, is seen in the facts already stated, in relation to the comparative prices of the agricultural products they need to sell, and those metallic ones they require to purchase—the experience of forty years having exhibited a steady and regular increase in the quantity of wheat, flour, rice, tobacco, and cotton, required to be given in exchange for smaller quantities of lead, tin, iron, copper, gold, and silver. That being the road towards barbarism, and the course in that direction having been continued with remarkable pertinacity, we are thus supplied with an explanation of the facts, that the power of trade grows steadily, while that of commerce declines, and that in the land in which all men were once declared to be free and equal, “free society” is now declared to have proved “a failure.” The countries in which direct taxation tends to supersede that which is indirect, are those in which commerce is gradually acquiring power over trade—in which the circulation is becoming more rapid—and in which land and labor are gradually acquiring value — Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Spain, and Russia; all of which follow in the lead of France, in adopting the policy of Colbert. Those in which there is an increasing tendency towards indirect taxation, are Turkey, Portugal, India, the United States—being those that follow the lead of England, in preferring the supremacy of trade to the extension of commerce. In all of them, the prices of raw products and finished commodities recede from each other — land and labor decline in value—and men become less free.
§ 10. The more perfect the power of self-protection, the more continuous becomes the demand for human effort — the more regular is its application—the larger is the quantity of production—and the greater the facility of accumulation. Every step in this direction, is attended by a diminution in the necessity for dependence on governmental aid, and diminution in the proportion of the products of labor required for the support of persons charged with the performance of governmental duties.
The greater the power of accumulation, the greater is the tendency towards subjugation of the richer soils—towards division of land—towards diversification in the demands for human faculties — towards increase in the proportion borne by fixed to movable capital—towards increase in the rapidity of circulation — and towards the substitution of fixed and well-understood rents and taxes, for the indirect taxation levied by means of claims for personal service, or interference with the movements of commerce.
The greater the tendency towards direct taxation, the less, therefore, will always be the proportion borne by taxation for the support of government, to the amount of production by the people.
That such are the facts, is shown by the history of all advancing communities, of ancient and modern times. More especially is it shown in the recent history of France and Northern Europe. Enormous as is the political centralization of France, and burdensome as is her taxation in the forms of personal service and pecuniary contribution, no one can study her history for the last and present centuries, without remarking a steady increase in the proportion of the product retained by the laborer, and diminution in that taken by the government. A century since, the Farmers General were the real rulers of the kingdom — paying the sovereign for the privilege of taxing his people at their pleasure. Their fortunes growing with the growth of taxes, they, of course, omitted no contrivance by means of which the contributions might be augmented. Taxation is still most oppressively heavy; but, so far as regards land, while remaining in the hands of its owner, is a fixed and certain quantity, the payment of which is a guarantee against arbitrary demands by hosts of government agents, such as were of daily occurrence in the days of Louis XIV. and his immediate successors. Although the value of landed property, as the reader has already seen, has more than doubled, the amount of tax has remained almost unchanged since the period of its first imposition, fifty years since —thus proving the diminution in the proportion taken for governmental support, that accompanies a gradual substitution of direct for indirect taxation.*
§ 11. Such, too, is the tendency in all the countries of Northern Europe, and for the reason, that, as taxation becomes more direct, it addresses itself more to the reasoning being recognised as MAN, and less to the unreasoning one treated of in the Malthusian school — always moved to action by passions over which he has no control, and remaining, therefore, little better than a brute. The one is asked to pay a direct contribution, the proceeds of which are to be applied to the maintenance of security for himself, his wife, and children, in the exercise of their rights of person and of property. The other is urged to drink, to gamble, or to adventure in the lottery, that the government may have the opportunity of picking his pocket, while so employed. In no part of Europe does the value of person and property advance more rapidly than in Denmark. In none, has man more rapidly advanced towards civilization; and in none, therefore, has the tendency towards the substitution of fixed payments for the use of land, to its owner, and to the government, made more rapid progress; with necessary tendency towards diminution in the proportion borne by taxes to production. The revenues of towns and cities are all, there, derived from taxes upon property — abstinence from interference with the passage of property from the producer to the consumer, being the rule of action.* So, too, is it, in Germany — the great increase in the productiveness of labor, and in the value of land, being there attended by a decided tendency to the substitution of fixed and certain taxes, for those interferences with the movement of society known as “taxes on consumption.”f * Dictionnaire de l’Economie Politique, article Octrois. + “The German bauer,” now owner of his little property, “looks on the country as made for him and his fellow-men. He feels himself a man; he has a stake in the country as good as that of the bulk of his neighbors; no man can threaten him with ejection or the workhouse so long as he is active and economical. He walks, therefore, with a bold step; he looks you in the face with the air of a free man, but of a respectful one.”—How ITT: Rural and Domestic Life in Germany, p. 27. How strong is the tendency of the state of feeling thus described, towards production of the security that needs no aid from governments, is thus shown by another English traveller:— “Fvery peasant who possesses one of these estates becomes interested in the maintenance of public order, in the tranquillity of the country, in the suppression of crimes, in the fostering of industry among his own children, and in the promotion of their intelligence. A class of peasant proprietors forms the strongest of all conservative classes. * * * Throughout all the excitement of the revolutions of 1848, the peasant proprietors of France, Germany, Holland, and Switzerland, were almost universally found upon the side of order, and opposed to revolutionary excesses. It was only in the provinces where the land was divided among the nobles, and where the
* The direct taxes of 1854, of every description, amounted to 412,000,000 francs, and constituted nearly a third of the ordinary resources of the Treasury—the total amount having been 1,265,000,000.