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taxation so terrific * Would the doctrines of over-population, and eventual slavery, ever have been invented 7 Could it be, that, in this enlightened age, we should have distinguished economists assuring us, that “government has done its duty” when it has found the things best suited to bear taxation *—“equality of contribution’’ being left wholly out of view, as “an inferior consideration ?”f Assuredly not. Sound morals require, that every man should contribute his fair share, towards the maintenance of the government that affords protection to himself and his, in the exercise of their rights of person and of property. Who, however, are the people that pay taxes on malt, hops, tobacco, sugar, tea, and coffee ? The men who labor, and have little to protect. Who is it that escape taxation ? The men who have stocks and bonds—representatives of the accumulations of the past. The whole system tends to prevent capital from becoming fixed — to increase the proportion that remains movable—to augment the necessity for interferences with commerce; and the result is seen in the payment of an amount of taxes that is greatly more than the whole annual value of the land. Had the system looked to the maintenance of commerce, in accordance with the advice of Adam Smith, the land would now be twice as valuable, while taxes would not be a fifth as
§ 16. Beginning, as did Messrs. Malthus and Ricardo, with the false assumption that men began with the rich soils of the earth, they were, of course, led to find “a fear of want” accompanying that growth of wealth and population which produced a necessity for resorting to poorer soils, with constantly decreasing return to labor. Such being the great law of God, it followed, inevitably, that the time must arrive, when the laborer, pressed by famine, would gladly sell himself, his wife, and children, to the land-owner – slavery being the goal at which society was destined ultimately, and certainly, to arrive. Hence it is, that Mr. McCulloch finds in fear, the means of stimulating men to action—leaving wholly out of view, the idea of hope for further improvement.
Adam Smith believed in commerce. His successors worship at the shrine of trade. The one held, that the nearer the consumer and the producer, the larger must be the production, the greater the power of accumulation, and the greater the competition for the purchase of the laborer's services. The other holds, that ships are more productive than cornfields—the former increasing in their powers from year to year, while the latter as steadily decline. The more distant the producer from the consumer, and the more numerous the middlemen, the larger, as we are assured, must be the quantity of things produced—consumers and producers finding the demand for their services increasing, as they become more widely separated. The one desired to produce competition for the purchase of labor; and therefore did he denounce the system based upon the idea of cheapening the raw materials of manufactures, labor included. The other—seeking to produce competition for the sale of labor—advocates a system based upon cheapening corn and cotton, and requiring “a cheap and abundant supply of labor,” by means of which to convert them into cloth.* The lower the price of land and labor, the greater must be the necessity for indirect and fraudulent taxation. The higher those prices, the greater must be the power of a government, openly and honestly, to claim that both shall contribute to the expenses of the government; and the higher will the community rank among the nations of the world. Centralization tends in the direction of the one, while concentration leads towards the other.
* On Taxation and Funding, p. 20. # Ibid, p. 18.
§ 17. The road towards freedom lies in the direction of rents and taxes, certain in amount—leaving the owner, or occupant, free to determine, for himself, how he shall employ his land, or his time, and what he will do with the product, when obtained. That tending towards slavery, is found in the adoption of taxes on property in motion—the malt and the hops paying in the form of a charge on beer; sand, and other materials, paying in that of one on glass. These are indirect taxes; but a higher form of indirection, would be found in the interposition of a fluctuating money value—the beer and the glass paying more, or less, as prices changed from day to day. Such, precisely, was the mode of the Spanish alcavala, by means of which the State obtained a tenth of the money price at which commodities were sold. On one day, a certain quantity of flour would pay fifty cents; on another, it paid a dollar. In one part of the country, that quantity paid twenty-five cents; in another, on the same day, the tax was twice or thrice as great. The greater the scarcity of food, the higher was the tax. The greater its abundance, the smaller was the revenue. The interests of the State and people being thus opposed, frauds, of course, abounded. Financially and morally, it was the worst of all the systems that had been devised; yet, is it the one selected by the United States. Adequate protection, looking, as it does, to the relief of the farmer from the perpetually recurring, and most oppressive, tax of transportation, tends towards raising the value of land and man—thus enabling the State to establish direct and honest taxation. Interferences with commerce, for merely revenue purposes, look to the maintenance of indirect taxes, as the permanent source of revenue. This last is, apparently, the fixed policy of the American people. Instead, however, of taxing the piece of cloth, or the ton of iron, and thus requiring all importers of those commodities to contribute, in fair proportion, to the revenue, they take the highest form of indirection — interposing a money value, and assessing taxes thereupon. The system being thus, precisely, that of the alcavala, the results of the two are in perfect correspondence—the State obtaining much revenue from sugar, tea, and iron, when they are scarce and dear; and little, when they are abundant and cheap. The interests of State and people being thus in opposition, frauds are universal, and honesty, in dealing with the government, has become so very difficult, that men of character are driven from the business of importation.* The political system of the United States, based, as it is, upon the idea of local action, is the most perfect of all the forms of government; yet, does its very perfection tend to the exaggeration of every evil resulting from error in its course of policy. The officer charged, at London or Liverpool, with the collection of the revenue—having been taken from among the whole British people—is free from that local feeling, which might lead him to countenance frauds upon the State, with a view to benefit his particular port. Directly the reverse of this, is found in the United States—the collectors of the customs having local interests, tempting them to the permission of fraud, at the cost of the interests of both State and people. Hence it is, that the centralization of trade, at a single port, is growing with such rapidity, and that slavery makes such rapid strides. The more the social system tends towards concentration of the people, and augmentation of commerce, the more certain is the correction of the evils of political centralization. The more it tends towards dispersion of the population, and augmentation of the power of trade, the more certain is the production of political centralization, and the greater the tendency towards the ultimate enslavement of man.
* See ante, vol. i. p. 239.
* In a recent report of a select committee of the British Parliament, it is shown that, trivial as was, then, the revenue derived from ad valorem duties (£188,000), nearly all the frauds occurred in them, and that bribery and corruption had been very general until specific duties were introduced.
§ 1. THE people of the Happy Walley commenced the work of cultivation on the slopes of the hills standing between them and the outer world. Studying their movements, in the early stages of their society, we find an occasional family scattered here and there—cultivating thin and poor soils, in sight of others possessing all the qualities required for fitting them to yield liberal returns to labor. Nature, however, being there all-powerful, and they being poor and weak, they find themselves compelled to enter upon the contest with her at those places where she, too, is weak—being almost powerless for good, and, therefore, little capable of resistance to their efforts.
Their numbers, however, increasing, and wealth accumulating, we see them passing, from every point, slowly downward towards the valley—working always inward. Cultivation extending itself, and the facilities of intercourse increasing, the younger people are more and more enabled to associate—with growing tendency towards binding together the various settlements by means of the marriage tie. Population further augmenting, employments become diversified—farmers' sons becoming blacksmiths and tanners, tailors and hatters, masons and carpenters, weavers and millers, with growing sense of the advantage to be derived from extended commerce. Exchanges becoming from year to year more numerous, a town at length arises—the little community thus gradually becoming more complete, and more capable of self-support, were it to be forever debarred from intercourse with the outer world. The more perfect the power of the individual to command the services of nature—the greater his wealth—the more does he become individualised and independent; but the greater is his power of combining with his fellow-men. So, too, is it with communities—the power of maintaining intercourse with others, growing with every diminution in the necessity therefor.