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proaching to the truth, without so severe an inquisition into the circumstances of individuals, as would be inconsistent with the manner and spirit of a mercantile country.
[SUBSECT. 11.)— Taxes upon the Profit of Particular
The taxes on Profit, which we have been now considering, are supposed to be levied on it merely as arising from Stock, without any regard to the manner in which it is employed ; besides these, however, it has been the policy of some countries to impose extraordinary taxes on the profits which particular employments of stock produce; sometimes on the profits derived from particular branches of trade, and sometimes on those arising from agriculture. Of the former kind are, in England, the tax upon hawkers and pedlars, that upon hackney-coaches and chairs, and that which the keepers of ale-houses pay for a license to retail ale and spirituous liquors.
A tax upon the profits of stock must always fall finally upon the consumers, and if it is proportioned to the trade of the dealer, occasions no oppression to him. When it is not so proportioned, but is the same upon all dealers, though, in this case, too, it is finally paid by the consumer, yet it favours the great, and occasions some oppression to the small dealer.
The tax known under the old French Government by the title of the Personal Taille, affords the most remarkable instance that has occurred in modern Europe, of a tax upon the profits of stock employed in agriculture.
During the disorderly period when the Feudal Government subsisted in vigour, the great weight of taxation fell on those whose weakness left them at the mercy of the sovereign. Hence the taxes which, in some countries, were confined to lands held in property by an ignoble tenure, and which, in others, were laid on the supposed profits of all those who farmed lands belonging to other people, whatever might be the tenure by which the proprietors held them. In the former case, the taille was said to be real, in the latter to be personal,
Examples of both were to be found under the monarchy of France, and they are both liable to strong objections, although, of the two, the latter is by far the most unjust and oppressive.
When a tax is imposed on the profits of stock in a particular branch of trade, the traders are careful that the tax should fall on the consumer. But when a tax is imposed on the profits of stock employed in agriculture, it must fall finally upon the landlord. The more the farmer is obliged to pay in the way of tax, the less he can afford to pay in the way of rent. Although, therefore, a tax of this kind, imposed during the currency of a lease, may distress or even ruin the farmer, it must always fall upon the landlord when the lease is renewed.
In countries where the personal taille takes place, the farmer is commonly assessed in proportion to the stock which he appears to employ in cultivation. He therefore cultivates with the most wretched instruments of husbandry that he can,-a mis
taken policy, no doubt, on his part, in many instances, but resulting naturally from the circumstances in which he is placed. The consequence is, that cultivation is discouraged, to the prejudice, more or less, of the husbandman himself, of the landlord, and of the public.
For an examination of the other classes of taxes formerly mentioned, I must content myself with referring to Mr. Smith.* In the prosecution of the subject, my plan was to state the results of the speculations of those writers whose opinions have had, of late years, the greatest practical influence on the financial operations of this country. But this is a subject far too extensive for me to undertake at present.
[SECT. V.--CONCLUSION.) In the course of the foregoing review of different taxes, I have stated the inost important results of the speculations of those writers whose opinions have bad, of late years, the greatest practical influence on the financial operations of this country. From what has been said, it would appear that taxes on con
[Wealth of Nations, Book V. chap. i.; Vol. III. pp. 311-394, tenth edition.]
sumption are recommended by very peculiar and weighty advantages :—1. Moneyl is thus drawn into the Exchequer out of the pocket of the subject without his perceiving it, the tax being blended with the price of the commodity. 2. Taxes on consumption are, in some measure, voluntary, as a man may choose how far he will use the commodity which is taxed. 3. Every extension of this species of tax has a tendency (at least within certain limits) to create a new ability in the subject to defray it; for when a tax is laid upon goods consumed by the mass of the people, it more frequently happens that the poor increase their industry so as to add to the wealth of the country, and create a fund for defraying the tax, than that they retrench their living to their own and the public detriment, or raise their wages, so as to make the burden fall upon the rich. It has been further urged in favour of this description of taxes, that they have the exclusive merit of rectifying their own excesses, inasmuch as, when pushed to an extreme, they encourage smuggling, and produce a deficiency in the revenue.
Among the most zealous advocates for taxes on consumption are Necker, the Marquis de Casaux, and Mr. Young. The last two writers go so far as to assert, that they should be substituted instead of the land-taxes of France and of England. 3
On the other hand, it cannot be denied, that taxes of this nature are liable to strong objections, on account,-1. Of the extreme expense of collecting them ;-2. Of the severe restraints on trade as well as liberty, which the collection of them renders necessary ;-and 3. On account of their tendency to hurt foreign trade by enhancing the price of commodities. In this country, in particular, where this system has been already carried to a very great extent, it seems now to be generally admitted, that it cannot be trusted to as a means of supplying so large a revenue as is required, when we attempt to raise a war supply without borrowing. In a country, when a small and moderate revenue is to be collected from a people in a state of increasing prosperity, the objections just now mentioned may be more easily obviated.
1 Lauderdale's Pamphlet; Young's France.
2 See some further considerations on
the same side of the question in Young's France, p. 523.
3 Young, p. 530.
In order to levy so immense a sum as the exigencies of Government now require, recourse must be had to taxes affecting directly the fortunes of the contributors. But how such a tax is to be imposed is a different question,—and a question of very difficult solution. The consideration of it, it would be obviously improper for me to introduce in this place. A late writer (and one, too, whose political views are understood to be extremely favourable to the existing Administration of Great Britain) has employed his ingenuity in an attempt to revive the project of a territorial tax on the plan of the French Economists. But on this idea, which is not very likely to attract much attention in this country, it would be superfluous for me to enlarge at present, more particularly, as I propose to examine afterwards, at some length, the arguments which have been offered both for and against it.
I shall also pass over, without examination, another project of taxation, which has been lately carried into effect in Great Britain,- I mean the tax upon income, as I am always unwilling to touch upon any questions which are conected with the political discussions of the times. The arguments, besides, which have been alleged on both sides, cannot fail to be fresh in the recollection of all my hearers.
Two other projects, which are not so generally known, deserve to be mentioned, on account of the ingenuity and ability with which they have been recommended to the notice of the public. The first (which was published in 1795) is explained in a Pamphlet by Mr. Bentham, entitled Supply without Burthen, or Escheat vice Tacation, &c. The other is of a very
, , late date, (having appeared in the course of the present year,) and has for its object to “impose a tax in perpetuity on all property, entailed or unentailed, settled or unsettled, the enjoyment of which passes by succession,” [its title being, Hints towards an Improved System of Taxation, &c. 1799.]
[BOOK THIRD.] ]
[OF THE POOR—THEIR MAINTENANCE.]
(Interpolation from Notes.)-Having been employed, for some time past, in tracing the sources of national opulence, our attention is naturally directed, in the next place, to that unfortunate class of men, who, in consequence either of the imperfections of our social institutions, or of the evils necessarily connected with the present constitution of humanity, are left dependent on the bounty of their fellow-citizens. The subject is sufficiently interesting in itself, considered in relation merely to the order of men who are its immediate objects; but it will be found, on examination, to be still more interesting when considered in connexion with the general system of Political Economy. In treating of this subject, I shall begin first with a short historical sketch of the origin and progress of the Poorlaws in both parts of the island, and shall afterwards proceed to some inquiries and speculations of a more general nature.
(HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE POOR-LAWS.]
[SECT. I.—OF THE ENGLISH POOR-LAWS.] From the review which I am now to offer, it will appear with what extreme difficulty this branch of legislation is accompanied, and how frequently the best intended, and, apparently, most wisely-concerted schemes have been found to aggravate the evils which they were meant to remedy. Such a review,