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CHAPTER VI.: FINANCIAL LAW. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 9 (Constitutional Code) 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 9.
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The financial department, is that by which is performed the extraction, custody, and expenditure of such money and money’s worth, as is employed, or professed to be employed, in the public service: viz. in this and the several other branches of the public service.
Whatsoever be the public function, by the exercise of which service is rendered, or pretended to be rendered to the public, or to any part of it; money, or money’s worth, or both, are, in a quantity more or less considerable, necessary to be employed and disbursed on the occasion of its being rendered: the financial branch is thus a branch which intertwines itself, and runs through the several other branches of the public service.
This branch of government has for its proper end, that branch of good economy which consists of appropriate frugality.
Of economy there are two branches: the one positive, or say, distributive; the other negative, or say, restrictive.
The distributive branch has for its object, the due appropriation of the aggregate of the sums levied, to the several services for which they are levied.
The restrictive branch has for its object, avoidance of all exaction, the burthensomeness of which is not outweighed by the usefulness of the application made of it.
For judging of the consistency of any mass of expenditure with the proper ends of economy, take for a test this directive rule: with the alleged benefit, alleged to be expected from the expenditure, compare the unquestionable burthen produced by a tax to the same amount: forego the benefit, the burthen is excluded.
Taken in its narrowest and most ordinary sense, economy in a state, has for its subject-matter money and money’s worth; taken in its most extensive sense, it comprehends the matter of reward, in those additional shapes in which it is to government that it is indebted for its existence,—viz. power and factitious honour.
In what way may the principle of minimization, and other safeguards, be applied with the greatest advantage to the case of money?
By observation of the following rules, viz.:—
Except as excepted, suffer no man to make for himself profit, in any shape, from public money deposited in his hands, or at his disposal.
In the instance of each functionary, having in charge any of the public money, minimize the quantity of it.
Not suffering to be lodged in the hands of any money-keeping functionary, money in any quantity, exceeding the sum in relation to which he has obtained fide-jussors, bound by agreement, on their part, to the eventual payment thereof into the hands of some government functionary, in the event of his failing to pay it when called upon in due course.
If there be, or can be brought into existence, any banking-company of sufficient pecuniary trustworthiness, who are willing to receive public money upon the ordinary terms,—keep as much as may be in their hands, ordering matters, at the same time, by law, in such sort, that in case of failure, the public shall have the preference as against all private creditors.
By this means, instead of paying functionaries of its own, for the keeping of the public money in their charge, the government may so order matters, as to receive a compensation for money so deposited by it.
The keeping of money by the government of a country, in treasuries of its own, is but a makeshift employed by necessity, where no sufficiently trustworthy banking-company for the keeping of it can be found.
By some governments, the concurrence of functionaries more than one has been rendered necessary to the issue of each sum from a public treasury; and to render this concurrence necessary, physical means have been employed: such as the rendering the opening of locks more than one, necessary to the extraction of it: locks, to the opening of which, so many keys of different forms are necessary, and allotting to that same number of persons the custody of the keys. In Russia, such has accordingly been the practice, as appears by an ordinance of the Empress Catherine, creative of an official establishment for the several provinces of the empire. The inconvenience here is, that there must be a number of functionaries unremittingly occupied, and, on account of the constancy of their attendance, and the magnitude of the trust, highly paid.
In every department of the public service, good managment has two perfectly distinguishable branches: the first peculiar to itself, being correspondent to the particular nature of the service: the other common to it, with all the others,—this universally applying branch of good management is frugality.
Considered in another point of view, the peculiar and characteristic branch here spoken of may be styled the positive branch: this, which is common to all, the negative branch. The dictates of frugality are conformed to in so far as, without preponderant prejudice to good management in other respects, money and money’s worth, is avoided to be disbursed or consumed.
In a representative democracy, all the several departments having for their actual end good management as applied to each, the financial department has for its actual end frugality, as above defined.
In a pure monarchy, when that expenditure which is employed in giving supply to that waste, by which gratification is afforded, or endeavoured to be afforded, to the appetites of the monarch, his favourites, and instruments,—of which the expense of the war department constitutes always the most expensive article, this branch has for its actual end the same as that which in a representative democracy it has: viz. frugality: the same, with whatsoever inferiority in respect of uniformity, steadiness, and success pursued. Even in the war department, frugality is, in all the details, an object actually pursued: of the dictates of frugality, the only one purposely violated is that, by the observance of which, by far the greatest part of the whole expense of this department would be struck off: viz. that part which has for its object, the carrying on a perpetual offensive war against the subject many, instead of keeping their physical force, without expense, in a state of constant preparation for defensive war against foreign nations.
In a limited monarchy, the financial department has for its actual end, the opposite of frugality, waste—the maximum of waste.
Under this form of government, this waste has three objects:—
Personal gratification to the several appetites of the ruling one, and the sub-ruling influential and opulent few. This object, in so far as regards the appetites of the ruling one, it has in common with absolute monarchy.
Corruption: exercise of corruptive influence for the purpose of securing corrupt obsequiousness, on the part of those, whose declared duty, and professed endeavour it is, to keep applied to the respective powers of the monarch, and the sub-ruling portion of the aristocracy, those limitations which they respectively acknowledge: corrupt obsequiousness, to the effect of causing them to forbear from keeping actually applied, those several limitations: thus rendering the government, in form and pretence, limited: in effect, to the benefit of the ruling one, and the sub-ruling influential and opulent few, to the sacrifice of the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
Delusion.—In so far as the waste applies itself, by means of corruptive influence, to the production of corrupt obsequiousness, on the part of those self-acknowledged and self-professed trustees for the whole community, it employs itself in rendering them, and, in so far as it produces its intended effect, it actually does render them, by so much inferior, in respect of public virtue and good behaviour—in respect of benevolence, and that beneficence which is the fruit of benevolence upon the largest scale;—inferior to the rest of the community taken at large, inferior to the subject many, inferior to the vast majority of the whole population of the country. In the same proportion as those, on whose part corrupt obsequiousness is produced, are rendered inferior in these respects, are those rendered, by whose corruptive influence this corrupt obsequiousness is produced, or at least, in an equal degree, inferior.
In so far as with reference to that better, and happily larger, portion of the whole community, they are regarded as being, in the scale of public virtue and good behaviour, superior or equal, delusion has place. Raising up to its maximum, the degree and effect of this delusion, is a third purpose in which, under this form of government, public waste employs itself.
In proportion to the quantity in which the waste employs itself in the affording of gratification to the appetites of the individuals in question, and by the whole of that quantity, the purpose of delusion is completely accomplished, and the purpose of corruption in a principal degree. To screw up the effect of corruptive influence to its maximum, may probably require endeavours, to an amount more or less considerable, specially directed to that purpose: such endeavours being accordingly nowhere, and never wanting,—means are wanting for pronouncing, by any sufficiently grounded judgment, whether, without such endeavours, the mere possession of that same or any other quantity of the subject matter of waste, operating of itself, in the character of matter of corruptive influence, would, in the hands in question, be adequate to the production of the actual effect. Be this as it may, it will be, if it is not already sufficiently manifest, that, by the same quantity of the matter of wealth thus expended in waste, by the hands in question, in addition to the gratification of the several appetites, those two other purposes, corruption and delusion—all three, (though so inseparably connected, so perfectly distinguishable from each other,) are produced.
Look, for example, to the situation of the monarch. In the procuring to him, for example, that sort of gratification which is afforded by quick motion, together with prompt conveyance at all times, to the several different places at which a promise is afforded of successive gratification to his several other appetites,—horses, in vast multitudes, each, in respect of its capacity of affording gratification to those by whom it is used and abused, brought, by a long and expensive course of training, to the most exquisite degree of perfection possible,—the labour of men, in correspondent multitudes, having been exclusively consecrated to this one purpose, a proportionable quantity of money has necessarily been employed. But, for an establishment of this kind, good management, so far as regards aptitude for the service, is really desired. In the hands of an individual, and not in those of a board, is this branch of the public service accordingly lodged. For were it in the hands of a board, each member in reality, as well as in name and pretence, bearing a part in the business, what is sufficiently understood is—that there never would be a horse fit for service: each member would appoint to the management of one of the sacred horses, some dependant of his, who had never had anything to do with horses. Constituting a necessary exception to the general rule, this branch of the public service will therefore, of necessity, have found itself in individual hands.
For performing, in the best possible manner, this important service, were this the whole of the service thought fit to be required at the hands of the individual, an extremely moderate annual salary, not more than ten or twenty times the expenditure of an individual whose severe and bodily labour is employed in the production of the money for the purchase and maintenance of these four-footed, and pre-eminently favoured subjects of a monarchy, would be sufficient. But, in this instance, good economy, in an additional shape, is found practicable and profitable. Instead of no more than ten or twenty times the salary necessary for the maintenance of an individual of the productively labouring class, let two hundred, or though it were but one hundred, times that amount, be allotted, individuals might in the very highest rank, next to that of the royal family, be found—individuals in multitudes, who, being in a state of constant appetency for such a place, and thence in a state of constant competition with each other, will thereby be placed in a state of equally constant and proportionably abject and corrupt obsequiousness. With relation to the corruptive influence, exercised with or without his caring or thinking anything about the matter, by the royal proprietor of these consecrated quadrupeds, so many as there are of these competitors, so many men are there whose votes, and in so far as they have the faculty of speech, their speeches, are in readiness to contribute to the fulfilment of the will, and the gratification of the correspondent appetite, of him, whom it is their ambition to be entitled to designate by the appellation of their royal master.
Thus much as to the effect in that house which is styled right honourable; but in some, if not all these instances, what will have place moreover is that, to these several superlatively, although it be but positively, noble persons, may appertain, through the medium of this or that borough, or of this or that county, a seat or seats, to the number of from two to ten, in that other House, so inferior in dignity, so superior in power, which in style and title, is no more than simply honourable. Of the appetites to which, in the case of the monarch, gratification is sought to be afforded, one, nor that the least voracious, is—that appetite or desire of esteem, respect, love, or at least the exterior evidences of them, true or false—that desire which, notwithstanding the complicatedness of its object, is in one word commonly designated by the appellation of pride. Proportioned to the depth to which the humiliation of the individual at whose expense this gratification is afforded descends, is the intensity of the gratification. But, proportioned to the antecedent elevation of this individual in the scale of dignity, natural or factitious, or both together, is the relative depth of the humiliation to which, on any given occasion, for any particular purpose, he is capable of lowering himself. By the holding of the bridle of a favourite horse, while the royal master is in the act of mounting—by this or any other act performed in the execution of his office, the utmost length of the descent, capable of being made by the man, the magnitude of whose salary was determined by no higher mark of value, than that which corresponded to the skill possessed and exercised by him, in the field of this particular office and profession, could not at the utmost, be any greater than that which corresponds to the difference between the pay of this official functionary, and the pay of an ordinary groom. But the amount of the pay which, in consideration of the exalted station occupied by the titled and most noble, though unskilled attendant upon horses, is ten times the amount of the pay which it would be convenient and advisable to give to the untitled but well-skilled functionary, and thereby a hundred times the amount of that which good economy would require to be given to the untitled and unskilled attendant.
The consequence is, that if as between the inward sensation and the external cause—between the quantity of actual gratification, and the quantity of the instrument of gratification—the proportion were correspondent, and kept pace,—the intensity of the gratification afforded to the royal rider, by the view of the humiliation submitted to by the most noble holder of the horse, would be ten times the amount of the gratification afforded to a most excellent king, by the view of the humiliation, if any, submitted to, by the untitled but well-skilled holder.
Thus it is that one and the same quantity of the matter of wealth, employed in waste—wasted in the vain endeavour to inject an additional quantity of happiness into a receptacle over and over again disabled from the capacity of receiving any more—this same quantity of wealth is employed to the three purposes at once, viz. gratification of the royal appetites, securing of corrupt obsequiousness, and the production of delusion.
In the case where production of corrupt obsequiousness was the object, the persons on whom the operation was performed were the subruling, influential, and opulent few, with no other addition than that of that comparatively small portion of the subject many, to whom the corruptive influence of these their superiors could be applied, for the purpose of producing correspondent corrupt obsequiousness. In the case of delusion, the persons on whom the effect is endeavoured to be produced, are, in addition to the subruling, the influential and the opulent few,—(for these are not less exposed to, nor less susceptible of, the delusion than the many)—the subject many, likewise,—in a word, the whole of the community without exception—the royal chief himself, by whom the benefit of the delusion was reaped in the greatest abundance, not excepted.
The opinion endeavoured to be inculcated in the case in question, is that the quantity of the matter of wealth so employed and produced, if not employed in the making a clear addition to the happiness of the greatest number, is employed at any rate to some other equally or superiorly proper purpose. Whatsoever be the quality or other thing designated by the word excellency, such is the excellence that belongs to them, (whether it be exaltation in the scale of virtue, public or private, or both; or exaltation in any other scale of still superior dignity—say, for example, piety,) that, whatsoever quantity of the matter of wealth, instead of being left in each instance at the disposal of those by whose labour and capital it has been produced,—is employed in the endeavour to afford additional gratification to the appetites of these same exalted persons, is employed in a manner more useful, more dignified, or on some other account, more laudable, than it would have been had it been left to pursue its original destination as above.
In regard to usefulness, (if so plain and vulgar an effect and quality were regarded as worth attending to,) it would lie on those by whom, on this ground, this diverting of the matter in question from its originally intended destination to this new one, were justified to prove it: but in regard to this quality, the existence of it, being altogether incapable of being proved, is of necessity and with the utmost composure assumed.
If ever the existence of it should be endeavoured to be proved, it would of necessity be in some such shape as this: the quantity of obsequiousness necessary to the production of good government, and thence, (if so pedantic, uncourtly, democratical, jacobinical, anarchical, and impious, a phrase be insisted upon,) the greatest happiness of the greatest number, is by means of the application thus made of the quantity in question of the matter of wealth, actually promoted: but as, if of that quantity of wealth no part at all were thus employed, civil society would not, to any effect, have existence, so by any and every defalcation made from the quantity of that precious matter thus applied, a proportionable defalcation from the quantity of happiness enjoyed by the greatest number, would be made.
To this latter assertion there are two answers.
One is—that it is a mere assertion altogether destitute of any ground, that ever has been attempted to be made, or, in the nature of the case is capable of being made good.
The other is—that such experience, as the nature of the case has been capable of furnishing, operates the whole of it, in contradiction to this same assertion. The political states by which this body of experience has been furnished, are the confederated body of the Anglo-American States: original number of them, at the time of their declaration of independence, thirteen: that number, by successive accessions, augmented to its present number, twenty-two or twenty-three. In no one of these has the matter of wealth, in any quantity whatsoever, been applied to the gratification of personal appetite in any shape; either to the person of the chief, or any other functionary; or to the purpose of producing by means of corruptive influence, corrupt obsequiousness; or to any purpose to which the appellation of delusion can with any propriety be applied. If in the situation of the chief functionary of the whole confederacy, the matter of wealth has in any quantity, been applied to any one of these purposes, so small is the utmost quantity that can be suspected of being so applied, that it can scarcely, with reference to any such subject as that in question, be spoken of, as worth notice.
The sources or modes, actual and customary, of wasteful expenditure, may be distinguished into two classes, having quantity for their mark of distinction,—viz. wholesale and retail. The wholesale may again be distinguished into those which are essential to the form of government and those which, howsoever congenial, are incidental to it.
The matter of wasteful expenditure, essential to the form of government is in the case of an absolute monarchy, the difference between the pay of the monarch and the least pay sufficient for the president of a representative democracy.
In the case of a limited monarchy, it is that same quantity with the addition of the quantity employed in the works of corruption and delusion, as already seen: corruption, applied more immediately to the representative of the people: delusion, applied more efficiently and needfully to the people themselves.
Pensions of retreat may be stated as being altogether needless: and to say that which is thus disposed of is given needlessly is to say that it is given in waste.
Allowances thus made may either be made with certainty, in virtue of general rules applied to all individual cases; or incidentally, for special cause assigned, in each individual case. To the first case, preferably at least, if not exclusively, apply the observations following.
Labour applied directly to a man’s own use, or indirectly in exchange for an equivalent given by an individual in return for it, is one source of subsistence: labour employed for an equivalent in the service of government, that is, of the public at large, is another source. In the first case, generally speaking, no such allowance of reward, after service has ceased, has place. In the case of him whose subsistence is derived from dealings with the public at large, as in the case of a wholesale or retail trader, a master-manufacturer, an artisan, or a manufacturer, it is impossible. In the case of habitual service, rendered by contract to an individual, there is no custom for it. The case of incapacity produced by age or disease, is a case equally open to expectancy in both instances. From the time of his embarking in his profit-seeking occupation, a man makes for all such contingencies such provision as his means enable him to make, and his prudence disposes him to make. For the securing to individuals any such extraordinary supply at the expense of the public, there is, if there be any difference, less demand in the case of an occupation pursued by the rendering of service to the public for hire, than in the case of him whose subsistence, as above, is derived from commercial dealings with individuals.
In the case of a public functionary, a man’s income is completely certain,—certain as to its existence, certain as to its quantity: in the other case, it is altogether uncertain in both respects.
Among profit-seeking occupations at large, there are those, to a great extent, in the whole, in which, by the nature of the occupation, men are exposed to the danger of ceasing to derive subsistence from that or any other source. With the single exception of military service by land or water, no such exposure has place in the case of public functionaries.*
First among the useless places, in addition to that of the monarch himself, is the whole of the establishment kept up for the service of the person of the chief functionary in a monarchy: kept up, as the phrase is, for the support of his dignity, the maintenance of the lustre of his crown, and the splendour of his throne.
The proof of the uselessness of this office may be seen, as already observed, in the peaceful and flourishing condition of the Anglo-American United States, in which, in the federal state, the pay of the chief functionary is no more than £6000 a-year: and it is rather by imitation and prepossession, it should seem, than by any clear proof or view of a real and adequate demand to that amount, that, in that instance, the allowance of so large a sum was determined.
Secondly, in every country in which the great body of the people profess to believe in the religion of Jesus, in any shape, the whole of the pay allotted at the expense of the subject-many, under the notion of pay for teaching it, and performing the ceremonies that have been attached to it. And note, that pay, produced by the occupation or rent of property in an immoveable shape, is so much extracted at the expense of the subject-many: for by applying that same money to the provision made for real exigencies—money to that same amount, and the suffering produced by the exaction of it might be spared.
Proof of the needlessness of such forced exactions, is the non-existence of any such system for the support of the catholic members of the ecclesiastical establishment in Ireland.
Proof that no such exactions are ordained by, or conformable to, the religion of Jesus—is, that no text in the New Testament is there to be found, speaking of him, as ordaining any such exaction: while various texts ordaining perfect equality, among all the professors of his religion, are to be found.
Pay of useless offices, pay of needless, overpay of useful offices, pay of sinecures, i. e. of places to which no duty is attached—these are the shapes in which, at the expense of the greatest happiness of the greatest number, money in excess is extracted from the people, for the benefit of public functionaries.
Remains, that source or mode of wasteful expenditure in the wholesale way which, howsoever congenial, is not essential to the form of government. These are—unnecessary wars, and distant, and thence preponderately expensive, dependencies.
In a representative democracy, unnecessary wars against foreign adversaries can scarcely have existence. For the sake of profit to the supremely ruling body, the people,—in whom is the power of appointment and removal with relation to the operatively ruling body, their representatives,—it is not possible, but what none of them can avoid seeing, is, that, with reference to the utmost possible profit capable of being reaped at the expense of the people of any other state, the expenditure that must be made is not only immediate and certain, but antecedent: as well as, in the ultimate result, greater. Upon their representatives, it is indeed that, in an immediate way, the engaging or not engaging in any such war, would depend. But that which, as above, would be manifest to the least reflecting of the two portions of the community—viz. constituents—would be still more manifest to the most reflecting of those same two bodies, their representatives: in their eyes, accordingly, of the engaging in any such unnecessary war, non-re-election,—that is removal, and with disgrace, would be the certain consequence.
Another conceivable cause of unnecessary war against foreign adversaries, is irritation. But, if not for the commencement, for the continuance, of a war considered as being thus produced, what is necessary, is—that, in the breasts of the majority of the people, hatred of others should be more strong and efficient than love of self. For a small portion of time, and on the part of a small proportion of the people, such predominance is at any rate conceivable. But, for any considerable portion of time, on the part of the majority of such a people, the nature of man considered, it does not seem possible.
In an absolute monarchy, the exemplification of this mode of wasteful expenditure will, of course, be frequent: frequent in proportion to the power the monarch possesses, or regards himself as possessing, with relation to the inhabitants of such states as are within his reach.
In the case of a limited monarchy, the practice will be still more frequent, the propensity still more incessant, and much more intense. For, in this case, whatsoever addition is made to the waste, is so much made to the instrument, the existence and use of which is necessary to this species of monarchy, viz. the corruption fund.
As to distant dependencies, comes to be considered the whole expense of the official establishment, and the aggregate of the stock or materiel employed in the maintenance of the power exercised over the inhabitants of territories so circumstanced.
When the expense of the military force by land and sea together, kept up for the defence of the distant dependency in question, is taken into account, it may be questioned whether, in the instance of any nation sending out a colony, the money extracted from it, and employed in lieu of so much money that would otherwise have been extracted by taxes from the inhabitants of the ruling country, has, in any instance, been so great as the expense. In general, the loss on this account has been prodigious.
Suppose, for example, that hitherto, in this or that instance, a colony has been a source of net profit to the ruling country. Still, it is not in the nature of the case that it should long continue so to be. Over the inhabitants of the dependency in question, power cannot be exercised,—from them such profit cannot be extracted, without manifest injury done to them, without manifest oppression exercised upon them. No sooner do they view the case in its true light, than they will resist the injury, and form a determination, and use endeavours to disburthen themselves of it. If, after this, the maintenance of the power of the ruling people, or rather of the rulers of the ruling people, is persevered in, here then is war, civil war: a war, the expense of which, increases with the distance between the country subject to the dominion, and the country which is the seat of it,—to say nothing of the misery caused by such a war.
Loans to foreign powers are another source of wasteful expenditure.
To go no farther back than the revolutionary war, all money thus obtained and disposed of may, with the most perfect truth, though obtained by extortion, be stated as obtained on false pretences—on pretences known by the obtainers to be false.
In fact, of the money thus lent, not a particle has ever been received back. It was not in the nature of the case that, in the minds of those by whom it was obtained, and thus disposed of, any expectation should have been entertained of receiving back any part of it. At the time when, under the name of a loan obtained by the foreign government from this government, the very cause and reason of its being so obtained was,—that from no resources of its own, from no subjects of its own, was it in the power of that foreign government to obtain it. By no degree of success, of which there could have been any tolerably well-grounded prospect, could the power of the foreign government to repay that money, have been increased. On the contrary, after any ordinary degree of success, that power could not but for a long time, have been diminished.
As to security, under the name of security, nothing having the effect of security was given, or could, by the foreign power in question, have been given. Of no portion of territory to serve as a security, was possession given to this government. Of no such portion of territory could any possession have been taken, accompanied with any possibility of raising money out of it, either in the shape of principal, or in the shape of interest, by contributions levied upon the inhabitants. If any such additional contributions could have been levied upon the inhabitants, they would have been levied with abundantly more facility, and abundantly less expense, by their own government than by this government. No such possession could have been kept by this government without a proportionable military force, paid by itself. Instead of reimbursement, the cost of keeping such possession would have been so much addition to the loss.
If, instead of what it was not, or intended to be, a loan, it had been named according to what it was, a subsidy, it would have been productive of two unpleasant effects: of an effect unpleasant to each of the two high contracting parties. To the Emperor of Austria it would have been humiliation: placing him, with no other difference than that occasioned by the difference in the state of society at the two periods, in the situation in which his ancestor, Maximilian, placed himself with relation to our Henry the Eighth. To the subject many in England, it would have displayed the true nature of the transaction, the very object which, for fear of that discontent which would have been so just, was, by this deceit, but too effectually concealed.
That there had not, on either part, been any such intention as, on both parts, was professed, was afterwards more fully confirmed and manifested by an eventual state of things which could not originally have been, on any rational grounds, anticipated. Upon the destruction of all power of resistance on the part of France, she being treated on the footing of a conquered country, was laid under contribution for the joint benefit of all parties to the conquest: garrisons paid by her being kept for a number of years in the country to secure the levying of it. By contributions levied in the manner of taxes, neither the whole of the money, nor any considerable part of it, could even thus, and upon a conquered enemy’s country, be levied. At length, however, in the way of loan, capital being received by the conquered government from its own subjects, on government annuities, payable out of additional taxes to be imposed, a part of the money originally stipulated was provided and distributed among the conquering governments. Here, then, was an occasion on which, had there been any intention of repayment, that intention might, could, and would, have been fulfilled. Instead of being sent to Vienna, the whole of the Austrian’s share might have been sent to London, or otherwise disposed of to the account of England. Was the whole or any part of it thus disposed of? Not a sixpence.
Hand in hand with waste, is to be found taxation.
Considerable must have been the difference between the quantities of evil produced by the different sorts of taxes resorted to, and the different degrees of mischievousness of those several taxes, even in the best governed state: still more in every other state, in proportion as it is ill governed. Of this inferiority in the scale of aptitude as applied to a tax, the cause may be seen partly in a deficiency in the article of appropriate intellectual aptitude, partly in a deficiency in the article of appropriate moral aptitude, on the part of the authors of the tax: in other words, in a want of wisdom and in a want of feeling: in the one case, if he produces so much needless suffering it is for want of knowing how to find another sort of tax that shall not produce so much of that undesirable result: in the other case, it is because so as the money is but produced to the treasury, he cares not how much suffering is produced elsewhere by it.
The general and utter absence of all real sensibility ought to be considered as a state of mind inseparable from the situation in question. If the financier professes to be in any degree afflicted by the sufferings of the people, in the character of taxable subjects—the fee-fed judge, by their sufferings in the character of suitors—the fee-fed advocate, by their sufferings in the character of clients, or the great military commander, by their sufferings in the character of soldiers or inhabitants of the theatre of war—the truth of such a profession is possibly not altogether without example; but the examples, if any, are so rare and so inconsistent with the ordinary constitution of human nature, that on the occasion of any such professions, no man can produce any just claim to general credence.
That which, in the situation in question, any man may, with reason, be considered as more or less sensible to—is any inconvenience to himself that may happen to present itself to him, as likely to be among the effects of the tax: the inconvenience, for example, producible by any opposition that may seem likely to be made, by any persons who consider themselves as likely to be in any way sufferers by it: to which, of course, will be to be added, if it be not implied, the inconvenience liable to be produced without doors, as well as within doors, by all parties out of place.
This is the evil by which the impression, if any, made on the mind of the financier, will, in reality, be produced: the evil, to the contemplation of which that impression will, of course, be ascribed by him, is the evil seen, or apprehended to be produced in the breasts of the contributors and other sufferers.
Be this as it may, what in every state ought to be expected, is, in the first place, that among the existing sorts of taxes there should be different degrees of mischievousness: in the next place, that the degrees of mischievousness should not exactly follow the chronological order of the taxes. To the perfection of appropriate intellectual aptitude on the part of the financier, suppose the perfection of appropriate probity added,—the degree of mischievousness will, on this supposition be in the inverse ratio of the chronological order of the different sorts of taxes, as first in time, will come the least mischievous,—last in time, the most mischievous.
Compare now the mischief of the waste with the mischief of the tax.
To obtain an adequate conception of the quantity of evil produced by a quantity of waste to a given amount, find and compare with it, the quantity of evil produced by the levying of a correspondent and equal portion of the most mischievous of all the existing taxes. For, on condition of abstaining from the commission of the waste, you may relieve the people from the burthen of that portion of the produce of the tax—you may abolish so much of the tax.
Note that, to render this rule strictly conformable to the truth, the quantity of waste abstained from, must be equal to the whole amount of the tax; for, in the case of a tax, there will always be a portion of evil, the quantity of which, will be the same, be the produce ever so great or ever so small. For example, a certain portion of the expense attached to the official establishment employed in the collection of it.
By the above general observations, the reader will now have been in some sort prepared for the forming a just estimate of the evil produced in the shape of waste, by various branches of customary expenditure, hitherto very commonly regarded as justifiable, either on the ground of absolute necessity, or, at any rate, on the ground of utility. Take, for example, the splendour of the crown, the support of the dignity of the peerage,—jobs for the enrichment of the ruling or influential few, and jobs for the amusement of the ruling and influential few.
[* ]If there were a case affording a proper exception to this rule, it should naturally be that of a man occupying a judicial office. One day the conversation happening to touch upon this subject, a distinguished functionary of the Anglo-American United States, mentioned to me as a case that had fallen within his own knowledge, that of a judge who, by a stroke of the palsy, had been reduced to a state of complete helplessness. Well: and what was the provision made for him? None at all: there was no fund for it. What?—no fund for such a case? No: for there is no need of it. No need of it? No: and thereupon came an intimation of the principle that has been seen in the text.