Front Page Titles (by Subject) 202.: THE BUDGET EXAMINER, 28 APR., 1833, PP. 258-9 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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202.: THE BUDGET EXAMINER, 28 APR., 1833, PP. 258-9 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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Though far from finished with French politics, Mill here reveals a growing tendency to concentrate on English affairs, as he did for the next five years, especially after the founding of the London Review in 1835. The details Mill mentions were given by Lord Althorp in introducing the budget on 19 Apr. (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 17, cols. 326-39). This leading article in the “Political Examiner” is headed as title. It is described in Mill’s bibliography as “An article headed ‘The Budget’ in the Examiner, of 28th April 1833” (MacMinn, p. 26). In the Somerville College set of the Examiner, it is listed as title and enclosed in square brackets (excluding the footnote), with two corrections: at 564.32 “that when” is altered to “that the time when”, and at 565.6 “wisdom as” is altered to “wisdom and”.
the position of a minister who is able to propose taking off taxes, is a most favourable one: it is hardly possible for him to avoid being popular; whatever he proposes is sure to pass, and to pass with extraordinary facility.
Commutation of taxes is quite another thing; often fully as important as abolition, but always excessively difficult to accomplish.
As much harm may be done by raising the necessary amount of revenue in a bad way, as even by raising an extravagant amount. For instance, the taxes on paper, on pamphlets, on foreign books,1 and on newspapers, impede the diffusion of knowledge;2 the tax on soap operates against cleanliness; the taxes on insurance are direct discouragements to prudence; the auction-duty is, in most cases, a tax on distress;3 the malt tax4 and the excise, in all its branches, necessitates vexatious regulations, which render production troublesome and expensive, and prevent the introduction of improved processes, thereby taking far more out of the pockets of the people than the amount of the revenue afforded to Government. Many other taxes are objectionable on account of the great expenses of their collection. We speak not at present of those which are unequally assessed; bearing hard upon the poor or the middle classes, and lightly on the rich; such as almost all the stamp duties, and the house and window taxes.
Now, let a tax be bad to any excess, if, in taking it off, it be necessary to impose a new one, the measure is almost sure to be unpopular: there is far greater clamour from the newly-taxed than gratitude from the newly-relieved. The latter personage has usually been proclaiming his grievance to the four corners of the world for years before, and he considers its removal as a tardy act of justice, wrung from the Minister by importunity, obtained only because it could no longer be refused, and for which he makes quite a sufficient return of thankfulness if he cease complaining. The party, on the contrary, upon whom the new tax is imposed, resents it as a wrong of the deepest dye; resents the unexpected addition to his burthens, and resents, above all, that he should be called upon to pay more to the State in order that another may pay less.
What follows? This, surely; that the time when there is a surplus revenue, when taxes are to be absolutely remitted, not merely commuted, is an opportunity which should be eagerly seized for weeding out the worst taxes, and getting rid of them for ever. That is the way to retrench to most advantage. The nation saves the tax, and it saves two or three times the tax in the moral or economical ills which were produced by the particular taxes she is enabled to extirpate. When you can reduce taxation itself, then is the time to get rid of bad modes of taxation; by which, still more than by the mere amount, taxation is injurious.
Have the Ministers thought of this? Not the least; equally deficient in worldly wisdom and in any higher kind, they have positively accomplished the marvel of remitting a million of taxes without gaining one particle of credit from anybody. They might have so managed their remissions that the country would save far more than the revenue would lose; they have so managed them that the country will not save one farthing more, if even so much. Except the trifling duty on tiles,5 they have not abolished a single tax. They have pared off a little from one and a little from another; leaving the expenses of collection undiminished, and removing none of the collateral evils even of the taxes which are lowered. Does any one suppose, for instance, that a slight diminution of that most immoral tax—on marine assurances, will be of any avail while the greater part remains? The reduction of the duty on soap is partially an exception to this part of our censure, if, as Lord Althorp affirms, it will put a stop to the illicit manufacture; but this is still a problem. There is probably no one individual in the community who will feel in this reduction of taxes any sensible relief; who will be conscious of having five shillings in his pocket which he would not otherwise have had:—we mistake; we ought to except Mr. Warren, Messrs. Goss and Co.,6 and other frequent advertisers, who will grow rich upon even so small a reduction of the advertisement duty, especially if the plan be persevered in of making the reduction greater in proportion to the repetition of the same advertisement.7 The landlords, too, of the London shopkeepers may have reason to be thankful to Lord Althorp for an increase of their rents, if, as is by no means improbable, that portion of the house and window taxes which is to be remitted in favour of their tenants, will go into their already well-filled pockets.
A reduction, less called for than that of the extra tax on the importation of raw cotton, scarcely could have been found.8 Some nonsense was talked by Mr. Baring and others about the advantage of this remission to our export trade;9 but, surely, in cottons, if in any thing, we have little to fear from foreign rivalry; and besides, the duty might be (we believe it already is) drawn back on exportation.
With the amount of remission which the Ministers had decided upon, they might have entirely abolished the stamp duty on newspapers, the taxes on fire and marine insurances, on pamphlets and foreign books, the auction duty, and perhaps the duty on soap. By equalizing the duties on foreign and colonial timber, which with their present large majority* they could surely accomplish, though a Tory manoeuvre defeated their former attempt to approximate to such an equalization,10 they might have raised, as has been shown again and again, an additional million on timber without any increase of burthen, and with that they might have dispensed with the tax on paper and the tax on bricks11 or glass. By equalizing the house tax and fairly assessing the houses of the rich, they might have got rid of the window tax entirely. By equalizing the stamp duties they might have raised as large a revenue as at present with less pressure on the middle classes.
[1 ]The most recent tax on foreign books was included in 6 George IV, c. 111 (1825).
[2 ]For details, see No. 177, n2.
[3 ]19 George III, c. 56 (1779), Sect. 5.
[4 ]See No. 301 for Mill’s discussion of the malt tax, most recently regulated by 11 George IV and 1 William IV, c. 17 (1830).
[5 ]Repealed by 3 William IV, c. 11 (1833).
[6 ]Robert Warren, 30 Strand, maker of shoe blacking, and Goss and Co., 11 Bouverie St., purveyors of mail order cures for syphilis and debility of the nervous system; both advertised frequently in the newspapers. See, e.g., Examiner, 13 Jan., 1833, p. 32 (Warren), and ibid.,20 Jan., 1833, p. 48 (Goss).
[7 ]3 & 4 William IV, c. 23 (1833); there was no reduction for bulk advertising.
[8 ]Reduced by 3 William IV, c. 10 (1833).
[9 ]Alexander Baring, Speech on Supply (19 Apr.), PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 17, cols. 351-9; and Robert Peel, Speech on Supply (19 Apr.), ibid., cols. 342-6.
[* ]In print before the division of Friday night. [In divisions on 26 Apr., the government lost by twenty-eight and ten votes (PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 17, cols. 689 and 716).]
[10 ]On 18 Mar., 1831; for earlier discussion, see Nos. 86 and 195.
[11 ]Imposed by 34 George III, c. 15 (1794).