Front Page Titles (by Subject) PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION - Public Finance
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PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION - Charles F. Bastable, Public Finance 
Public Finance. Third Edition, Revised and Enlarged (London: Macmillan, 1903).
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PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION
In preparing this edition (which has been seriously delayed owing to pressure of other work) it has been my aim, while preserving the general character of the book, to give due place to the various recent contributions to financial theory and to the latest developments of fiscal policy in the leading countries of the world.
Thus, the discussions on the classification of public expenditure, the theory of minimum sacrifice as the principle for distribution of the public burdens, the controversies as to the division of taxation between countries with a common revenue system, as well as those on the rue principles of local taxation, have been noticed. So have the latest theories on the ever-recurring question of incidence. But though we must gladly recognise the increased interest that the revival of economic inquiry has attracted to the more abstract side of financial theory, it is yet essential to remember that the new matter is small in proportion to the body of pre-existing doctrine. There has been no fundamental change, but only that expansion which is characteristic of all scientific study. Hence the space allotted to the topics mentioned above has been rigidly restricted and their relation to the general system made as obvious as possible.
The movements of financial policy have been similarly treated. The new French inheritance taxes, the reform of direct taxation in Austria, the temporary duties in the United States for the purposes of the Spanish war, as well as the improvements which the same event has produced in Spanish finance, all these have found their natural place in the descriptive and historical notices of the several taxes. The most remarkable, and to English readers the most serious, of these practical developments has been the alteration in the direction of English financial policy brought about by the occasion of the South African war, but really due to a deeper cause, viz. the desire to secure what is described as a broader basis for taxation. Under the influence of this idea, urged by an influential section of public opinion and obtaining additional support from the protectionist party, the customs tariff has been first extended in the form of a revenue duty on sugar, accompanied by a return to the primitive policy of an export duty on coal, and followed by a trivial, but so far protective, tax on corn. These measures, when considered, as they should be, in connexion with the legislation on matters of economic policy of the past seven years, indicate a disposition on the part of the predominant political party to depart from the financial principles which have prevailed since 1860. This attempt, whatever be its fate, is one of great interest to the scientific student of finance. The success that has attended the financial measures of Peel and Gladstone, and the remarkable contrast between the position of Great Britain and that of other European states in respect to economic and financial conditions, suggest the belief that experiments such as the coal and corn duties are undesirable, while any great extension of the policy would be hazardous in the extreme.
But whether the general basis of the established English revenue system be retained or abandoned, it is beyond doubt that the growth of expenditure presents a grave problem for the future. In spite of warnings from responsible members of both parties, there has been an automatic increase in outlay that necessarily involves a heavier tax burden. No readjustment of taxes can give an escape from this result. The income of the citizen may, indeed, be attached directly, or by a series of indirect charges. The adoption of the latter method will not, however, reduce the amount of pressure; in some respects it will decidedly aggravate it. Prudent selection of the forms of taxation may afford some relief, just as mistaken choice will add to the loss, but speaking broadly, Ricardo's emphatic statement holds good that “the great evil of taxation is to be found not so much in any selection of its objects as in the general amount of its effects taken collectively” (Works, p. 88). It may be reasonably held that the future progress of Great Britain and of the British Empire will depend largely on the course that financial policy takes.
Of almost equal importance is the problem—or series of problems—presented by local finance. Expenditure and debt are both on the advance in the municipalities of the United Kingdom, and, if unchecked, will compel the adoption of new kinds of taxation or an appropriation of fresh fields of industry for municipal enterprise. In this case also there is need for that care and prudence which takes remote as well as immediate results into account and makes adequate allowance for risk. A full exhibition of national and local expenditure along with the corresponding debt figures does not produce a reassuring effect, especially when we consider the new claims that are from time to time arising. Firm financial administration and a wise economy of the public resources seem to be urgently needed in order to preserve the high reputation that British policy has won for itself. The great difficulty that has to be overcome is not the weakness of ministers, but negligence and want of knowledge on the part of the mass of the community. A better informed and more reasonable public opinion is an essential pre-requisite of financial as of all other reforms in the modern State.
C. F. BASTABLE.
January 31st, 1903