Front Page Titles (by Subject) 6.: A Restrictive System - Tyranny Unmasked
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6.: A Restrictive System - John Taylor, Tyranny Unmasked 
Tyranny Unmasked, ed. F.Thornton Miller (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1992).
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A Restrictive System
The Committee, as usual, make new data for new doctrines. They say,
the same measures may acquire a good or bad character, as they may be called a system of revenue or restriction. Impost, as a means of taxing the consumption of the country, for the support of government; prohibition, for the purpose of creating and maturing the subjects of an excise, are fiscal measures. Taking England as an example, and asking ourselves by what other means she could, from a small population, extract as large a revenue as would keep in operation the immense machinery of her mighty empire, we must admire it as a masterly effort of human policy. With less than double our number, she meets an expenditure 50,000,000£ by the receipts of her treasury. Her corn-laws revenue, and commercial systems, tend to the same great object. The former is the basis of the land and income tax; the latter of excise and customs.
That is, the English policy throughout, is contrived for effecting only the end of taxation. I have met with many persons as wise, honourable, and worthy, as the gentlemen who composed the Committee probably are (for I have not the pleasure of an acquaintance with them) who have eulogized the English system almost as highly as the Committee have repeatedly done, but yet much as I admired the men, I could not concur with them. Our opinions are moulded by so many different circumstances, not to be traced even by the party himself, that it is impossible for one individual, to carry back those of another up to their sources. Favourite projects, local views, popular temptations, or a love of distinction, may sometimes mould even the opinions delivered in grave and patriotick legislative bodies; but the Committee have vindicated themselves against the suspicion of any such inferiour motives, by avowing their affection for those charming features of the English policy, which have enabled the government to expend fifty millions of sterling pounds annually. An enormous revenue extracted from a small population, by means of corn laws, commercial restrictions, land tax, income tax, excise and customs, is the mistress whom they adore, as a masterly effort of human policy. In my eyes, this beauty of theirs, appears to be a painted courtezan, who corrupts and plunders her admirers; and though we cannot account for different tastes, that especially called love, it seems impossible to discern even a probability that the United States will gain an addition of present or future happiness, by divorcing the healthy and chaste country girl whom they first espoused, and of whose integrity and frugal management they boasted for thirty years, to marry a second-hand town lady, so diseased and ulcerated, that the English people are heartily willing to part with her. The Committee, indeed, blinded by love, like a zealous and deluded cully, have selected a feature of their mistress, so beautiful as in their opinion to hide all her sores; and are transported by her enormous extravagance and taxation, as a masterly effort of human policy. One man often loathes what another loves. In my view, this is the most hateful feature of her whole countenance. Yet the taste of the Committee is not original. It is that of all the European and oppressive governments in the world. Taxation is, they believe, the end of government; and they concur with a distinguished American statesman in believing, that governments have occasion for all the people can pay. Hence, the system of the Committee is, to discipline the people of the United States into a patient sufferance of this doctrine.
The Committee have not only suppressed the disgust of the European people, for the mistress adored by their governments, but, in the phrenzy of their adoration, they have lavished upon her contradictory eulogies. To amaze us the more with the masterly policy of enormous expenditure and taxation, they tell us that the latter is extracted from a small population, not double of our own. Yet they tell us also, that the British empire is a mighty one. Is it true that this mighty empire contains only the population described? I had thought that the British Asiatic possessions alone, contained more than double our population, independent of other populous dependencies. Or is it true that these provinces contribute nothing towards British revenue? I had thought that Britain considered them as her best cows, and milked them with care and skill. If a man worshipped the devil, in commenting on his religion, I would give the devil his due, but not more than his due. I would not flatter him because he was powerful. Do not the Committee flatter the British government by attributing to it the masterly policy of drawing fifty millions sterling from a population not double of ours? Or was the compliment exaggerated to increase the censure upon our own, for being so unskillful in expenditure and taxation. I shall hereafter endeavor to show, that it does not deserve the reproach, and that it has been no mean adept in this masterly policy. However this may be, the parallel plainly proposes an object of emulation. If to draw two hundred millions of dollars annually from a population not twice as numerous as ours, is a masterly policy, the Committee insinuate that our governments are dishonoured, unless they draw above one hundred millions from a population more than half as numerous, by adopting the same policy. But in borrowing the English exclusive-privileges, bounties, monopolies and extravagance, to rival them in taxation, we must borrow also their provinces, or fail in the competition. These are made to feed their exclusive-privilege bounties and extravagance, but the same devourers here, must be fed by domestick labour only. Reforming the comparison by these considerations, our governments in a combined view, can hardly be convicted of less sagacity than the British, in the masterly policy of transferring property from productive to unproductive labour.
Is it benevolence or tyranny to fleece the people of all they can pay? If it may be called a masterly policy, who are entitled to the compliment, the payers or receivers; the ingenious inventors, or the foolish sufferers? Caesar, Cromwell, and Bonaparte may also be called masterly politicians, but the eulogy to them, is a censure upon the nations they enslaved. What can be more disgraceful to the understanding of a nation, than a recommendation to submit to an oppressive system, that it may compliment its oppressors with the epithet masterly? Let exclusive privileges and governmental extravagance take your property by a masterly policy, as conquerors do by a masterly army, and it will make you a great nation, and turn you into a mighty empire. The term is an unlucky one, and the Committee, conscious that the people were not quite ripe for creating these rich British masters, have formally renounced a predilection for foreign opinions. They only recommend the essential principles of foreign tyrannies in the strongest terms, and propose their adoption for domestick use because they constitute a masterly policy.
National defence is the usual pretext for the policy of fleecing the people. Even contiguous governments might maintain a comparative degree of strength as well by frugality, as by extravagance and oppressive taxation. These are so far from being suggested by national defence, that taxation, however enormous, is uniformly swallowed by individual avarice, and nothing is laid by, even in times of peace, to meet the dangers, as a precaution against which it is pretended to be inflicted. The treasure extorted beyond the line of honest frugality, is uniformly diverted from the end of defending, to that of transferring property. What is still worse, the pretext of defending nations by oppressive taxation, defeats its object by its means. It weakens nations by indisposing the inhabitants of a country to defend it. And why should they, if this masterly policy already takes from them as much as they can pay? No conqueror or tyrant can take more. Common sense sees no difference between tyrants; and patriotism is neutralized and torpid, when victory promises no good. In our case, nature having exploded the usual pretext for oppressive taxation, drawn from the contiguity of tyrannies, a new one is ingeniously invented. It is said that though we have no neighbors to conquer us, yet we ought to subject ourselves to this masterly policy of extravagance, exclusive privileges, and excessive taxation, to preserve our independence against the dismal aggression of selling us comforts cheap, and the pernicious abuse of buying or not, according to our own judgments.
I have overlooked the first answer given by the Committee to the objection. They have endeavored to make it a mere question of terms. Protecting duties, they say, are not restrictive; they are only a system of revenue. “As an impost, they are a tax for the support of the government; as prohibitory, they are only a fiscal measure for the purpose of creating and maturing the subjects of an excise.” The conclusion is, that no commercial restrictions at all can exist, provided they are called a system of revenue; and having obtained this conclusion by a change of words which cannot change the nature of things, they instantly contend that such restrictions are necessary for creating and maturing the subjects of an excise, preparatory to the introduction of the English masterly system of human policy. A very few definitions would settle the whole debate. If we could only ascertain what monopolies, exclusive privileges, commercial restrictions, and protecting duties were, it would be easy to understand the subject. If they are shadows, or if each is a Proteus, they cannot be seized by any argument. A scarcity, for instance, artificially produced, by which people are enabled to obtain higher prices than they could otherwise have done, has hitherto been considered as a monopoly. Those to whom this monopoly is given, have hitherto been considered as receiving an exclusive privilege. And protecting duties have hitherto been thought clearly distinct from an impost for the support of government; because, if the government receives an impost, domestick manufactures are not protected against the competition of foreign, however their price maybe enhanced by it. For want of definitions the Committee seem to me to have made a hot-bed, by mingling up a confusion of terms, and sown in it the seeds of oppression and tyranny.