Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter two: The First Right of the Governed with Regard to Taxation - Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments
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chapter two: The First Right of the Governed with Regard to Taxation - Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments 
Principles of Politics Applicable to a all Governments, trans. Dennis O’Keeffe, ed. Etienne Hofmann, Introduction by Nicholas Capaldi (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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The First Right of the Governed with Regard to Taxation
The government, having to provide for the internal defense and external security of the State, has the right to ask individuals to sacrifice a portion of their substance to defray the expenses which the accomplishment of these duties necessitates.
The governed have the right for their part to demand of the government that the sum of all taxes does not exceed what is necessary for the purpose it must attain. This condition can be fulfilled only by political arrangements which put limits on the demands and thereby on the prodigality and greed of the governors. Traces of such arrangements can be found in the institutions of the most untrammeled monarchies, such as most of the German principalities or the hereditary States of the House of Austria; and the principle is solemnly recognized by the French constitution.1
 The details of these arrangements are not within our purview, yet I think one observation must not be omitted.
The right to say yea or nay to taxes can be considered from two viewpoints, as a limit on government or as a tool of financial economy. It has been said a thousand times that a government being unable to wage war, or even survive domestically, without its necessary expenses being defrayed, the ability to refuse taxes puts into the people’s hands or into those of their representatives, a most efficacious weapon, which, used bravely, empowers them to make the government not just keep the peace with its neighbors but also respect the freedom of the governed. Those reasoning thus forget that what seems at first glance compelling at the theoretical level is often impossible practically. When a government has begun a war, even an unjust one, to deny it the resources to sustain it is not to punish only the government but also the nation, innocent of its faults. It is the same with refusing taxation on the grounds of domestic malpractices or harassment. The government indulges in despotic acts. The legislative body thinks it can be disarmed if no monies are voted. Even supposing, however, which is difficult, that in this extreme crisis everything happens constitutionally, on whom will this struggle rebound? The influence of the executive will secure it temporary wherewithal, in funds already put at its disposal, in loans from those who, profiting from its favors or even its injustices, will not wish it reversed, and from yet further people who, believing it will win, will be speculating in its present requirements. The first victims will be lower-grade workers, entrepreneurs of all types, the State’s creditors, and as a side effect the creditors of all these groups. Before the government succumbs or gives way, all private wealth will have been badly hit. The result will be universal hatred of Parliament, which the government will accuse of all the personal privations of citizens. The latter will not examine the reason for Parliament’s resistance and without giving their attention, amid their hardship, to questions of law or political theory, they will blame it for their indigence and misfortune.
The right to reject taxation is not, then, on its own, a sufficient  guarantee for the curbing of excessive executive power. We can consider this right as an administrative means of ameliorating the nature of the taxes or as an economizing device for diminishing their volume. For Parliaments to be able to protect liberty, however, there have to be many other prerogatives. A nation can have so-called representatives endowed with this illusory right and yet be groaning the while in the most complete slavery. If the body charged with this function does not enjoy great prestige and independence, it will become the agent of the executive power, and its assent will be only a vain and illusory formula. For the freedom to vote on taxation to be other than a frivolous ceremony, political freedom must exist in its entirety, just as in the case of the human body, all the parts must be healthy and well constituted if the functions of a given one are to take place regularly and fully.
[1. ]In Proclamation VII of the Constitution of an XII, Article 53 we find: “The oath of the Emperor is understood as follows: ‘I swear never to levy any taxation, never any tax, save in observance of the law.’”