Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter five: How Taxation Becomes Contrary to Individual Rights - Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments
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chapter five: How Taxation Becomes Contrary to Individual Rights - 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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How Taxation Becomes Contrary to Individual Rights
Taxes become contrary to individual rights when by definition they authorize the harassment of citizens. One example is Spain’s Alcavala, which enforces its duties on the sale of all things, transferable or fixed, each time they change hands.
Taxes also become contrary to individual rights when they bear on objects which are easy to hide from the knowledge of the authority charged with their collection. In aiming the tax against objects which are easily purloined, you make visits and inquisitions necessary. You are led to demand from the citizens spying and reciprocal denunciations. You reward these shameful actions and your tax falls into the category of those which are inadmissible because their collection is morally harmful.
It is the same with taxes so high they invite fraud. The ease, more or less great, with which an object can be kept from the knowledge of the authorities, is constituted by material facility, which can derive from the nature of the object, and by the interest people have in such concealment. When profits are considerable they can be divided among more hands and the cooperation in the fraud of a greater number of agents makes up for any physical difficulty the collecting agent would have been able to count on. When the object the tax bears on does not permit this kind of evasion, the tax sooner or later annihilates the branch of business or the type of transaction on which it presses. It must, then, be rejected as contrary to the rights of property or industry.
It is obvious that individuals have the right to limit their consumption according to their means and wills and to forgo objects they do not want to consume or cannot do so.  Consequently, indirect taxes become unjust when instead of resting on voluntary consumption, they are based on enforced consumption. What was odious about the gabelle, which was so absurdly intended to blend in with the salt tax, was its ordering citizens to consume a given quantity of this commodity. This harassment excited in them a just and natural indignation against a government which prescribed their lives even to the extent of needs they ought to have.
To establish a tax on a commodity, one should never forbid industry or an individual establishment6 to produce that commodity, as formerly happened in some parts of France, in relation to salt, and as happens in several European countries today in relation to tobacco. This is a manifest violation of property and an unjust harassment of industry. To secure compliance with these interdictions severe penalties are required, and these penalties prove repulsive both for their severity and their iniquity.
Indirect taxes must bear as little as possible on commodities which are basic necessities, otherwise all their advantages disappear. The consumption of these commodities is not voluntary. It does not fit itself to the situation or proportion itself to the wealth of the consumer.
It is not true, as has too often been said, that taxes on basic necessities, by making them dearer, increase the price of labor. On the contrary, the more expensive commodities needed for subsistence are, the more the need to work grows. The competition of those whose labor is on offer exceeds the demand from employers and the price of labor falls, at the very moment it should be better paid so that workers can live. Taxes on basic necessities produce the same effect as years of sterility and dearth.7
There are taxes which are easy to collect and yet have to be rejected because they tend directly to the corruption and perversion of men. No tax, for example, is so pleasurably paid as the lottery. Government needs no coercive force to guarantee the collection of this revenue. But lotteries, offering a way to wealth which does not derive from industry, work, and prudence, throw into people’s calculations the most dangerous sort of disorder. The many opportunities delude people over the improbability  of winning. The cheapness of the betting encourages repeated attempts. Trouble, financial embarrassment, ruin, and crime are the results. The lower orders of society, victims of the seductive dreams with which they are intoxicated, commit crimes against the property within their reach, deluding themselves that a favorable outcome will permit them to hide their baseness by correcting it. No fiscal logic can justify institutions which entail such consequences.
From the fact that individuals have the right to demand that the way taxes are collected be the least onerous possible for those who pay them, it follows that governments must not adopt an essentially oppressive and tyrannical mode of administration in this matter. I want to speak about the practice of contracting out collection. This puts the governed at the mercy of certain individuals who do not have even as much interest as the government in treating them considerately. It is to create a class of men who, sanctioned by the force of law and supported by government, whose cause they seem to uphold, daily invent new harassments and call for the most sanguinary measures. Tax farmers in all countries are, so to speak, the natural representatives of injustice and oppression.8
[6. ][Constant says propriété (property), where English would expect proprietor (propriétaire). Translator’s note]
Adam Smith, op.cit., t. III, p. 81.
Adam Smith, op. cit., t. IV, pp. 450–451. Smith here asserts that it is never advantageous to subcontract taxation. Charles Ganilh, op. cit., t. II, p. 449: “It seems to me that if one wished to harmonize the interests of public revenue with the security of taxpayers, then only the lower tax officials should be concerned with the volume of revenue, while the superiors should be accorded only salaries sufficient to purchase talent and even satisfy ambitions.”