Related Links in the Library:
Source: Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 3 Oath - Zollverein Chapter: REVENUE, PUBLIC
Copyright: The text is in the public domain.
Fair Use: This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Hidden within the massive Lalor's Cyclopedia are some essays by important economists such as the American Francis Amasa Walker (1840-1897). Walker was an economics professor at Yale University, and served as president of the American Statistical Association and American Economic Association, and for a time, MIT. (He was also a general during the Civil War.) In his work, he is generally credited with having demolished the “wages fund” theory by sorting out the roles of rent, wages, and profits, paving the way for John Bates Clark. He had particular interests in the organization of the firm, the role of the entrepreneur, monetary theory, and bimetallism. His Political Economy (1887) was one of the most widely used textbooks of the 19th century prior to Marshall. We have reproduced his essays from Lalor's Cyclopedia here in The Forum.
- REVENUE, PUBLIC—FRANCIS A. WALKER.
- WAGE FUND, THE—FRANCIS A. WALKER
- WAGES—FRANCIS A. WALKER
REVENUE, Public. Finance is declared by Bentham to be "an append and inseparable accompaniment of political economy." Economists are, however, divided in their opinions regarding the closeness and the legitimacy of this connection. Joseph Garnier remarks, that certain writers of general treatises on political economy have not even touched the subject: Malthus, Skarbek, Senior, and James Mill. Others have only dealt with it in a highly summary manner: Sismondi, Rossi, Storch, Cherbuliez, Courcelle-Seneuil and Stuart Mill, while treating the subject very briefly, have yet pointed out and discussed the fundamental questions of finance. Adam Smith, continues M. Garnier, devoted to this subject a fourth of his "Wealth of Nations." J. B. Say has given a like proportion of his "Treatise" and of his "Course" in political economy to the causes and effects of the public consumption of wealth. He did not, however, examine, as Smith had done, the different kinds of taxes. Ricardo has entitled his chief work, "The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation"; but that which relates to finance, proper, occupies no more than a fourth of his work. McCulloch has not treated of financial questions in his political economy, but has discussed them in a separate treatise, giving to them a very full consideration. Rau has, likewise, treated separately that which M. Garnier calls "this important branch of political economy."
—The causes which have thus led to the exclusion of finance from formal treatises on political economy, or to its very slight and partial recognition therein, may be stated as follows: First, According to the most frequent classification of the subject, the revenue of the state falls into that one of the old-fashioned "departments" of political economy, which is known as "consumption." The tendency of the writers of the present and of the last generation has been to omit all consideration of the consumption of wealth, whether as to its objects or as to its effects. Secondly, The revenue of the state falls outside the sphere of contract, which would be a sufficient reason for omitting to take note of it, in the case of the school of writers who make political economy to be purely "the science of exchanges." As Dr. Sturtevant remarks, "The wages of government are not determined by economic laws; it receives whatever it demands. In some cases it takes the position of a partner, and accepts for its compensation a certain percentage of the profits; but that share is not determined by an agreement between the partners, but by the will of this one partner." Thirdly, and chiefly, considerations purely political always enter in a great degree, and often in a controlling degree, into the decision of questions relating to the collection of public revenue. The statesman, as financier, may legitimately ask, not which is the best tax, or the most economical mode of assessment, but which is the most politic. He not only may, he must, consult the temper and habits of his people. He must consider the times and the circumstances, quite as heedfully as he does the normal operation of economic laws. Even the special race-quality imparted by descent must be respected in the collection of public revenue. "A land tax," wrote Sir James Steuart, in the last century, "excites the indignation of a Frenchman; an excise that of an Englishman." Thomas Jefferson observed a corresponding difference in the susceptibilities of the northern and the southern portions of this country, in his day. "In most of the middle and southern states," he says, "some land tax is now paid into the state treasury; and, for this purpose, the lands have been classed and valued, and the tax is assessed according to that valuation. In these, an excise is most odious. In the eastern states land taxes are odious; excises, less unpopular."
—M. de Parieu, in his monumental work on "Taxation," thus expresses a striking characteristic difference between the Teutonic and the Latin nations in enduring taxes on property and income: "While countries inhabited by the pure Germanic race, or by its principal branches, Germany, Scandinavia, Great Britain and North America, support almost universally taxes of this kind, the financial history of the Neo-Latin peoples has made us acquainted with but a small number of isolated applications, temporary or abortive, of such a rule of contribution. Even in Switzerland, a country of mixed race, the field of general taxes upon property and income appears, with the exception of Geneva, to be confined within the frontiers which circumscribe the German race and language. This difference of moral aptitude in relation to the taxes under discussion, which appears in comparison of the Germanic and the Latin races, whether from history or from contemporary statistics, long since attracted the attention of certain Italian publicists. Machiavelli, Botero and Braggia have mentioned German customs in this regard as exceptional. * * That which characterizes the methods of applying general taxes to property and income, is the necessity of a certain degree of loyalty, patience, and even of spontaneity, among the tax payers. "Is it not," continues M. de Parieu, "easy to understand that, following the analogy of individuals, some nations may present, relatively to others, the character of greater sincerity, of a greater disposition spontaneously to burden themselves, and of a greater patience when in contemplation of a right object? Is it inconsistent with our observation of manners and morals to acknowledge that certain populations possess, with a temperament more cold, a stronger infusion of that natural sense of justice, so necessary in the application of an income tax equally among the contributors summoned to declare their fortunes, and among the assessors charged with supervising and correcting these declarations? I could not," he concludes, "assert that there is among the Germanic peoples more of authority or of liberty than among the Neo-Latin peoples. What seems certain is, that authority and liberty are there distributed and understood in a different manner. The Germanic peoples appear to accept more easily than do the Neo-Latins, authority coming close to the individual, at the hearth of the family, in the town or near at hand."
—It will readily appear that differences in race aptitudes for taxation, such as those indicated by M. de Parieu, may not only control the forms of assessment or contribution, as between one community and another, but may have power to appreciably affect the proportion of the aggregate income of a community which the treasury can command, whether for ordinary public purposes or in the great exigencies of state. Of two nations of equal wealth, one may, through the stronger sense of justice native in its people, through an excess of loyalty and spontaneity in the support of the government, possess a fiscal force twice or thrice that of the other.
—It is not, however, alone differences of a moral nature which affect the relative fiscal force of communities. Differences in the prevailing occupations of the people, in the rapidity of circulation, and in the distribution of wealth, irrespective of its aggregate amount, may have important effects upon the power of the treasury to secure contributions to public uses. In a commercial or manufacturing nation, where capitals are concentrated, and where nearly the whole body of the annual product becomes the subject of exchange, perhaps is even exchanged several successive times between the hands of the producer and those of the consumer, the government can command a far higher proportion of the aggregate income of the people than can be done in a purely agricultural state.
—But while considerations like the foregoing may properly enter to influence the views of the financier, in matters which can hardly be termed matters of detail, the essential subjection of the fiscal interests of the treasury to the economic interests of the community, can never safely be disregarded. Mr. R. H. Patterson, in his "Science of Finance," justly says, paraphrasing in his final sentence Burke's remark about justice as the great standing policy of nations, that "the statesman may, for reasons such as have been intimated, deal with the collection and disbursement of revenue on methods somewhat different from those which the strict application of economical principles would require; but it must always be as a conscious deviation from a right rule. He must never go very far from principles, or remain long away. Else, his policy will prove no policy at all." Mr. Patterson adds, as justly as piquantly, "there are many things in the world which have the knack of being as broad as they are long; and this is peculiarly the case with state finance."
—Taxes and public revenue are commonly used as interconvertible terms, and in popular speech, or for the purposes of approximate statement, this is well enough. Yet for scientific purposes, or in any careful survey of the fiscal history of a country, or in a comparative statement of the fiscal resources of two or more nations, the public revenue may include something more than, perhaps something very far in excess of, the aggregate of all sums received into the treasury as the result of official assessment and of compulsory collection. Among these may be named the sums received by gift or voluntary contribution of citizens, the value, known or estimated, of all prerogatives or privileges of requisition or of purveyance, respecting services or supplies, together with a fair rental of all domains, buildings or other property occupied or used for public purposes.
—The revenue of France, for instance, during the present year, when properly stated, will include, in addition to the actual receipts into the treasury, the market value of the services rendered by some hundreds of thousands of citizens of the republic, as soldiers under the conscription act, over and above that which the state actually pays as wages to these involuntary servants. This last item is of enormous consequence in all countries having a compulsory military system. Indeed, this, which by some has been called "the blood tax," is by far the greatest of all the taxes of modern times. Were it necessary for France, Germany or Russia to go into the market for labor, and pay wages sufficient to induce men, to the number of its present soldiery, to enter its service voluntarily, the expenses of the government would be enormously increased, probably to the result of early fiscal bankruptcy. It is fairly matter of question whether any one of the countries named could, by the utmost exertion of the power of taxation, short of producing universal revolt, raise money enough to hire the services of its existing army. Yet the market value of these services clearly belongs to the revenue of the state, whether those services are obtained by payments out of the treasury, or through an exertion of legal authority in the form of conscription; while it is certain that the cost of those services to the people, obtained as they are by abruptly and violently withdrawing from industry and trade that number of workers, many of them of the higher grades of intelligence, and occupying positions of responsibility, is vastly greater than would be involved in obtaining an equal number of equally good soldiers through solicitation and voluntary enlistment. In like manner, if the government of France exercises rights of requisition or purveyance through officials, high or low, as to supplies, whether for peace or war, the amount saved to the treasury thereby, through avoiding purchase in an open market, is properly to be included in an account of the public revenue. In a word, the revenue of any state, for any given year, is constituted of each and every valuable thing which is, in that year, applied to governmental purposes.
—A classification of the several principal sources of public revenue has long been a desideratum. No such scheme could be free from objection, and many a scheme may, in some one respect, possess an advantage over that scheme which is, as a whole, the best. The following classification will be observed in this article: Sources of Public Revenue. I. Voluntary contributions. II. Public property, lucrative prerogatives and state enterprise. 1, rent charges in favor of the state, as the proprietor of all lands; 2, escheat; 3, fines and forfeitures for criminality and delinquency; 4, tributes from colonies, dependencies and conquered nations, including war fines, requisitions and indemnities; 5, sale of offices, honors and titles; 6, domains (L'état capitaliste); 7, state enterprise (L'état entrepreneur). III. Quasi taxes. 1, monopolies; 2, lotteries; 3, purveyance of supplies, and requisition of services; 4, fees; 5, seigniorage on coin; 6, paper money. IV. Taxation, in its various forms. Taxes may be assessed, 1, on the basis of realized wealth, commonly spoken of as capital; 2, on the basis of annual income or revenue; 3, on the basis of faculty, or native and acquired power of production; 4, on the basis of expenditure, or the individual consumption of wealth. Exemption from taxation may be claimed, 1, for noble and privileged classes; 2, for clerical persons and religious orders; 3, for charitable and educational institutions; 4, for the poorer classes of the community, either through the omission from assessment of a certain minimum income, or through an ascending scale of taxation upon higher incomes (progressivity in taxation). Taxes may be collected, 1, in services, 2, in products; 3, in money. Taxes are commonly, in discussion, divided as, 1, direct; 2, indirect. This distinction, however, is of only very general use, it being impossible to distribute the taxes actually levied in any state, under these two heads, without great confusion and much manifest error. The French writers further divide direct taxes into, 1, taxes de répartition, of which the produce is certain and known in advance; 2, taxes de quotité, of which the produce can not be known in advance, and varies with external conditions.
—The following classification of taxes, made by M. De Parieu, according to the objects they reach, or at least upon which they are assessed, is believed to be the most convenient and useful: 1. Les impóts sur les personnes, ou capitations—Taxes upon persons, or poll taxes; 2. Les impóts sur la richesse, ou sur la possession des capitaux et revenues—Taxes upon wealth, or upon the possession of capital or income; 3. Les impóts sur les jouissances—Taxes upon use or occupation [corresponding very closely to the English assessed taxes on carriages, horses, windows, lodgings, etc.]; 4. Les impóts sur les consommations—Taxes upon consumption; 5. Les impóts sur les actes —Taxes upon transactions [sales, etc.] Of these five classes, M. de Parieu remarks, that the first three approximately conform to the general definition of direct taxes, the last two being indirect. Of the first group, taxes upon wealth, and of the second group, taxes upon consumption, are at once most characteristic and the most important. These constitute "the two poles of the general system of taxation."
—Having offered the foregoing classification of the sources of public revenue, we will proceed to speak briefly of each.
—I. Voluntary Contributions. It is difficult for the man of the present age to conceive of the state as supported by voluntary contributions; yet not only were these once, in theory, almost the sole resource of the ruler, except through personal services; but they, in fact, survive to this day, in a few isolated communities, in the form of the self-assessment of the citizen. To go no farther back than the feudal days, in England, while the chief military support of the kingdom was afforded by the muster of the vassals, it was the fiction of the law, that, so far as aids and subsidies were concerned, the tax payer made a voluntary offering to relieve the wants of the prince; and that the promise of a tax bound only the individual who made it. It was the practice of bringing personal property and income under contribution, which gave rise to the idea that taxation and representation must go together, and caused the formal grant of money. At the beginning of the system of poor relief, in the early years of Elizabeth, collections were taken in churches, and each person was left to be the judge of what for him constituted "a reasonable contribution."
—The papal revenues, also, may perhaps be brought under this head. The pope was by far the greatest capitalist of the middle ages. The British parliament at one time declared that the contributions made by their people to the pope were five times as great as those made to the sovereign.
—Adam Smith cites Hamburgh, Basle, Zurich, Unterwald and Holland, among the communities where the self-valuation of the citizen was still, in his day, accepted. Riesbeck, in his "Travels in Germany," says of the first named city, "some taxes are voluntary, and the burghers have the right to put what they think their quota into the purse, which is shut, and the deputies dare not open it in their presence." Even within a few years there have remained free cities in Germany and cantons in Switzerland, where the rule of voluntary contribution still subsisted in all its purity.
—II. Public Property, Lucrative Prerogatives and State Enterprise. 1. Rent charges in favor of the state, as the proprietor of all lands. Throughout considerable portions of Asia and in Turkey in Europe, the rent of land, paid to the state, furnishes by far the greater part of the public revenues. That the soil originally belonged to the community or nation, private property in land being, indeed, a comparatively modern institution, and finding its justification only in political expediency, is admitted by nearly all publicists of authority. By vesting the title to the soil in individuals, the state sacrifices that large revenue resulting from the progressive enhancement of the value of land, which would otherwise have accrued to the treasury. It is equally beyond question that all the advantages of the private ownership of land might have been obtained, while yet the state imposed fiscal charges and military or political obligations which would have secured for the community a considerable share of that progressive enhancement of values.
—The proposition to reassert the right and interest of the state in all the land which has become the subject of individual ownership, was made by Mr. John Stuart Mill, in the later days of his life, and the programme for this substitution of rent for taxation, with the arguments in its favor, will be found in his later speeches and essays. Mr. Mill pointed to the commutation of the feudal obligations of the English landowners, for the altogether insufficient consideration of a tax of four shillings in the pound upon the valuation of 1692, and also to the sacrifice of the interests of the crown in the lands of a portion of British India, by which the "unearned increment" was allowed to pass into the hands of individual proprietors, instead of being reserved to the public treasury. Mr. Mill's practical proposition was to appraise all estates according to their present market value, and thereafter to assess them to the full amount of all enhanced value which could not be shown to be due to applications of labor and capital. To this he looked as a fiscal resource which should relieve the community from the greater part if not all of the burden of taxation. More recently Mr. Henry George has proposed, in his "Progress and Poverty," to assert the right of the state, not only to all future increase of value in the land, but to its present value, asserting that all grants of exclusive property in land are and have always been void, and that the proprietors of land are not even entitled to reserve the value of their improvements.
—2. Escheat, the principle, viz., that the state is the proprietor of all estates, real or personal, to which individual titles or claims are lost. It will at once appear that the scope of this principle, from the point of view of revenue, will widen or contract in correspondence with the laws which regulate the descent and bequest of property, and prescribe the times and modes of proving claims, in which respect some countries are far more liberal than others. Under the feudal system, escheat constituted a most important source of revenue. In England the right of devising real property did not exist, after the conquest, until the time of Henry VIII.; and no small proportion of the lands of the kingdom passed to the crown under the operation of this principle. Modern society, however, whether out of sympathy with the instincts of property right, or from a politic desire to promote the spirit of accumulation, has given continually wider and wider extension to the power of bequest and to the principle of inheritance, until escheat, as a source of revenue, has ceased to be of much importance.
—In 1795 Jeremy Bentham published a notable tract entitled "Escheat vs. Taxation," in which that daring reformer proposed an extension of the existing law of escheat, "a law coeval with the very first elements of the constitution," with a corresponding limitation of the power of bequest. The intended effect was "the appropriating to the use of the public all vacant successions, property of every denomination included, on the failure of near relatives, will or no will, subject only to the power of bequest, as hereinafter limited." By "near relatives" Bentham intends "such relatives as stand within the degrees termed prohibited, with reference to marriage." Furthermore, in the case of "such relatives" within the pale as are not only childless, but without prospect of children, he proposes that, instead of taking their share in ready money, they should take only the interest of it, in the shape of an annuity for life. As to the latitude to be left to the power of bequest, he says, "I should propose that it be continued in respect to the half of whatsoever property would be at present subject to that power." Bentham argues that the scheme he proposes for dispensing with taxation by limiting the power of bequest and restricting succession to near relatives, would work no wrong. Hardship, in the distribution of property, is in proportion to disappointment: expectation thwarted. If distant relatives were taught by the general provisions of the law that they could not succeed, no expectations would be excited, and such persons would suffer no wrong, being simply put into the case of others who have no rich distant relatives. Bentham's proposal received no special attention at the time; and, except in the way of taxes upon successions and bequests, little progress has since been made in the direction indicated; but it is probable that among the earliest of the measures of a militant and triumphant democracy would be the limitation of the power of bequest and the restriction of succession, each in the interest of the state, as the proprietor of all estates to which individual titles or claims may be lost.
—3. Fines and forfeitures for criminality and delinquency. It might be supposed, that, since government exists largely for the protection of property and life, and for the punishment of offenses against society, the cost of maintaining government and administering justice might largely be thrown upon delinquents and criminals. In feudal times, fines and forfeitures constituted a very important source of revenue to the crown. This was the result of two causes. First, the relation of the tenant to the lord was a personal one, and failures in personal loyalty, although not rising to what in the present day would be deemed crimes against society, were punished by heavy fines or total forfeiture. Second, the crimes of those days were largely political, and great offenders were likely to be men of wealth and position who would be fat subjects for amercement. The wars of the roses, for example, were so fruitful of forfeitures that a large proportion of the land of the realm became the property of the crown. In the present age, political crimes have become comparatively infrequent, and the criminal class are mainly drawn from the poor. Hence, this branch of the public revenue has shrunk to comparative insignificance. Fines and forfeitures still pay a part of the expenses of strictly judicial establishments, especially in the lower or police courts, but they add little to the general revenues of the state. Even the labor of condemned criminals is seldom found to be sufficiently remunerative to pay the cost of their maintenance under ward.
—4. Tributes from colonies, dependencies and conquered nations, including war fines, requisitions and indemnities. "In all ages," says Sir Erskine May, "taxes and tribute have been characteristic incidents of a dependency. The subject powers of Asiatic monarchies, in ancient and modern times, were despoiled by the rapacity of satraps and pashas, and the greed of the central government. The Greek colonies, which resembled those of England more than any other dependencies of antiquity, were forced to send contributions to the treasury of the parent state. Carthage exacted tribute from her subject towns and territories. The Roman provinces 'paid tribute to Cæsar.' In modern times Spain received tribute from her European dependencies, and a revenue from the gold and silver mines of her American colonies. It was also the policy of France, Holland and Portugal to derive a tribute from their settlements." In our own day, Holland has drawn a net revenue of £3,000,000 from the island of Java, the natives being required to cultivate defined portions of land in specified crops. That compulsory cultivation used to include many crops; subsequently, it was for a long time confined to sugar and coffee; since 1880, as I understand it, coffee has remained the sole crop so cultivated.
—I have quoted a passage from Sir E. May, relative to the forced contributions of colonies and dependencies: let me complete the sentence. "But England, satisfied with its colonial trade, by which her subjects at home were enriched, imposed upon them alone all the burdens of the state." This sentence expresses the essential characteristic of the English system of dealing with colonies. It must not be supposed, however, that the system was necessarily lighter in the burdens it imposed than would have been a system of taxation. The constraints which the navigation acts of England —designed to give to British shippers and British merchants the profits of the colonial trade—placed upon the energies of those young and growing communities, were frequently more galling and depressing than heavy taxation would have been. Another incident of the British colonial system in the past was patronage, affording, as that system did, a wide field for the employment of the friends, connections and political partisans of the home government. Until the reform of the civil service this was of a real and great fiscal value, being worth more to the administration than an addition of millions to the revenue would have been. Even now it is asserted that the Indian army is maintained and employed quite as much for the imperial interests of Great Britain as for the preservation of the peace and unity of India; that the salaries of British officials are there vastly greater than necessary or desirable; and that the construction of immense systems of public improvements, railways, canals and irrigating works, at the expense of India, has been controlled largely by the interests of British capitalists or by the demands of British cotton spinners.
—The Danish Sound dues, "the most important transit duties in the world," until 1857, constituted a striking example of this class of contributions. In the year named, these duties were finally abolished, Denmark receiving 30,476,325 rix dollars in final commutation, of which sum Great Britain paid a full third. The United States subsequently joined in this purchase of the rights of Denmark over the navigation of the Baltic, having, at a much earlier period of its national history, made successive contributions to the revenues of the piratical Barbary states, for the privilege of sailing the Mediterranean.
—The principle of making the enemy, as far as possible, pay the cost of war while in progress, and exacting an indemnity subsequently for such expenses as could not be met by requisitions and billeting, is of too wide historical usage to require mention here. The application of that principle is only limited by the power of belligerents. After the treaty of 1842, the Chinese government was compelled to pay England sums approaching thirty millions of dollars on account of opium seized, and for the expenses of the expedition. It was reserved for Germany, after the war with France in 1870-71, to exact the most gigantic war indemnity ever paid in the history of mankind.
—5. Still another source of revenue is found in the sale of offices, honors and titles. The accounts of such sales under the Roman empire, in the days of its decline; by the popes throughout the middle ages; by the kings of France, especially from Louis XII. to the time of the revolution; and in England, under the Stuarts; form a very interesting chapter in the history of finance; but space will not allow us to enter upon it here. At times these sales were mere acts of extortion by the sovereign; at others they amounted to little else than the sales of annuities under the name of salaries attached to the offices conferred; at times these offices carried privileges and opportunities by which the purchaser might reimburse himself for his outlay, whether through a monopoly, or through the right to collect or disburse the public revenues, which was a very common incident of these sales.
—6. Domains (L'état capitaliste.) Even under the modern European principle of the private ownership of lands, the state is, in all countries, the possessor of larger or smaller domains, from which a revenue, in money or produce, may be derived, or which, while yielding no revenue in form, serve public uses which would otherwise require expenditures out of the treasury. M. Leroy-Beaulieu, the editor of the Economiste Français, author of an excellent work on "Finance," expresses the distinction between the property of the state which is left to the enjoyment of individuals, yielding no revenue, and that which is productive: the former he calls domains public, and the latter domaine privé de l'état. The former, he says, is almost everywhere vastly greater than the latter, and tends continually to increase; and he makes this striking statement regarding the extent of the property thus belonging to the state, given up to public uses, without yielding a revenue to the treasury: "In a country like France, it appears to us difficult to appraise at less than 300 millions of francs per annum, that which is so employed by the central government, the departments and the communes."
—The domains of the state from which money or produce is derived, make, of course, a much larger figure in the history of finance, though no mere truly, as we said at the beginning, constituting a part of the public revenue.
—In England the royal domains were, at first, very ample. Even in the time of Edward the Confessor it was said that the crown was possessed of 1,422 manors, besides other lands and quit rents. The Norman conquest largely increased the landed wealth of the sovereign. In the reign of Henry V. this was augmented by the appropriation of the alien priories, 110 in number. Yet notwithstanding this large endowment, successive alienations, sometimes in real exigencies of the state, but more commonly wasteful and often shameful in their origin, so reduced the crown lands that the income of Henry VI. was stated at but £5,000. In this impoverishment of the crown, several general resumptions of grants were authorized by parliament. The breach with Rome, and the plunder of the religious establishments by Henry VIII., placed vast wealth at the disposal of that disinterested reformer; but a similar course of improvident and wasteful alienations soon brought the income of the sovereign again below his urgent necessities. In the seventh year of James I. the entire land revenue of the crown and of the duchy of Lancaster amounted to only £66,870. James sold lands to the value of £775,000, and left debts to an equal amount.
—Prodigal, however, as had been the alienation of the crown lands under the Tudors and the Stuarts, it was William III., the author of the modern scheme of public finance, who did most to dissipate the hereditary property of the crown; nor is it likely that the two facts were without a vital connection. William, foreseeing the vast fiscal power of government, under the commercial as contrasted with the feudal organization of society, would seem to have regarded the traditional revenues of England with contempt. At the end of his reign, parliament, says Sir Erskine May, "having obtained accounts of the state of the land revenues, found that they had been reduced by grants, alienations, incumbrances, reversions and pensions, until they scarcely exceeded the rent roll of a squire."
—Whatever William may have thought of landed revenues, as compared with the proceeds of excises and customs, his immediate successors were not content with the situation, and an act was passed in the first year of Anne's reign, whereby all future grants or leases from the crown, for any longer term than thirty-one years, or three lives, were declared void, except with regard to houses, which may be granted for fifty years. "The misfortune is," says Blackstone, "that this act was made too late, after almost every valuable inheritance in possession of the crown had been granted away." "There are very few estates in the kingdom that have not, at some period or other since the Norman conquest, been vested in the hands of the king by forfeiture, escheat or otherwise. Fortunately for the liberty of the subject, this hereditary landed revenue, by a series of improvident mismanagement, is sunk almost to nothing."
—It was especially the contemplation of English experience in this respect, which drew from Adam Smith that strong assertion of the impolicy of seeking to derive revenue from public domains, which is so often quoted in discussion of this subject: "The servants of the most negligent master are better superintended than the servants of the most vigilant sovereign." "The crown lands of Great Britain do not at present afford the fourth part of the rent which could probably be drawn from them if they were the property of private persons. If the crown lands were more extensive, it is probable they would be still worse managed. * * In the present state of the greater part of the civilized monarchies of Europe, the rent of all the lands in the country, managed as they probably would be, would scarce, perhaps, amount to the ordinary revenue which they levy upon the people even in peaceful times." Perhaps had Dr. Smith the opportunity to observe the able, comprehensive, frugal and solicitous Prussian administration of public estates to-day, he might find reason to qualify the judgment expressed above.
—M. Cherbuliez, in his Science Economique, takes strong ground against making public domains an important element in the fiscal system. One remark is especially notable. Domains do not, he says, furnish an available resource in time of emergency. On the whole, this remark is both true and important; yet the recent examples of Chili and Peru, with their guano deposits, Egypt, with the large sugar plantations of the khedive, Honduras, with her precious forests of mahogany, have shown that a tangible property of this kind may sometimes afford a certain advantage for quickly placing a large loan, for a state of small credit.
—We have seen how the crown lands of England were wasted by improvident alienations. Everywhere much the same story is told by the shrunken domains of the state. What was once the chief fiscal resource of many states, now remains even an important item in the budgets of but a few states. Russia, says M. Cherbuliez, is almost the only state of modern Europe which draws from its fiscal domain a notable share of its revenue. Yet Prussia, Bavaria, Würtemberg and Sweden still retain extensive and profitable domains. The same might be said of the crown lands of Hanover, if any one could find out to whom they belong.
—In the United States the possession of vast areas of fertile territory by the new government, was, at the beginning of our fiscal history, looked upon by almost all the statesmen of the republic as a resource to be cherished and improved. Gradually, however, as told under other titles of this work, the project of drawing revenue from the public lands was abandoned; and for the past two generations it has been the object of the government to promote the appropriation of the public lands by individual citizens, on the payment of a merely nominal price, or of merely the fees of registration. This policy was announced by President Jackson, in his message of 1832, in which he said, "It seems to me to be our true policy that the public lands shall cease, as soon as practicable, to be a source of revenue: and that they be sold to settlers, in limited parcels, at a price barely sufficient to reimburse the United States the expense of the present system, and the cost arising under our Indian contracts."
—In the respect of the proportion of revenue drawn from state domains and state enterprise, M. Leroy Beaulieu offers the following contrast between England and Prussia: "The one has, so to speak, no revenues from domains; what remains of such revenues constitutes but an infinitesimal part of its vast budget. Moreover, it does not appear desirous of creating such a revenue. The other nation, on the contrary, while relying upon taxation for the greater part of its revenue, nevertheless draws sums relatively enormous, in part from the private estates of the crown, in part from industries which it carries on subject to competition, and in part even from floating capital which it has placed at home or abroad. This nation, moreover, appears not the least in the world desirous of abandoning this system; it seems, on the contrary, to wish to extend it." Prussia, remarks this excellent writer on finance, is agriculteur, industriel, entrepreneur de transports. The following is his summary of the revenue of Prussia from this general class of resources, during the year under discussion:
|Domains, properly so called, i.e., estates under culture...
|Produce of forests...
|Gross revenue of the state railways...
|Tolls upon roads...
|Tolls upon canals...
|From the profits of the bank of Prussia...
|Produce of the mint...
|Produce of the state printing establishment...
|Produce of schools of agriculture, etc....
|Produce of mines, factories and salt works belonging to the state...
Extending this comparison to the countries of Europe generally, M. Maurice Block presents the following instructive table:
—III. We reach, now, the class of public revenues which are derived from sources which we have indicated by the term quasi taxes. The distinction between these sources of revenue and taxes proper, on the one hand, or certain lucrative prerogatives, on the other, is not always clearly marked; yet, in general, it is believed that the classification adopted is a convenient one. Under this general title we note the following: 1. Monopolies. These have played a most important part in the history of public revenues, and, in spite of the spirit of the age, which is strongly opposed to exclusive privileges of production or of sale, still form a prominent feature in the budget of many of the most progressive nations of Europe. Monopolies may be commercial, industrial or financial. The distinction between the monopolies of the past and those of the present day is very marked. Formerly, monopolies were granted, for the profit of the government, to persons or corporations, to carry on a vast variety of operations, great and small alike, most of which were susceptible of individual management.
—The study, not of finance but of political economy (for the distinction is one important to be observed), has freed industry and trade from monopolies of the order of those of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The monopolies of to-day rest upon a few great industries, carefully selected for their fiscal capabilities; and these, by preference, such as naturally tend toward monopoly, for example, banking or railway traffic. A few articles of manufacture of exceptional "richness" as the subjects of monopoly, such as opium, tobacco, salt and matches, have been hit upon by the governments of several European countries. The manufacture of tobacco is a state monopoly in France, Italy, Spain and Austria. Even the imperious will of Prince Bismarck has, however, failed to introduce this monopoly into the fiscal system of the German empire. The government monopoly of this article was established in France in 1674. During the revolution, under the powerful impulse experienced toward the removal of all restrictions upon industry and society, the constituent assembly abolished the monopoly, and threw open the manufacture to competition; but sought still to retain the revenue previously derived from this source, by imposing a requirement of licenses for the manufacture. This measure was followed by the rapid diminution of receipts; and in 1810 Napoleon restored the monopoly, conferring upon the régie the combined rights of the purchase of tobacco in the leaf, and of the manufacture and sale of the article for consumption. In 1864 the gross receipts were, in francs, 220,000,000, and the expenses of administration, 66,000,000; net receipts, 154,000,000 francs. In 1877 the gross receipts had risen to 312,000,000 francs.
—A most instructive lesson in finance is furnished by the recent experience of the government of France in enforcing the monopoly of the manufacture of matches, the government having been completely baffled, in its earlier efforts, through the ease of illicit manufacture in the case of this article, nothing being required for the purpose but "a small quantity of phosphorous paste and a bundle of wood." The student of fiscal science will be well repaid by reading the Paris correspondence of the "London Economist" on this subject, extending through 1874, 1875 and 1876.
—2. Lotteries. These only require to be mentioned, as a source of revenue largely made use of in the past by nearly all governments, and still constituting a not unimportant feature of the budgets of many countries. "The profit which the public draws from lotteries," wrote Hamilton, "may be considered as a tax on the spirit of gaming, and added to the amount of other taxes." While lotteries afford a most effective means of securing revenue in the immediate instance, there can be no question that, in their ultimate effect, they reduce the fiscal capabilities of a people, by discouraging patient and steady industry, and by weakening the instincts of frugality and abstinence.
—3. Another quasi tax, once widely in exercise, but now restrained and confined, and in almost all civilized states wholly discontinued, except in the event of warlike operations, is purveyance, defined by Blackstone as the "right enjoyed by the crown, of buying up provisions and other necessaries, by the intervention of the king's purveyors, for the use of his royal household, at an appraised valuation, in preference to all others, and even without consent of the owner; and also of forcibly impressing the carriages and horses of the subject to do the king's business on the public roads, in the conveyance of timber, baggage and the like, however inconvenient to the proprietor, upon paying him a fixed price." "A prerogative," adds the commentator, "which prevailed pretty generally throughout Europe during the scarcity of gold and silver, and the high valuation of money consequential thereupon."
—4. Another mode of raising a revenue, which partakes largely of the nature of a tax, without bearing its form, is through the exaction of fees for stated or occasional services, performed by the agents of the state. The mention of fees brings up an illustration of what was said at the beginning of this article regarding the difficulty of comparing the revenues of different states. Take the matter of tolls upon bridges and roads. In one community, travel is free; the great cost of maintaining this service goes into the budget of expenditures; and the amount to be collected in taxes is by just so much increased. In another, perhaps an adjacent, community, transport and transit pay tolls, which are employed to maintain the bridges and roads in repair, to pay interest on the cost of construction, and perhaps also to accumulate a sinking fund for the final discharge of the principal sum; and the tolls so paid do not enter at all into the budget. In the same way the expenses of judicial proceedings and of the administration of justice may be met out of the general treasury, in monthly or quarterly salaries, or may be paid, in minuter portions, by individual suitors. According as the one or the other method prevails, the apparent receipts and expenditures of the state will be increased or diminished, without regard to the real burden resting upon the community. The earlier abolition of tolls in the northern than in the southern states of the American Union, in England than in Ireland, for example, is a fact which no student of comparative revenue could safely leave out of account.
—The question of the equity or expediency of judicial fees may be studied with amusement and profit, in the vigorous writings of Jeremy Bentham. Almost in the degree in which communities advance in civilization, are roads and bridges made free to travel; and the expenses of their construction and maintenance assumed by the state, instead of being charged upon the individuals using them.
—5. Coinage. Coinage has always been one of the most cherished attributes of sovereignty the world over. Of India, Dr. Hunter says: "Little potentates, who, in every other respect, acknowledged allegiance to Delhi, maintained their independent right of coining. As it was the last privilege to which fallen dynasties clung, so it was the first to which adventurers, rising into power, aspired. While the Mahrattas were still mountain robbers, they set up a mint; and in 1685 the East India company, at a period when it had only a few houses and gardens in Bengal, intrigued for the dignity of striking its own coin."
—But it was not only the right of striking the coin which kings asserted for themselves. The right of debasing the coin, was, says Hallam, "a flower of the crown." The imposition known as moneyage, after the Norman conquest of England, was a tax of one shilling paid every three years by each hearth in the kingdom specifically to induce the king not to use his prerogative in debasing the coin. By the charter of Henry I. this imposition was abolished, but not with any impeachment of the right of the crown to debase the coin at its pleasure. The antiquarian, Ruding, states that, at one period in the reign of Edward IV. the seigniorage on gold money was above 13 per cent. In France the debasement of the coin, under the royal prerogative, was carried to a far greater extent. The seigniorage exacted by John II. rose at times, it is stated, to three-fifths, changing, says Le Blanc, almost every week, and sometimes oftener. Seigniorage, to the extent of the cost of rendering bullion into coin, has received the approval of almost all economists, from Adam Smith down; yet the English government has, since 1666, coined gold of full value free of charge. That government has, however, since 1816, exacted a heavy seigniorage on its silver coin, which is legal tender in only a limited amount. Such a seigniorage on the smaller coin of a country affords a proper source of revenue, either to cover the expense of minting the principal coin, wherever the English system of gratuitous coinage is adopted, or to be brought into the treasury, for the general purposes of government.
—6. The issue of paper money. Paper money is money in respect to which seigniorage is carried out to the full nominal value of the piece. Instead of taking out, say 1 per cent., to cover the cost of coinage; instead of taking out, say, 10 per cent., as tribute to the sovereign, the entire amount of bullion is abstracted, and a paper sign, token or promise is substituted.
—The issue of paper money having legal-tender power, offers a resource to government which has always been found most tempting in periods of great national exigency. Provided the circulation at the outbreak of a war, for instance, consisted of metal money, it would be possible for the government to issue paper to the same denominative amount, replacing the gold or silver in the circulation, whereupon the metal could be exported to buy goods and supplies abroad. According to Ricardo's doctrine of money, the paper, so issued, would not, so long as it did not exceed the full denominative amount of the metal money replaced, necessarily become subject to depreciation. Thereafter, the advantage to government would be limited to the profit of a forced loan, without interest. During the war of the revolution the continental congress had recourse to this expedient. "The United States," says Dr. Ramsey, "for a considerable time derived as much benefit from this paper creation of their own, though without any fixed funds for its support or redemption, as would have resulted to them from the gift of as many Mexican dollars." In 1862-4 the United States issued several hundred millions of dollars, in payment for services or supplies, of which it enjoyed the use without payment of interest until 1879. The value of the use of that amount of capital, for that term of years, was, in effect, levied upon the people of the United States, by a species of irregular and doubtless very mischievous taxation.
—The issue of paper money without legal-tender power, its circulation to be secured by the offer of government to receive it in payment of taxes, and to redeem it on demand, is quite a different thing. This is not open to any grave economical objections. Under the title of treasury notes, such issues frequently took place in the fiscal history of the United States, long before the exigencies of the war of secession caused the issue of the legal-tender "greenbacks."
—IV. Taxation, in its Various Forms. Public contributions may be exacted in three ways: in service, in products, or in money. 1. By services. This was the original form of taxation, and corresponds closely to the ideal tax upon faculty, as distinguished from the tax upon income, upon realized wealth or capital, or upon expenditure. In the early history of Greece and Rome the citizen served his country in the army, as a matter of direct personal obligation, irrespective of payment. The custom of paying the soldiery was not introduced into Athens until the age of Pericles; and did not become general throughout Greece for more than a generation afterward. It was not until the siege of Veji that the practice was introduced into the Roman armies. After the downfall of the Roman empire, the institution of the feudal system created a national militia which was adequate to wars carried on with the lance, the sword, the pike and the crossbow. The introduction of gunpowder was soon followed by the creation of mercenary armies, and by the conversion of the military obligation of the mass of citizens into a fiscal obligation for the support of those armies. The historian Robertson attributes this general change in Europe to the long wars waged by the powers which disputed the mastery of Italy.
—Curiously enough, within the present century, and especially within the last half of the century, we have seen the obligation of personal service revived and enforced upon a scale which dwarfs all precedent instances in history. The legions of Rome were but a handful to the hosts which are now kept permanently under arms or hourly subject to call from headquarters. Almost universally, the great powers which are prepared to dispute the supremacy of Europe, and the smaller nations that live in apprehension of being overwhelmed by their gigantic neighbors, have abandoned, as too costly and too dilatory, the attempt to keep up armies by a system of voluntary enlistment, and have resorted to the rule of universal personal obligation. England stands almost alone, to-day, in maintaining the system of mercenary soldiership. Within the past eighteen years the "blood tax" has grown to be the greatest tax levied in the world. "It is computed," wrote Mr. Hume, a century ago, "that in all European nations the proportion between soldiers and people does not exceed 1: 100." According to M. le Faure, the armies of Europe, on a war footing, amounted, in 1875, to 9,333,000, the immediately disposable forces of the German empire, alone, being 2,800,000.
—The difference between the cost of armies maintained on the compulsory principle and those kept up by recruiting, is a tax which makes no figure in the budget, and does not enter into the accounts of receipts and expenditure. Yet it is a tax often of the most distressing character. Indeed, the opinion was expressed in the beginning of the present article, that not one of the great military nations of Europe could, by the utmost exertion of its fiscal powers, support its existing army if it were compelled to go into the market for labor and hire the services it now commands. This element is rapidly increasing the difficulty of ascertaining the comparative cost of government, for it is eminently characteristic of taxes by personal service that their real value can never be ascertained. M. Garnier speaks of impôts lout à fait latents; qui ne rapportent rien au fisc et qui n'en pèsent pas moins sur les populations. Such, eminently, is the obligation of military service. Of course the weight of it, measured by the loss it inflicts, will vary greatly according to the occupations of the people, whether engaged in manufactures and commerce, or in agriculture; according to the severity with which military requirements are enforced, and penalties for delinquency exacted; according to the spirit which presides over headquarters, and passes down to animate commanders and staff. Even in a purely agricultural community how great a difference will be made by a call to field manœuvres ten days before, or ten days after, harvest; or by the requirement of brigade and division evolutions, instead of company drill!
—While, thus, one primitive form of tax by personal service has recently sprung into unexampled importance, another, once of vast extent, has sunk almost out of the fiscal system of Europe. This is the road tax. "Up to the reign of Louis XV.," says De Tocqueville, "the highroads were not repaired at all, or were kept in repair at the cost of the state and of the roadside landowners; it was at that period that the plan of keeping them in repair at the expense of the peasantry was commenced. It seemed so excellent a mode of securing good roads without paying for them, that in 1737 a circular of the comptroller general applied it to the whole of France. Thenceforth, proportionately to the extension of trade and the increased desire for good roads, corvées were extended and increased. In ceasing to be seigniorial and becoming royal, corvées were gradually applied to all public works. In 1719 they were exacted for the construction of barracks. 'The parishes must send their best workmen,' said the ordinance, 'and give up all other work for this.' Corvées were also exacted for the conveyance of convicts to the galleys, and of beggars to charitable institutions, and for the transport of military baggage when troops were to be moved from station to station."
—Turgot gives a pitiful account of the burden of this exaction in connection with the removal of troops. "The distance to be traversed is," he says, "often five, six and sometimes ten or fifteen leagues. Three days are consumed for the journey and the return. The sum allowed is not one-fifth the value of the labor. These corvées are almost invariably required in the summer, during harvest time. The oxen are almost always overdriven, and often come home sick. The work is done in the most disorderly manner; the peasantry are continually a prey to the violence of the soldiery. Officers habitually exact more than the law allows; they sometimes compel farmers to yoke saddle horses to carts, whereby the animals may be seriously lamed. Soldiers will insist on riding in the carts which are already heavily laden; and, in their impatience at the slow gait of the oxen, will prick them with their swords, while, if the farmer complains, he is roughly handled."
—The above affords an excellent illustration of the remark already made, that the weight of taxes by personal service can never be truly estimated. Were the requisition, in an agricultural region, to fall upon a time when men and teams would otherwise be idle, the actual net sacrifice would be small. If at an inconvenient season, the greatest waste and confusion may ensue; while in a manufacturing or commercial community, it is wholly impossible to compute the mischief that may be effected by the slightest requirement of personal attendance and personal service.
—In the United States the road tax is still "worked out" to a certain extent, with the general result of bad roads; but in all the more prosperous communities the change to labor hired and paid out of the general treasury has been effected.
—2. The second mode of paying taxes is in produce, or, as we say, "in kind." Mr. Merivale thus describes the Roman system of revenue, in this respect. "In many parts of the empire it was most convenient to make the payment in kind, and the government was long in the habit of accepting large consignments of corn and other raw produce, in place of current coin. These abundant stocks of provisions never wanted consumers while the armies of the republic were maintained on Roman soil; and the urban population, we may believe, were always ready to receive the overflowings of the fiscal granaries, whether government chose to dole them out at a cheaper rate, or to dispense them gratuitously. We may conjecture that the fatal institution of regular distributions of grain originated in this source. The revenues of the state could only be paid in kind; and the ample stocks thus received must sometimes either be given away or thrown away."
—On this system Gibbon remarks: "In the primitive simplicity of small communities, this method may be well adapted to collect the almost voluntary offerings of the people; but it is at once susceptible of the utmost latitude and of the utmost strictness, which, in a corrupt and absolute monarchy, must introduce a perpetual contest between the power of oppression and the arts of fraud."
—In all the English-American colonies this form of contribution to public uses was largely employed. In Massachusetts and Connecticut, for example, taxes might be paid in corn or rye, at fixed rates, or in cattle or beaver; in Maryland and Virginia, tobacco was received. During the war of the revolution, congress, for a brief period, upon the failure of the continental paper money, instituted the system of contribution in kind. On Feb. 25, 1780, it was resolved that the states should be called upon for specific supplies, beef, pork, flour, corn, hay, tobacco, salt, rum, and rice, to be credited at certain fixed rates to the states by which they were furnished. By March, 1781, the scheme of specific supplies had been found so unmanageable that it was abandoned.
—Throughout eastern Europe, in Russia, Hungary, and even in Germany, down to a very recent date, if not to the present time, payments in kind, especially for the support of the army and the church, have formed no inconsiderable portion of the contributions of the peasantry. Mr. Banfield, in his excellent work on the "Organization of Industry," remarks that in Sweden the number of barrels of meal paid away as salaries still "figure in the budget." Mr. Banfield calls attention to the consideration that the system of contributions in kind presupposes an absence of all means of easy and effective communication. "So long as society remains in this state, in which, as all produce is consumed at home, a produce tax is identical with a tax on consumption, there is no choice but to draw directly on this fund for taxation."
—In Turkey, today, the onerous taxes of the government, which are, in reality, rent charges by the state as the proprietor of all lands, are largely collected in kind; and administered as the Turkish system is, with despotic brutality, over a helpless population, it constitutes one of the most important causes of the misery which there prevails. The peasant, forbidden to remove the produce from the soil until the officers of the government have made their inspection, and satisfied themselves of the amount to which the state is entitled, may see his whole harvest rot in the fields while the agents of the treasury are making their leisurely rounds.
—The true view of the economical relations of contributions in kind seems to be that intimated by Gibbon. When such a system grows naturally up among a people in a somewhat primitive condition of society and industry, and is maintained and administered, in good faith and good feeling, by officers coming from the people and responsible to the people, it may be, not only unobjectionable, but positively beneficial, as, under similar circumstances, the payment of taxes in personal service, and indeed, for that matter, as the use of truck payments between master and workmen, may be. But, on the other hand, the truck system, the system of contribution by personal service, and the system of taxes in kind, may, under different conditions, be made the means of the most monstrous exactions, far transcending the capabilities of money taxes, in the respects of hardship and injustice.
—3. The third and now usual mode of paying taxes is in money, the contributor of each individual being determined according to some mode of assessment. In its ultimate effect, however, it should never be forgotten that every tax is a requisition by the state upon the services of its citizens. If money is taken, it is only as the most convenient form (convenient to the state, or to the citizen, or to both) of obtaining services and products; and products are, in the last analysis, embodied services. And in the same connection we may add the remark of M. Garnier, that it is an error, which is at once gross and widely spread, to suppose that the state, the moral personification of the body of citizens, acting through men charged to perform public functions and to minister to public-needs, can possess resources transcendental, inexhaustible, or, indeed, any resources whatsoever, other than those of its citizens, any resources beyond the share it takes of their fortunes and of the products of their industry and labor.
—Inasmuch as Mr. Wells discusses, under its appropriate title, the principle of TAXATION, this paper on PUBLIC REVENUE properly comes here to a close.