every new tax creates a new ability in the subject to bear it
each encrease of public burdens proportionally encreases the people's industry
This maxim is most likely to be abused.
It is so much more dangerous, because it cannot be denied.
It has some foundation in reason and experience when kept within certain bounds.
When a tax is laid on commodities consumed by the common people the following occurs:
The poor must :
retrench something from their way of living, or
raise their wages, so as to make the tax fall entirely on the rich, or
encrease their industry, perform more work, and live as well as before, without demanding more for their labour.
This naturally follows if:
taxes are moderate
laid on gradually, and
do not affect the necessaries of life
These difficulties often excite the people's industry and render them more opulent and laborious, than others, who enjoy the greatest advantages.
Most commercial nations do not always have fertile land.
But they have laboured under many natural disadvantages.
TYRE, ATHENS, CARTHAGE, RHODES, GENOA, VENICE, HOLLAND, are strong examples.
There are only three instances of large and fertile countries with much trade: the NETHERLANDS, ENGLAND, and FRANCE.
Netherlands and England had advantages of:
their maritime situation
the need of going overseas to get what was unavailable at home.
Trade came late to France.
It came from the reflection and observation in an ingenious and enterprizing people.
They saw the riches of their neighbours, so they cultivated navigation and commerce.
CICERO mentioned places with the greatest commerce in his time: Alexandria (Egypt), Colchus (Georgia), Tyre and Sidon (Lebanon), Andros (Greece), Cyprus, Pamphylia and Lycia (Turkey), Rhodes (Greece), Chios, Byzantium, Lesbos, Smyrna, Miletum, Coos.
All these, except ALEXANDRIA, were either small islands, or narrow territories.
Alexandria owed its trade entirely to the happiness of its situation.
Some natural necessities or disadvantages are favourable to industry.
Why do artificial burdens not have the same effect?
Sir WILLIAM TEMPLE ascribes the industry of the DUTCH entirely to necessity.
It proceeds from their natural disadvantages.
He compares them with IRELAND:
“by the largeness and plenty of the soil, and scarcity of people, all things necessary to life are so cheap.
An industrious man, by two days labour, may gain enough to feed him the rest of the week.
I take it be a very plain ground of the laziness attributed to the Irish.
For men naturally prefer ease before labour, and will not take pains if they can live idle;
though when, by necessity, they have been inured to it, they cannot leave it, being grown a custom necessary to their health, and to their very entertainment.
Nor perhaps is the change harder, from constant ease to labour, than from constant labour to ease.”
He then enumerates the places where trade has most flourished, in ancient and modern times;
and which are commonly observed to be such narrow confined territories, as beget a necessity for industry.
The best taxes are such as are levied upon consumptions, especially on luxury because such taxes are least felt by the people.
They seem voluntary, since a man may choose how far he will use the taxed commodity.
They are paid gradually and insensibly.
They naturally produce sobriety and frugality, if judiciously imposed.
The tax is confounded with the natural price of the commodity and so are scarcely perceived by the consumers.
Their only disadvantage is, that they are expensive in the levying.
Taxes on possessions are levied without expence.
But it has every other disadvantage.
Most states, however, go for them to supply the deficiencies of the other tax.
But the most pernicious of all taxes are the arbitrary.
They are commonly converted, by their management, into punishments on industry.
By their unavoidable inequality, are more grievous, than by the real burden which they impose.
It is surprising to see them among any civilized people.
All poll-taxes are commonly arbitrary.
Even if they are not, they are dangerous because it is so easy for the sovereign to add a little more and more that these taxes become oppressive and intolerable.
On the other hand, a duty upon commodities checks itself.
A prince will soon find, that an encrease of the impost is no encrease of his revenue.
It is not easy to be ruined by such taxes.
One of the chief causes of the destruction of the Roman state, was Constantine's change in taxation.
He created a universal poll-tax, in lieu of almost all the tithes, customs, and excises, which formerly composed the revenue of the empire.
The people were so grinded and oppressed by the publicans.
They were glad to take refuge under the barbarians.
The barbarians had fewer necessities and less art.
They were preferable to the refined tyranny of the Romans.
Some political writers say that since all taxes, as they pretend, fall ultimately on land, it were better to tax land and abolish every duty on consumptions.
But all taxes do not fall ultimately on land.
If a duty were laid on any commodity, consumed by an artisan, he can pay for it in two ways:
he may reduce his expence, or
he may encrease his labour.
Both these resources are more easy and natural, than that of heightening his wages.
In years of scarcity, the weaver either:
consumes less or
It is just that he should have the same for the sake of the public which gives him protection.
How can he raise the price of his labour?
His manufacturer-employer will not give him more because the merchant, who exports the cloth, cannot raise its price, being limited by the price which it yields in foreign markets.
Every man wants to from himself from any tax by laying it on others.
But every man has the same inclination.
No set of men can prevail altogether in this contest.
Why should the landed gentleman be the victim of the whole, and not be able to defend himself?
All tradesmen would willingly prey on him, and divide him among them, if they could.
They have always had this inclination even if no taxes were levied.
The same methods which the landed gentleman uses to guard against tradesmen will serve him afterwards.
These will make them share the burden.
Only very heavy taxes, very injudiciously levied cannot be shared.
An example is a tax which raise the price of labour.
In taxation, the consequences of things are diametrically opposite to what we should intially expect.
The Turkish government's fundamental maxim is from the Grand Signior.
He is the absolute master of the lives and fortunes of each individual.
But he has no authority to impose a new tax
Every Ottoman prince, who has tried either:
has been obliged to retract, or
has found its fatal effects.
One would imagine, that this prejudice or established opinion were the firmest barrier in the world against oppression.
Yet its effect is quite contrary.
The emperor, having no regular method of encreasing his revenue, must allow all the bashaws and governors to oppress and abuse the subjects.
He then squeezes them after their return from their government.
But if imposes a new tax, like our European princes, his interest would be united with his people.
He would immediately feel its bad effects.
He would find, that a pound, raised by a general imposition, would have less bad effects, than a shilling taken in so unequal and arbitrary a manner.