« ForrigeFortsæt »
in proportion to their respective abilities,” and this proposition must be admitted. To determine therefore, the character of a new tax, we have only to discover how far it is from, or how near it is to, this fair and just admeasurement; for it has been the mistaken arithmetic of modern politicians to seek to supply the exigencies of the state by an equal distribution from the hands of the people, apportioned to their probable incomes, measuring their respective abilities by one and the same scale, without regard to the circumstances that vary
the different situations of men of the same income. The point of taxation should be with the power of the individual, and it should cease whenever it
presses too hard on the deserving and industrious man. A just and equal tax upon income is ruled by the like principle of people at a tavern, who are called upon to pay the reckoning, where each should subscribe his share; yet if one of them is unintentionally unable, the rest of them make up the amount among them, anticipating the cruel exposition of his finances; or, indeed, an Income Tax ought to be made on the same principle as a baker's parish pudding. Every body, who knows any thing of a baker in a country town, knows that the family have every Sunday what is called a parish pudding, which is made without much trouble; as the baker's wife has only to take a little out of every batter, or rice pudding that comes to the oven, þut then she is always very careful to collect from the best and largest, the largest spoonfuls, leaving . the homely puddings made of poor materials unmo,
The mistake of modern financiers is derived from their having more knowledge of Cocker's Arithmetic, than of common life, for they very wisely and profoundly infer, that if A. being worth ten thousand pounds per annum, pays five hundred pounds tax, that B. having only one hundred pounds yearly income, will only pay five pounds tax; not at all considering that it is nevertheless unequal from the inequalities of the situation of A. and B.; as the one has scarcely enough for the common necessaries of life, and the other a superabundance. The arithmetic of an Income Tax may then take a dividend from a man who has nothing to spare, or perhaps a small uncertain profit inadequate to the common purposes of life; nor will supervisors charitably make an abatement for those imperious demands which propriety enforces on persons of certain situations in life, even after all the odiousness of exposition. Thus the man who is obliged to make a decent appearance in society suffers all the injuries of degradation from the effect of an insupportable tax.
There is always superflux enough in a country to furnish the supplies of the most expensive war.
It is the wisdom of taxation to find out the superfluities, and there to fix, till it may suck out the poison of excess, and by a virtuous subtraction lessen the moral and physical evils of life; taxation would then be made subservient to morals, and ministers become the economical surveyors of wholesome provisions for the people, a new appointment. But all ministers are not Mentors, they sometimes, like other people, wait for
experience to inform them of facts. The distress and inconvenience of an Income Tax soon appears among the middling classes, labouring with a dubious income, and using useless endeavours to keep up their credit, the payment of their rent, their baker's and butcher's bills, &c. in a constant state of insolvency in expectancy, because, perhaps, they are honest enough to reject the artificial means of credit, too commonly made use of in the present day, by the mutual accommodations of paper, taught them from higher authority. It is then from the sources of real wealth and independence that the exigencies of a state should be
supplied, and not from the scanty pittances of incapacity. Let the rich, whose superabundance is a grievous evil to them, bear the onus of taxation, so as it does not abate one truly rational, or even elegant enjoyment that their educations, manners, and minds give them a title to ; it will not harm them to have less to squander on cards, dice, horses, masquerades, French dinners, hot soupers, and rural breakfasts. It might even be the means of allowing them to pay their debts, as if they would, on the score of heavy taxation, retrench the gaudy trappings of their houses, they might possibly find that they would not know what to do with the residue of their savings for tax money.
Another thing worthy consideration is, that whenever any class is oppressed by the effect of an injudicious taxation, that part is lost to the community; it becomes faint, inert, useless, discouraged, and fettered by
inconveniences, and the disgrace of poverty, its spirit droops, and more is subtracted from the public treasury, than the excessive burthen of the tax brings into it. Numerous are the articles of luxury that would yet bear taxation, or an increase of taxation, which would never be felt by the voluptuous consumer, but particularly those are worthy the notice of financiers, which are the exquisite entremets or messes of wise and ingenious cooks, where the plain and wholesome is rejected for des viandes tres succulente, tres excellente, et tres superbe ; certainly epicurism cannot grudge to pay alditional for any thing got up with so much taste, and so delightful to the appetite.
I observe that the new Income Bill requires a rea turn of the names of all ideots and lunatics resident in Great Britain. I am afraid that the list will be found to be enormous, and at least take ten thousand reams of fool's cap. Indeed, I am afraid from the next declaration that I shall myself become liable, being a lunatic, not resident in England; but for whom my guardian, trustee, or receiver, the bookseller, will, by virtue of the act, be made chargeable.
The idea of so many ideots and lunatics suggests to my mind the propriety of a poll tax on that rich and numerous class of the community ; it would, doubtless, bring in an immense sum to the Treasury, particularly, according to the opinion of the late Mr. W
-s, who having been told by a gentleman that he should take the sense of the city upon an important question, replied :-“ Very well, Sir, do; and
I'll take the nonsense of the city, and beat you ten to one.” Now supposing Mr. W—'s calculation to be correct, the tax would be extremely productive in that part of London, nor would the thing be attended with much trouble, as a board of wise commissioners might be appointed, assisted by medical men, to ascertain the precise quantity of brains contained in each head, which should pay in proportion to the deficiency, to make up, if possible, what is wanting to society.
In addition to the above, another numerous class might become the objects of taxation; these are the lazy, (for the blind and the lame I would excuse) a very efficient return might be made of these inefficient beings, and they would, by this means, bring more into community than could otherwise be possibly expected.
In this tax, however, there must certainly be an exception as to statesmen, great lawyers, and physicians; for these gentlemen, doubtless, come under the description of wise heads, and are therefore exempt from the duty, nor will it be proper that they should undergo an examination before the Board of Wisdom, lest by any jealousy of the commissioners, or other accident, they might be reported wanting.