Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/764

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742
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

internal revenue of the United States, which, in respect to facility, economy of administration,[1] and productiveness of revenues, ought to have much to commend itself. A system formulated by discarding, if thought expedient, all stamp taxes on drafts, checks, promissory notes, receipts, releases, matches, etc., as vexatious rather than valuable, and making their fixation and cancellation obligatory on every deed, mortgage, or certificate of stock at the time of their transfer of ownership, by sale or otherwise, at the rate of fifty cents per every thousand dollars of their face value, and every fractional part thereof, would be highly productive of revenue and have much otherwise to recommend it. A man that sells or transfers a farm or mortgage, or a certificate of stock, for $10,000, would not think a stamp of five dollars very burdensome. In its applicability to the purchase and sale of real estate it would have the characteristics of a land tax, the incidence of which, although always and necessarily equitable, proportionate, and free from anything like discrimination, would be the lightest on lands uncultivated or devoted to agriculture, and heaviest on lands at the great centers of population and trade, for the purchase of which its surface must be, as it were, always covered with gold.[2] It probably would not be agreeable to speculators in stocks, to the creators of fictitious "trusts," or to the directors of swindling railroad, mine, and other like organizations, who, if not benefited in respect of their profits, might be to some extent as to their morals. Such a tax, moreover, would be as readily and economically collected as that of the postage stamp, and, like the latter, would have to be paid for before using. How much revenue would annually accrue to the national Treasury from such a system of taxation through stamps is not easy to estimate, but undoubtedly it would be very considerable. In the way of information helping to form an opinion on this subject the listing of stocks and bonds on the New York Stock Exchange during the year 1896, exclusively to replace old securities, is reported as amounting to nearly $1,175,000,000. During the recent years of business depression an average yearly sale of 56,000,000 shares of stock in New York city is reported; but during what are re-


  1. The cost to the Government in 1868 of revenue stamps for checks, drafts, receipts, and other like instruments, was twelve and a half cents per thousand. The cost of collecting the entire receipts of the internal revenue in 1894 was 2 ·70 per cent.
  2. "A million dollars and half a million more were recently paid for five lots on Broadway, New York, opposite Bowling Green. This was the value of the land alone, as the old buildings it bore were at once to be torn down. A year or two ago the corner of Liberty Street and Nassau, measuring seventy-nine feet along the one and one hundred and twelve along the other, and about one hundred feet in depth, brought $1, 250,000, and this, again, for the sake of the land alone." — Places in New York, Mrs. Van Rensselaer, Century Magazine.