Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/11

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APPLETONS'

 

POPULAR SCIENCE

 

MONTHLY.



NOVEMBER, 1897.



PRINCIPLES OF TAXATION.
By DAVID A. WELLS, LL. D., D. C. L.,
CORRESPONDANT DE L'INSTITUT DE FRANCE, ETC.
XII.—THE EXISTING METHODS OF TAXATION.

(Continued from vol. li, page 776.)

TAXATION OF PERSONAL PROPERTY.—Great, however, as may be the inequalities in the valuation and assessment of real property, those which obtain in respect to personal are so much greater as to almost preclude the idea of comparison.

In the incipient stages of society, when property consisted almost or quite exclusively of things tangible and visible—lands, buildings, slaves, horses, cattle, ships, household effects, and implements—when railroad shares, bonds and mortgages, certificates of deposit, and all the multifarious forms of credits and evidences of debt, by which we are enabled to-day to secure interests in land or in visible, tangible personal property in the possession of others, were absolutely unknown,[1] and when the rate of taxation was comparatively small, the theory under consideration was not impracticable in its application, and, under most circumstances, afforded but little opportunity for the working of injustice in respect to arbitrary discriminations in assessing. For when personal property was of a visible and tangible character there was no opportunity to conceal its ownership and to avoid the tax'. Each member of the community furthermore took a sufficient interest in his neighbor's affairs to see that justice was done in this regard. This kind of friendly interest found

  1. Of the evidences of wealth owned by one of the richest families in the United States, almost the whole did not have an existence as recently as the year 1840.