Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/449

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

AUGUST, 1890.


 

COMMON SENSE APPLIED TO THE TARIFF QUESTION.
By EDWARD ATKINSON.
I.

ACCORDING to the English, theory and practice of representative government, from which our own methods have been derived (subject, however, to some variations of doubtful expediency), it is the function of a Minister of Finance, named in this country Secretary of the Treasury, to prepare a budget or estimate of income and expenditures. At each session of the British Parliament specific expenditures are recommended, and specific sources of revenue are set off, which have been carefully computed, so that it may be hoped or expected that revenue and expenditure will balance.

Any one conversant with the financial history of Great Britain will long since have ceased to wonder at the accuracy of these estimates. If a probable surplus in revenue is expected from existing taxation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer frames such measures of relief from taxation as may be assumed to yield the greatest benefit to the tax-payers. If, on the other hand, any extraordinary expenses are to be provided for in the ensuing year, then specific additions to taxation are recommended in order to provide the necessary ways and means. Under these conditions the opening speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he presents the budget, so called, becomes the subject of most careful public attention. The reputation of leaders in Parliament is established or is lost by their ability to deal with financial questions. Ministries stand or fall according to the ability of the leader of the party to satisfy the public of his sound judgment in dealing with the matter of public taxation. Thus, while the reputation of the leaders of the House of Commons on either side