Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/62

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54
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

THE DISTRIBUTION OF TAXES.[1]
By EDWARD ATKINSON.

IN nearly all the discussions upon the subject of taxation which have come to my notice, it is assumed that certain specific taxes fall upon and are borne wholly by one class; other taxes fall upon and are borne by a second class; and so on throughout the list. For instance, in the discussion regarding a protective tariff it is held by the advocates of protection that in some cases the imposition of a duty reduces the price of the imported article in the foreign country from which it comes. It is, therefore, held that such a tax may be put upon the foreign producer and is not paid by the domestic consumer. It is held that other duties on other imported articles are added to the cost of importation, then as far as possible added to the price, and are thus distributed in ratio to their consumption. Unless such should be the result of imposing duties on foreign imports, namely, that they may either be borne in the first instance by the foreign producer, or may be distributed on the domestic consumer, there could be no continuous import of any foreign product. Even if it could be proved that some duties are paid by foreign producers, such reduction in price would limit his power of purchase of our domestic goods taken in exchange.

It is also held that excise taxes on liquors and tobacco must be charged to the cost of production, must be recovered from the sales and are, therefore, distributed in ratio to consumption. It is held by the advocates of what is called the single tax that a tax on rent or rental values will be paid out of the rents accruing to the landlord, and that this tax cannot be distributed by him, but that it simply diminishes his income. It is held that a tax on incomes is paid by those who enjoy the income, diminishing their resources. Finally, it is held that a tax on inheritances and successions is taken out of the property and that it cannot be distributed.

All these theories, presented in different forms, are and have been subjects of discussion. They have been debated ever since the subject of taxation became in any measure a matter of scientific inquiry. The conclusions reached by different persons or schools of political economy so-called, are as much at variance now as they have ever been.

I have reached the conclusion that all taxes, wherever placed, however imposed, and through whatever agency collected by the govern


  1. Read before the Section of Economic and Social Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, June, 1900.