Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/63

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55
THE DISTRIBUTION OF TAXES.

ment, either national, State, city or town, are distributed, falling ultimately upon all consumers in proportion to the quantity and value of the product of the country consumed by each person.

What is the cost of each person to the community? Is it not what each person consumes of the materials needed for shelter, food and clothing? What does any one get in or out of life, in a material sense, be he rich or poor, except what we call board and clothing? Incomes in money are distributed. When paid for service that money becomes the means by which the person who has performed the service procures shelter, food and clothing.

If these points are well taken, then it seems to me that the only problem is how much time will elapse before the tax will fall upon the consumers of all products in ratio to consumption; an incidental question being the relative cost of collecting the taxes in one way or another.

I have been led to this conclusion that all taxes are slowly but surely diffused throughout the community—some directly, others indirectly—by reasoning upon the subject without measuring the tax in terms of money—money being only the medium by which the real tax is measured and brought to the use of the government. Does not the same distinction apply to taxes that applies to wages? We are accustomed to speak of money wages and real wages, meaning by real wages the things that money will buy. May we not in the same way speak of money taxes and real taxes, meaning by real taxes the material substances withdrawn from the community for the support of the employees of the government? Does not the real tax consist of the material products needed by and consumed for the subsistence of the officers of the government and of all persons who are in the government service?

The annual product is substantially the source of these material substances. A small part of one year's product is carried over to start the next year's product, a small part of that year being carried forward on which to begin work in the next. Production is a continuous process, but it is governed practically by each series of four seasons. Now, if the real tax is that part of the annual product withdrawn from general consumption to serve the special consumption of the persons who are in the government service, or are pensioned by the government, then by so much as the annual product measured in quantities is lessened in order to meet that demand, will the quantity remaining for distribution among those who directly take part in productive work be diminished.

In the expenditure of the money derived from taxation the government secures materials for constructing buildings, for their furnishings and fittings; for constructing coast defenses; for building naval vessels;