Page:Problems of Empire.djvu/200

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the House of Commons, said that as far as could be judged from the Income Tax returns, the income from investments abroad during the last ten years has increased by about £12,000,000. Mr. Ritchie, it is true, pointed out that much of the income from foreign investments escaped taxation, but even making a large allowance on this account it is clear that only a small proportion of the heavy increase in the balance of imports over exports can be accounted for in this way. It is, moreover, certain that our shipping earnings only account for a small proportion of the increase of £89,000,000. I have asked many people how the huge increase in the balance of imports over exports is to be explained, but cannot get a satisfactory answer. I cannot find a satisfactory reply in the Blue Book, and if no satisfactory reply can be given, it comes to this, that as a country we are living on our capital. Those who are opposed to Fiscal Reform constantly quote the increases in income tax, savings bank, and bankers' clearing-house returns, which are given as evidences of our national prosperity. But if these facts be taken in conjunction with the other facts I have mentioned—the stationary character of our exports, the great increase in the balance of imports over exports, and the fact that a large proportion of our population are living on the verge of hunger—it seems to me impossible to resist the conclusion, which is supported by the census returns, that year by year an increasing proportion of the people of this country are living idly on accumulated wealth, and that fewer are annually earning their living in agriculture or any other industry. If that be so, the country is approaching the condition of the Roman Empire during the first centuries of