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lations are always sources of trouble and annoyance, and generally of expense, for all of which, being peculiar disadvantages, the producers or dealers must have compensation in the price of their commodity. These restrictions also frequently interfere with the processes of manufacture, requiring the producer to carry on his operations in the way most convenient to the revenue, though not the cheapest, or most efficient for purposes of production. Any regulations whatever, enforced by law, make it difficult for the producer to adopt new and improved processes. Further, the necessity of advancing the tax obliges producers and dealers to carry on their business with larger capitals than would otherwise be necessary, on the whole of which they must receive the ordinary rate of profit, though a part only is employed in defraying the real expenses of production or importation. The price of the article must be such as to afford a profit on more than its natural value, instead of a profit on only its natural value. A part of the capital of the country, in short, is not employed in production, but in advances to the state, repaid in the price of goods; and the consumers must give an indemnity to the sellers, equal to the profit which they could have made on the same capital if really employed in production. Neither ought it to be forgotten, that whatever renders a larger capital necessary in any trade or business, limits the com. petition in that business; and by giving something like a monopoly to a few dealers, may enable them either to keep up the price beyond what would afford the ordinary rate of profit, or to obtain the ordinary rate of profit with a less degree of exertion for improving and cheapening their commodity. In these several modes, taxes on commodities often cost to the consumer, through the increased price of the article, much more than they bring into the treasury of the state. There is still another consideration. The rise of price occasioned by the tax, almost always checks the demand for the commodity; and since there are many improvements in production which, to make them practicable, require
a certain extent of demand, such improvements are obstructed, and many of them prevented altogether. It is a well-known fact, that the branches of production in which fewest improvements are made, are those with which the revenue officer interferes; and that nothing, in general, gives a greater impulse to improvements in the production of a commodity, than taking off a tax which narrowed the market for it.
§ 3. Such are the effects of taxes on commodities, considered generally; but as there are some commodities (those composing the necessaries of the labourer) of which the values have an influence on the distribution of wealth among different classes of the community, it is requisite to trace the effects of taxes on those particular articles somewhat farther. If a tax be laid, say on corn, and the price rises in proportion to the tax, the rise of price may operate in two ways. First: it may lower the condition of the labouring classes; temporarily indeed it can scarcely fail to do so. If it diminishes their consumption of the produce of the earth, or makes them resort to a food which the soil produces more abundantly, and therefore more cheaply, it to that extent contributes to throw back agriculture upon more fertile lands or less costly processes, and to lower the value and price of corn; which therefore ultimately settles at a price, increased not by the whole amount of the tax, but by only a part of its amount. Secondly, however; it may happen that the dearness of the taxed food does not lower the habitual standard of the labourer's requirements, but that wages, on the contrary, through an action on population, rise, in a shorter or longer period, so as to compensate the labourers for their portion of the tax; the compensation being of course at the expense of profits. Taxes on necessaries must thus have one of two effects. Either they lower the condition of the labouring classes; or they exact from the owners of capital, in addition to the amount due to the state on their own necess cessaries, the amount
due on those consumed by the labourers. In the last case, the tax on necessaries, like a tax on wages, is equivalent to a peculiar tax on profits; which is, like all other partial taxation, unjust, and is specially prejudicial to the increase of the national wealth.
It remains to speak of the effect on rent. Assuming (what is usually the fact,) that the consumption of food is not diminished, the same cultivation as before will be necessary to supply the wants of the community; the margin of cultiva tion, to use Dr. Chalmers' expression, remains where it was; and the same land or capital which, as the least productive, already regulated the value and price of the whole produce, will continue to regulate them. The effect which a tax on agricultural produce will have on rent, depends on its affecting or not affecting the difference between the return to this least productive land or capital, and the returns to other lands and capitals. Now this depends on the manner in which the tax is imposed. If it is an ad valorem tax, or what is the same thing, a fixed proportion of the produce, such as tithe for example, it evidently lowers corn-rents. For it takes more corn from the better lands than from the worse; and exactly in the degree in which they are better; land of twice the productiveness paying twice as much to the tithe. Whatever takes more from the greater of two quantities than from the less, diminishes the difference between them. The imposition of a tithe on corn would take a tithe also from corn-rent: for if we reduce a series of numbers by a tenth each, the differences between them are reduced onetenth.
For example, let there be five qualities of land, which severally yield, on the same extent of ground and with the same expenditure, 100, 90, 80, 70, and 60 bushels of wheat; the last of these being the lowest quality which the demand for food renders it necessary to cultivate. The rent of these lands will be as follows:
100 bushels reduced to 90,
a rent of
Now let a tithe be imposed, which takes from these five. pieces of land 10, 9, 8, 7, and 6 bushels respectively, the fifth quality still being the one which regulates the price, but returning to the farmer, after payment of tithe, no more than 54 bushels:
100-60, or 40 bushels.
90-60, or 30
80-60, or 20
70-60, or 10 no rent.
81-54, or 27
72-54, or 18
90-54, or 36 bushels.
and that producing 60 bushels, reduced to 54, will yield, as before, no rent. So that the rent of the first quality of land has lost four bushels; of the second, three; of the third, two; and of the fourth, one: that is, each has lost exactly onetenth. A tax, therefore, of a fixed proportion of the produce, lowers, in the same proportion, corn-rent.
But it is only corn-rent that is lowered, and not rent estimated in money, or in any other commodity. For, in the same proportion as corn-rent is reduced in quantity, the corn composing it is raised in value. Under the tithe, 54 bushels will be worth in the market what 60 were before; and ninetenths will in all cases sell for as much as the whole tentenths previously sold for. The landlords will therefore be compensated in value and price for what they lose in quantity; and will suffer only so far as they consume their rent in kind, or, after receiving it in money, expend it in agricultural produce: that is, they only suffer as consumers of agricultural produce, and in common with all the other consumers. Considered as landlords, they have the same income as before; the tithe, therefore, falls on the consumer, and not on the landlord.
The same effect would be produced on rent, if the tax, instead of being a fixed proportion of the produce, were a fixed sum per quarter or per bushel. A tax which takes a shilling for every bushel, takes more shillings from one field than from another, just in proportion as it produces more bushels; and operates exactly like tithe, except that tithe is not only the same proportion on all lands, but is also the same proportion at all times, while a fixed sum of money per bushel will amount to a greater or less proportion, according as corn is cheap or dear.
There are other modes of taxing agriculture, which would affect rent differently. A tax proportioned to the rent would fall wholly on the rent, and would not at all raise the price of corn, which is regulated by the portion of the produce that pays no rent. A fixed tax of so much per cultivated acre, without distinction of value, would have effects directly the reverse. Taking no more from the best qualities of land than from the worst, it would leave the differences the same as before, and consequently the same corn-rents, and the landlords would profit to the full extent of the rise of price. To put the thing in another manner; the price must rise sufficiently to enable the worst land to pay the tax: thus enabling all lands which produce more than the worst, to pay not only the tax, but also an increased rent to the landlords. These, however, are not so much taxes on the produce of land, as taxes on the land itself. Taxes on the produce, properly so called, whether fixed or ad valorem, do not affect rent, but fall on the consumer: profits, however, generally bearing either the whole or the greatest part of the portion which is levied on the consumption of the labouring classes.
§ 4. The preceding is, I apprehend, a correct statement of the manner in which taxes on agricultural produce operate when first laid on. When, however, they are of old standing, their effect may be different, as was first pointed out, I believe, by Mr. Senior. It is, as we have seen, an almost