Taxes in Countries where some people are Villains or Bondmen

September 29, 2015

THE state of villainage is sometimes established after a conquest. In that case the bondman or villain that tills the land should have a kind of partnership with his master. Nothing but a communication of loss or profit can reconcile those who are doomed to labour to such as are blessed with a state of affluence.

Chapter 4= A Republic in the like Case

WHEN a republic has reduced a nation to the drudgery of cultivating her lands, she should never suffer the free subject to have a power of increasing the tribute of the bondman. This was not permitted at Sparta. Those brave people thought the Helotes* would be more industrious in cultivating their lands, upon knowing that their servitude was not to increase:they imagined likewise that the masters would be better citizens, when they desired no more than what they were accustomed to enjoy.

Chapter 5= A Monarchy in the like Case

WHEN the nobles of a monarchical state cause the lands to be cultivated for their own use by a conquered people, they should never have a power of increasing the service or tribute*. Besides, it is right the prince should be satisfied with his own demesne and the military service.

But, if he wants to raise taxes on the vassals of his nobility, the lords of the several districts ought to be answerable for the tax=E2=80=A0, and be obliged to pay it for the vassals, by whom they may be afterwards reimbursed. If this rule be not followed, the lord and the collectors of the public taxes will harrass the poor vassal by turns, till he perishes with misery, or flies into the woods.

Chapter 6= A despotic Government in the like Case

THE foregoing rule is still more indispensably necessary in a despotic government. The lord, who is every moment liable to be stripped of his lands and his vassals, is not so eager to preserve them.

When Peter I. thought proper to follow the custom of Germany, and to demand his taxes in money, he made a very prudent regulation, which is still followed in Russia. The gentleman levies thetax on the peasant, and pays it to the Czar. If the number of peasants diminishes, he pays all the same; if it increases, he pays no more; so that it is his interest not to worry or oppress his vassals.

Chapter 7= Taxes in Countries where Villainage is not established.

WHEN the inhabitants of a state are all free subjects, and each man enjoys his property with as much right as the prince his sovereignty, taxes may then be laid either on persons, on lands, on merchandizes, on two of these, or on all three together.

In the taxing of persons, it would be anunjust proportion to conform exactly to that of property. At Athens, the people were divided into four classes. Those who drew five hundred measures of liquid or dry fruit from their estates paid a talent* to the public; those who drew three hundred measures paid half a talent; those who had two hundred measures paid ten min those of the fourth class paid nothing at all.

The tax was fair, though it was not proportionable= if it did not follow the measure of peoples property, it followed that of their wants. It was judged that every man had an equal share of what was necessary for nature; that whatsoever was necessary for nature ought not to be taxed; that to this succeeded the useful, which ought to be taxed, butless than the superfluous; and that the largeness of the taxes on what wassuperfluous prevented superfluity.

In the taxing of lands, it is customary to make lifts or registers, in which the different classes of estates are ranged. But it is very difficult to know these differences, and still more so to find people that are not interested in mistaking them.

Here therefore are two sorts of injustice, that of the man and that of the thing. But if in general the tax be not exorbitant, and the people continue to have plenty of necessaries, these particular acts of injustice will do no harm. Onthe contrary, if the people are permitted to enjoy only just what is necessary for subsistence, the least disproportion will be of the greatest consequence.

If some subjects do not pay enough, the mischief is not so great; their convenience and ease turn always to the public advantage= if some private people pay too much, their ruin redounds to the public detriment. If the government proportions its fortune to that of individuals, the ease and conveniency of the latter will soon make its fortune rise. The whole depends upon a critical moment= shall the state begin with impoverishing the subjects to enrich itself, or had it better wait to be enriched by its subjects? Is it more adviseable for it to have the formeror the latter advantage? Which shall it chuse; to begin, or to end, with opulence?

The duties felt least by the people are those on merchandize, because they are not demanded of them in form. They may be so prudently managed, that the people themselves shall hardly know they pay them. For this purpose it is of the utmost consequence that the person who sells the merchandize should pay the duty.

He is very sensible that he does not pay it for himself; and the consumer, who pays it in the main, confounds it with the price. Some authors have observed that Nero had abolished the duty of the five and 20th part arising from the sale of slaves; and yet he had only ordained that it should be paid by the seller instead of the purchaser. This regulation, which left the impost intire, seemed nevertheless to suppress it.

There are two states in Europe where theimposts are very heavy upon liquors; in one the brewer alone pays the duty, in the other it is levied indiscriminately upon all the consumers; in thefirst no body feels the rigor of the impost, in the second it is looked upon as a grievance. In the former the subject is sensible only of the liberty he has of not paying, in the latter he feels only the necessity that compels him to pay.

Farther, the obliging the consumers to pay requires a perpetual rummaging and searching into their houses. Now nothing is more contrary than this to liberty; and those who establish these sorts of duties have not surely been so happy as to hit upon the best method of collecting the revenue.