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BEST MODE OF RAISING THE PUBLIC REVENUE.
EVERY excise duty tends to repress home industry in the branch of it upon which such duty is imposed. But duties of customs, limited to
articles of import, have no such effect: though they cannot be said to encourage, they do not repress home industry: and, seeing we must
* It is not merely on account of the effects of the tax in repressing industry, that duties of excise are to be avoided. They are attended with regulations, which "involve matters "of important inquiry in a national and moral, as well as a "financial point of view. If such regulations occasion expense, trouble, or loss of time, in the process of any manu“facture, an increase is made in the price of the article to compensate such expense, trouble, or loss of time, as well
as the amount of the tax. If they limit the extent of any "manufacture, so many fewer people receive employment "than otherwise would be employed, whereby the aggregate "returns of industry are lessened in proportion to the fewer "number of persons employed; and the public revenue is "also lessened in proportion to the lesser consumption of "the taxed commodities which they require. If fiscal regu"lations work out a monopoly, in addition to all the other consequences above stated, the price of the article, in the "manufacture of which such regulations intervene, is thereby "raised still further. Such regulations thus come to operate as an additional tax upon the consumers of all taxed com"modities." (Revision of our Fiscal Code, 1828.)
raise a revenue for the service of the state, we ought so to raise it as not to repress home industry. In this way duties of customs may be said to promote home industry; inasmuch as, for all articles imported from abroad, articles of home industry must be exported to pay for them. But all mankind have been kept in chains by erroneous impressions respecting gold and silver and in matters of revenue, as of industry, men have been alike wrong in all that relates to these metals, which are only commodities, at all times purchasable by other commodities, as other commodities are by them. The total quantity of all the gold and silver in the world is small, compared to the total quantity of all the other commodities in it. As materials for industry, gold and silver are not to be compared to other commodities. It is industry alone, however, that enables a country to acquire riches, which consists not in gold and silver, but in the products of industry, by which a country becomes rich through the accumulation of the proceeds arising from those products: and whereever any country has products of industry to give in exchange, it can always obtain, in exchange for them, any quantity of gold and silver it may require.
In raising a revenue, however, too little regard has been paid to industry, though industry is the
source of revenue, as it is of wealth. I put forth a pamphlet, in the spring of 1828, entitled
Reasons for a Revision of our Fiscal Code;" in which, remarking that, in the year 1815, taxes to the gross amount of 85,311,706/. 16s. 11d. were raised in Great Britain, with much less pressure upon the people than 58,417,7291. 7s. 2žd. were raised in the year 1827, in the United Kingdom, I suggested the enquiry, how it happened that, with an increase of our foreign trade, and with an amount in taxes, in 1827, less by 25,000,000l. and upwards than in 1815, the raising a lesser sum in 1827 should have borne more heavily upon the people? The details in that pamphlet had relation chiefly to taxes of excise; and its object was, to show how infinitely more good might be done, even in the way of revenue, by relieving industry from fiscal restraints, than by any thing that could be done by diminishing expenditure, though there was no reason why every practical saving that could be attained should not be made also.*
* A copy of this pamphlet was sent to the Chairman and two other Members of the Committee. The branch of the enquiry therein suggested, however, was altogether overlooked, though it forms the main subject of the publication of the Chairman in the following year. With the views taken in that publication, it is very singular that the improvement of the revenue, by relieving industry from taxation which pressed upon it, should have entirely escaped him while the Committee was sitting.
The Finance Committee of that year confined their labours to what appeared to me to form the least important branch of the enquiry; namely, the diminution of expenditure. In the following year, however, its chairman made up for the omission by the publication of his book on Financial Reform.
But, without going into details, it remains to point out how almost all taxes of excise may be much diminished, if not removed, by deriving a larger portion of our revenue from duties of Customs.
These did not amount, at the commencement of the reign of George III., to 2,000,000l. They have risen regularly ever since, and now yield a net revenue approaching to 17,000,000%. The amount was much larger in 1830; but the duty on coals brought into the port of London has been since repealed, and the duties on corn imported last year have diminished.*
Duties of customs having been imposed at a time when the principles of taxation were little understood, and being levied by per-centage increased from time to time upon articles imported,
* Duties of customs on coals carried coastwise, however, and on slates, continue to be levied. All duties of customs on any article whatever, carried coastwise, should be repealed, and also on all articles of home produce and manufacture exported, some of which still remain.
according to fixed official rates, established upwards of a century and a half ago, it is obvious that the amount of duties now levied cannot be upon a proper scale. A commencement has been made by what has been done in the present session, in adopting a better scale for certain articles of import, The whole list of articles imported should be gone through, and as the revenue of the customs improves, from the adaptation of a scale of duties corresponding with the present state of things. duties of excise should be repealed or diminished. Among such a variety of articles, it is impossible to lay down any rule; but thus much is evident, that the duty levied should not be disproportioned to the exchangeable value of the article ; and the great rise which has taken place in the exchangeable value of money, moreover, renders a revision of our duties of customs peculiarly necessary. There may be exceptions; and so heavy a duty has been so long levied upon tobacco, that upon this plant, perhaps, an excessive duty may and ought to continue to be levied upon its importation.
The very large amount of duties of customs now, compared with their amount at the termination of the war, shows that this source of revenue, from increasing consumption, may be safely relied upon. Of the duties of customs at present levied, a very small proportion is paid by