« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
expenses is robbery ; if the taking is knowing and intentional. The two titles are coördinate, exclusive of one another, and interdependent. As neither can be defined without a definition of the other, so neither can be subverted without subverting the other. For the State to invade the right of private property is to impair the sources of its revenue; for the subject to dispute the right of public property is to impair the only safeguard of his own; a double result perfectly secured by the sentimental compromise of the contrat social. What rightfully belongs to the State, then, is the cost of its services and not the value of them; so much of the wealth of the nation, and no more, as it requires to meet the liabilities in. curred in the exercise of its functions.
These liabilities are of two kinds. There are first the ordipary kind for the current expenses of the government, calcu. lated in advance for the fiscal year upon the basis of previous expenditure. Like any periodically recurring disbursement they might be stated as interest on a debt capital and this capi tal as a claim on the whole capital of the nation, making the State on the one hand in the proportion of its debt so stated and the subjects on the other each in the proportion of his private fortune, the joint-proprietors of the national wealth, the annual product of which is distributed partly as revenue to the State for payment of its expenses, partly as the revenue of the subjects for the uses of life and the enterprises of business. The objection to this form of statement is that it is a mere fiction of finance or book-keeping but with a dangerous sug. gestion of socialistic communism. The simple reality without artifice is that the current expenses of the government for whatever period calculated are a periodical charge upon the wealth of the nation. Now a periodical charge upon property of any kind is properly provided for out of the product or earnings of the property.
The liabilities of the extraordinary kind are those contracted in some sudden emergency of public affairs, a pestilence, or famine, or war, which precipitates the State into expenditure beyond its immediately available resources, and are provided for by a loan bearing interest until the date fixed for payment of the principal. This is debt actually capitalized and may be
properly stated as a claim to the amount of the principal on the capital wealth of the nation. Thus according to the January statement the interest-bearing debt of the United States is something under $13,000,000,000, and were it to mature and payment to be demanded to-morrow the government must either default or appropriate whatever amount of the capital wealth of the nation may be required to cover the deficiency of its assets. But in fact no State debt is ever so discharged or could be without ruin to the country. One of two things always happens; either the State arranges with its creditors for the postponement of the date when the principal is due, or it applies the annual surplus of its current revenue over its current expenses to the reduction of the principal. In either case the debt figures in the estimates only as a liability of the ordinary kind, an item in the current expenditure whether as interest falling due or as surplus available for reduction of the principal. Thus along with the other current expenses it is a periodical charge upon the national wealth, not to be met by ruinous conversion of capital but by appropriating a given proportion of the uninvested product of capital. We may therefore define the property of the State to be so much of the annual product or revenue of the wealth of the nation as it requires for its legitimate annual expenses.
This proportion again of the whole product of the national wealth is made up of parts in the same proportion of the reve. nues of all the subjects. If we suppose that the annual liabil. ities of the State are to the annual product of the wealth of the nation, say, in the ratio of 1 to 100, then one per centum of the annual revenue of each subject belongs to the State ; no more and no less. No more, for to exceed the proportion of one per centum in any case is to increase the burden of one by lightening that of all the others; no less, for to fall short of it is to diminish the burden of one by increasing that of the others; in either case to go back on the line of political evolution to the unrighteous inequalities of class rule, to accord special privileges to one portion of the subjects and impose special sacrifices on the other. If the State in its estimates cannot exceed the sum-total required for its legitimate expenses, no more can it exceed in its taxation the uniform proportion due by each subject without violating the right of pr vate property and taking what is not its own.
For here is the very ground and reason of our separate and independent being as a State, the specific note of our system as the latest and highest product of political evolution. We rebelled from our original allegiance, in obedience certainly to many blind and hidden forces, but upon the public pretext that we would not submit to discriminating and disproportionate burdens; and the other day we suppressed another rebellion made to fasten the worst of such burdens on a subject race. From first to last and in every way in which a people can express its political consciousness we have declared that all usurpations of sovereign power and privilege by one man over other men, by one class over other classes, by one people over other peoples, are an outrage, not because an oppression of the weak, for the weak may deserve and require oppression, but because a punishment of the innocent. We have seized the sovereignty in the name of the people to put an end to all this and that hereafter in the consciousness of the State, in the eye of the law, and in the act of the executive only two classes shall be known forevermore, the law-abiding and the lawless, the subjects for whose benefit the State exists, whose rights are one and whose responsibilities are uniform, and they for whose repression it exists, whose rights are forfeited. This is the bistorical doctrine to which the American people is committed before all the world, which we are here to give public effect to, namely, that no man shall suffer in person or in property more than other men suffer unless he deserves to, that the only ground known to the State for the imposition of exceptional burdens is the ground of wrong doing. Were strict justice possible in this world, government would be wholly at the charge of those who make government necessary; it is the wrong-doer who should bear all the consequences of his wrong. doing. For example we were entirely right in the magDanimity which closed the war of the rebellion, but had other considerations not intervened we should have been entirely right in charging the enormous development of government which it precipitated to the rebellious population, as Germany, granting the righteousness of her cause, was right in taking in:
demnity for the past and security for the future at the close of the war with France. So the property of the individual offender rightfully belongs to the State not in the proportion of the unoffending but in that of his offense. As a matter of fact he usually escapes because he has no property to forfeit. The criminal classes of any country are not an appreciable source of public revenue and so the burden of government must fall upon the well-to-do who are not in general they who make government necessary. All the greater reason why the burden should be distributed among them impartially. No innocent subject can be rigbtfully afflicted with burdens which inevit. ably carry the implication because they are the appropriate penalty of wrong-doing.
Any system of taxation, then, must be judged, and approved or condemned, as it does or does not put the State in possession of its own, namely, a definite and uniform proportion of the revenues of its subjects. Taxation which designedly departs from this proportion for any motive whatsoever, à fortiori which does so for any motive other than that of providing for its necessary expenses, is spoliation, a usurpation condemned by our political theory and by that ideal of justice which it pretends to realize.
ARTICLE IX.-UNCONSCIOUS CHRISTIANITY.
If we should compare a heathen with a Christian country in a religious point of view, we could not fail to notice this remarkable difference: the heathen, as a whole, agreed in religious observances, agreed in their recognition and worship of deity ;-the population of the Christian country not agreed; the heathen temples frequented, and the heathen worship observed by almost all;--the Christian churches at tended by a minority; the majority showing respect, indeed, but looking on with comparative apathy and some incredulity.
This contrast, at first sight disparaging to the Christian land, begins to be relieved, when the moral development is recog. nized, which runs parallel with this apparent retrograde in religious observances. With all the apparent neglect of the churches as compared with the frequenting of the temples, it is plain that the true religious service, which is offered in the practice of righteousness, truth, and charity, in just laws, in care for the poor, in the protection of human rights, in the sup. pression of evils and crimes, flourishes most in those lands where we have observed the largest neglect of the formal rites of religion.
This is a singular fact, but before we can properly estimate it, we must look further.
We observe, next, the historical fact, that in proportion to the growth of intelligence there has been, in the past as in the present, and both in heathen and Christian lands, a tendency to break away from the popular notions of religion.
In the ancient heathenism of Greece and Rome, the philos. ophers, as a class, regarded the popular religious beliefs as a set of fables. At the same time, the generality of educated men did not attempt to destroy the prevailing religion. They regarded it, such as it was, as better than none, and beneficial as a restraining influence on those who knew no better.
In the latter part of the middle ages, when the dawn of intelligence began to rise on the barbarism of Europe, the first