The Public Revenues

September 30, 2015

THE public revenues are a portion that each subject gives of his property, in order to secure or enjoy the remainder.

To fix these revenues properly, the necessities of the state and those of the subject should be considered.

Imaginary wants are those which flow from the passions and the weakness of the governors. This arises from:

  • the vain conceit of some extraordinary project,
  • the inordinate desire of glory,
  • a certain impotence of mind incapable of withstanding the impulse of fancy.

The real wants of the people should never give way to such imaginary wants of the state. Ministers have often restlessly imagined that their own mean private wants were the wants of the state.

The regulation, that decides that portion of which the subject retains or is deprived of, requires the most wisdom and prudence.

The public revenues should not be measured by the people’s abilities to give, but by what they should give. If they are measured by their abilities to give, it should be considered what they are able to give for a constancy.

Chapter 2= It is Wrong to say that the Greatness of Taxes is good in its own Nature.

Some monarchies of small vassal states were exempt from taxes and were as miserable as the bigger state which had heavy taxes.

This because the petty state can hardly have any such thing as industry, arts, or manufactures because of its being subject to a thousand restraints from the great state by which it is environed.

The great state is blessed with industry, manufactures, and arts; and establishes laws by which those several advantages are procured. The petty state becomes, therefore, necessarily poor, let it pay never so few taxes.

Yet some have concluded, that those poor, petty states, should be loaded with taxes in order to make the people industrious.

But it would be fairer that they should pay no taxes at all. None live here but wretches who retire from the neighbouring parts to avoid working; wretches, who, disheartened by labour, make their whole felicity consist in idleness.

The effect of wealth in a country is to inspire every heart with ambition= that of poverty is to give birth to despair. The former is excited by labour; the latter is soothed by indolence.

Nature is just to all mankind, and repays them for their industry. She renders them industrious by annexing rewardsin proportion to their labour. But, if an arbitrary prince should attempt to deprive people of nature’s bounty, they would fall into a disrelish of industry; and then indolence and inaction must be their only happiness.