Chapter 12

Relation between the Weight of Taxes and Liberty


IT is a general rule that taxes:

  • can be higher the more liberty a person has, and
  • should be lower the more enslaved a person is.

This has always been and always will be the case. It is a rule derived from nature that never varies.

We find it in all parts, in England, in Holland, and in every state where liberty gradually declines, till we come to Turkey.

Switzerland seems to be an exception to this rule, because they pay no taxes. In those barren mountains, provisions are so dear, and the country is so populous, that a Swiss pays four times more to nature, than a Turk does to the sultan.

A conquering people, such as the ancient Greeks and Romans, may rid themselves of all taxes, as they reign over vanquished nations. A such time, they do not pay in proportion to their liberty, because in this respect they are no longer a people, but a monarch.

But the general rule still holds good.

In moderate governments there is an indemnity for the weight of the taxes, which is liberty. In despotic countries, there is an equivalent for liberty, which is the lightness of the taxes.

In some European monarchies there are particular provinces, which, from the very nature of their civil government, are in a more flourishing condition than the rest. It is pretended that these provinces are not sufficiently taxed, because, through the goodness of their government, they are able to be taxed higher= hence the ministers seem constantly to aim at depriving them of this very government, from whence a diffusiveblessing is derived, which redounds even to the prince’s advantage.

Chapter 13: In what Government Taxes Can Increase

TAXES may be increased in most republics, because the citizen, who thinks he is paying himself:

  • chearfully submits to them, and
  • is generally able to bear their weight from the nature of the government.

In a monarchy taxes may be increased, because the moderation of the government can procure opulence. It is a recompence, as it were, granted to the prince for the respect he shews to the laws. In despotic governments they cannot be increased, because there can be no increase of the extremity of slavery.

Chapter 14= The Nature of the Taxes is relative to the Government.

  • A CAPITATION is more natural to slavery
  • A duty on merchandizes is more natural to liberty because it has not so direct a relation to the person.

It is natural in a despotic government for the prince not to give money to his soldiers, or to those belonging to his court, but to distribute lands amongst them, and, of course, that there should be very few taxes.

But, if the prince gives money, the most natural tax he can raise is a capitation, which can never be considerable.

For, as it is impossible to make different classes of the contributors, because of the abuses that might arise from thence, considering the injustice and violence of the government, they are under an absolute necessity of regulating themselves by the rate of what even the poorest and most wretched are able to contribute.

The natural tax of moderate governments is the duty laid on merchandizes.

  • This is really paid by the consumer, though advanced by the merchant.
  • It is a loan which the merchant has already given to the consumer.

Hence, the merchant must be considered:

  • on the one side as the general debtor of the state, and
  • on the other as the creditor of every individual.

He advances to the state the duty which the consumer will sometime or another refund.

He has paid for the consumer the duty which he has advanced for the merchandize.

Therefore, a merchant the power to advance money to the state and to pay considerable duties for individuals, in proportion to:

  • the moderation of the government,
  • the prevalence of liberty, and
  • the security of private fortunes.

In England, a merchant lends really to the government £60 for every ton of wine he imports. He would not dare do the same thing in Turkey.


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