Chapters 8-11

How the Deception is preserved


IN order to make the purchaser confound the price of the commodity with the tax, there must be some proportion between the tax and the value of the commodity. This is why there shouldn’t be an excessive duty on cheap merchandise.

In some countries, the duty exceeds 18 times the value of the commodity. In this case, the prince removes the disguise. His subjects plainly see they are dealt with unreasonably. This makes them most sensible of their servile condition.

For him to levy such a high duty, he must himself have monopoly of the commodity.<!– vendor, and

  • the people must not have it in their power to purchase it elsewhere= a practice subject to a thousand inconveniencies. –>

Smuggling then becomes extremely lucrative. The natural and most reasonable penalty to this is the confiscation of the merchandize. But it becomes incapable of stopping it; especially as this very merchandize is intrinsically of an inconsiderable value.

Recourse must therefore be had to extravagant punishments, such as those inflicted for capital crimes. All proportion then of penalties is at an end.

Persons, that cannot really be considered as vicious, are punished like the mostinfamous criminals; which, of all things in the world, is the most contrary to the spirit of a moderate government.

Again, in proportion as people are tempted to cheat the farmer of the revenues, the more the latter is enriched, and the former impoverished.

To stop smuggling, the tax collector must have the extraordinary means of oppressing, and then the country is ruined.

Chapter 9: A bad kind of Tax

In some countries, taxes are imposed on the different articles of civil contracts. These are things subject to very nice disquisitions. A lot of knowledge is necessary to make any tolerable defence against the tax collector, who:

  • interprets the regulations of the prince, and
  • exercises an arbitrary power over people’s fortunes.

A duty on the paper, on which the deeds are drawn, would be of far greater service.

Chapter 10: The Greatness of Taxes depends on the Nature of the Government.

TAXES should be very light in despotic governments. Otherwise, who would take the trouble of tilling the land? How is it possible to pay heavy duties in a government that does not provide benefits to the subject?

The exorbitant power of the prince, and the extreme depression of the people, require that there should not be evena possibility of the least mistake between them.

The taxes should be easy to collect, and so clearly settled, as to leave no opportunity for the collectors to increase or diminish them.

A portion of the fruits of the earth, a capitation, a duty of so much per cent. on merchandizes, are the only taxes suitable to that government.

Merchants in despotic countries should have a personal safeguard, to which all due respect should be paid. Without this they would be too weak to dispute with the custom-house officers.

Chapter 11: Confiscations

WITH respect to confiscations, there is one thing very particular, that, contrary to the general custom, they aremore severe in Europe than in Asia.

In Europe, not only the merchandizes, but even sometimes the ships and carriages are confiscated; which is never practised in Asia.

This is because in Europe the merchant can have recourse to magistrates, who are able to shelter him from oppression; in Asia the magistrates themselves would be the greatest oppressors. What remedy could a merchant have against a bashaw, who was determined to confiscate his goods?

The prince therefore checks his own power, finding himself under a necessity of acting with some kind of lenity. In Turkey, they raise only a single duty for the importation of goods, after which, the whole country is open to the merchant. Smuggling is not attended with confiscation or increate of duty.

In China, they never look into the baggage of those who are not merchants. Defrauding the customs in the territory of the Mogul is not punished with confiscation, but with doubling the duty.

The Princes of Tartary, who reside in towns, impose scarce any duty at all on the goods that pass through their country.

In Japan, cheating the customs is a capital crime. But this is because they have particular reasons for prohibiting all communication with foreigners. Hence, the fraud is rather a contravention of the laws made for the security of the government than of those of commerce.

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