delanceyplace.com 01/25/06 - taxation and representation

In today's excerpt - taxation. In 1789, the French had a far lighter tax burden than the English, but were the ones that revolted because as Baron Montesquieu brilliantly theorized they did not have a representative government. The same was true in 1776, where American colonials had a far lighter tax burden than citizens of England, but no representation. Those that feared Russia in 1945 would have benefited by reflecting on this:

"Even before [1781], well-informed observers understood the conundrum of ancien regime finance. Adam Smith was among them:

'... The people of France, however, it is generally acknowledged, are much more oppressed by taxes than the people of Great Britain.'

"This was an astute observation. Taxes may have been lower in France, but, perversely, they aroused more opposition. The roles of France and England had been reversed. In the seventeenth century, it was the Stuarts who had struggled in vain to conjure a modest income out of their recalcitrant subjects, and whose regime had been brought down by financial starvation. In the following century, the Bourbons suffered the same fate. ... The graph shows just how neatly the index of taxpayer pliability had been turned upside down:

Relative Taxation in France and England
Grams of Silver per capita:

1640: France 30 grams; England 14 grams

1789: France 75 grams; England 188 grams

"...Montesquieu's Limits of Absolutism: General rule: one can raise higher taxes, in proportion to the liberty of the subjects; and one is forced to moderate them to the degree that servitude increases. This has always been, and will always remain so."


author:

James MacDonald

title:

A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots of Democracy

publisher:

Princeton University Press

date:

Copyright 2003 by James MacDonald

pages:

253-255

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