Page images
PDF
EPUB

LESSON 72.

TAXES.–PART I. WE read in Scripture (Nehemiah iv. 17), that when the Jews returned from the captivity, and began to rebuild the walls of their city, they were so beset by enemies that they were forced to be constantly armed and on their guard; and, for fear of a sudden attack, each man worked with one hand only, and the other hand held a weapon ready. In this way it would take at least two men to do the work of one. But the danger they were in obliged them to put up with this inconvenience.

Many countries in the East are at this day nearly in the same condition. They are so infested by robbers, chiefly Arabs, always roaming about in search of plunder, that no man can hope to escape being robbed unless he is well armed and on his guard. Travellers tell us, that when a husbandman goes to sow his fields, he takes with him a companion with a sword or spear, to protect him from being robbed of his seed-corn. This must make the cultivation of the ground very costly, because the work which might be done by one man requires two; one to labour, and the other to fight: and both must have a share of the crop, which would otherwise belong to And, after all, the protection of property must be very imperfect, for you may suppose the robbers will often come in such force as to overpower the defenders, and plunder the industrious of all the fruits of their labours. Accordingly, in these countries, there is very little land cultivated. Most of it lies waste; the inhabitants are few-not one-twentieth of what the land could main

а

a

one.

tain; and these are miserably poor. And all this is owing to the insecurity of property.

And the same is the case in all countries where the people are savages, or nearly savages. Most of the time, and labour, and care of a savage, is taken up in providing for his defence. He is occupied in providing arms for his protection against those whom he is able to fight; or in seeking hiding-places from those who are too strong for him. The islands of New Zealand, before Christianity and civilization were introduced, furnished a specimen of savage life. Several families were obliged to join together, and build their little cabins on the top of a steep rock, which they fenced round with a trench and sharp stakes to protect them against their neighbours of the next village ; and, after all, they were often taken by surprise, or overpowered. In such countries as that, there are a hundred times as many people killed every year, in proportion to their numbers, as in any part of Europe. It is true that there is not so much property lost, because there is very little to lose ; for people must be always exceedingly poor in such countries. In the first place, above half their time and labour is taken up in providing for their safety; and in the next place, this is so imperfectly done after all, that they can never be secure of the fruits of their industry.

The remedy for this miserable state of tbings is to be found in settled government. The office of a government is to afford protection; that is, to secure the persons and property of the people from violence and fraud. For this purpose it provides ships of war, and bodies of soldiers, to guard against foreign enemies, and against pirates, bands of robbers, or rebels; and

and of every

also provides watchmen, constables, and other officers, to apprehend criminals; judges and courts of justice for trials; and prisons for confining offenders; and, in short, everything that is necessary for the peacə and security of the people.

The expenses of the army and navy, thing that government provides, are paid by the people ; and it is but fair that we should pay for all these things, since they are for our benefit. We pay taxes and government duties for these purposes. Taxes are the price people pay for being governed and protected. They correspond to the hire which the husbandman in eastern countries must pay to his companion who carries the spear or sword to guard him from robbers.

Some people do not understand this, or do not recollect it. Many are apt to think taxes quite a different kind of expense from all others; and either do not know, or else forget, that they receive anything in exchange for the taxes. But, in reality, this payment is as much an exchange as any other. You pay money to the baker and butcher for feeding you, and to the tailor for clothing you; and you pay the king and parliament for protecting you from being plundered, murdered, or cheated. Were it not for this, you could be employed scarcely half your time in providing food and clothing, and the other half would be taken up in guarding against being robbed of them; or in working for some other man whom

a you would hire to keep watch and to fight for you. This would cost you much more than you pay in taxes; and yet you may see, by the example in savage nations, how very imperfect that protection would be. Even the very worst government that ever was,

is both much better and much cheaper than no government at all. Some of the Roman emperors were most detestable tyrants, who plundered and murdered great numbers of innocent men : yet even under their reigns there were not so many of their subjects (in proportion to their numbers) plundered or murdered in ten years, as there are among the New Zealanders, and other savage tribes, in one year.

LESSON 73.

TAXES.- PART II.

You understand, now, that taxes are the hire or price paid to government in exchange for protection : just as any other payment is made in exchange for any thing we want.

There is, however, one important difference ; that other payments are left to each man's choice, but every one is obliged to pay the taxes. If I do not choose to buy shoes of a shoemaker, but to make shoes for myself at home, or to go without them, I am at liberty to do so : and the same with other such payments. But it is not so with the payments to government. If any one should say, "I choose to protect my own person and property myself, without any assistance from soldiers, 'or sailors, or constables, or judges, and therefore I will not pay taxes ;" the answer will be: “Then go and live by yourself in the wilds of America, or in some such country; or join some tribe of wild Indians, and live as they do: but, while you live with us, in a country which has a

government, you cannot, even if you wish it, avoid partaking of the protection of government. The fleets and armies which keep off the foreign enemies from plundering the country, are a defence to you, as well as to us; you are protected as well as we, by the laws and officers of justice, from the thieves and murderers, who would otherwise be let loose on society. Since, therefore, the government must, whether it will or not, afford you a share of its protection, it is fair that you should be obliged, whether you will or not, to pay your share of its expenses. But if you are so foolish as not to like this bargain, you must leave the country, and go and live somewhere else in the wilderness."

It is quite fair, then, that as long as a man lives in any country, he should be obliged to submit to the government, and to pay the taxes: and how much each shall pay is determined by the government. There is one great difference between this exchange and all others;

hire a man to work for you, you make your own bargain with him; and if you and he cannot agree as to the rate of payment, you will employ some one else instead. But the government of any country, whether it be a king or a president, or a senate or parliament, or, in short, whatever kind of government it is, must always have power to make all the people submit; since otherwise it could not perform the office of protecting them. It is not left to each person's choice, therefore, how much he shall pay for his protection, but government fixes the taxes, and enforces the payment of them.

It is very right to require that the public money should not be wastefully spent, and that we should not be called on to pay more than is necessary.

But

when you

« PreviousContinue »