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The subject of Mr. Wells' lecture in Sever 11 last evening was "The Present Methods of Taxation."
The speaker Showed how faulty these methods were, and promised in the next lecture to suggest a remedy. He said in substance: The idea which governs local taxations in the United States is that if taxation is to be equitable everything must be taxed. This theory is supported plausibly enough by the argument that property of every description is protected by the state, and therefore liable to taxation. In an early state of society, when all property was visible and tangible, the above theory was not found impracticable. But even then it necessitated personal inquisitions, and was always unpopular. In modern times, however, much taxable property is intangible, as, for instance, stocks, bonds, and bills of exchange. Such property is subject to great and even frightful fluctuations of value. It is therefore utterly impossible for an assessor to find out what the actual wealth of a given taxpayer really is. The machinery of oaths by which the system of infinitesimal local taxation is carried on is useless, and leads to the impairment of the public sense of justice and morality.
Continuing, the speaker cited numberous examples of inequalities necessarily brought about by the present methods of taxation. Immense quantities of personal property have been exempted from taxation by decision of the Supreme Court. An immense amount of property is never reported to the assessors. In Ohio only one man in ten reports personal property of the value of fifty dollars.
There are thus insuperable difficulties in a system of taxing everything, and the harshest measures must be adopted to make such a system even moderately successful. The tax-payers in Boston are denied the privileges of criminals. The system is not American, but a relic of Rome. Every civilized nation except the United States has discarded it.
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