On Tax Policy and the Breakdown of Self-Government

CC with Thomas W. Page, President of the National Tax Association, 1925, which since 1907 dedicated itself to a proper understanding and sound appraisal of public finance, tax theory and their consistent and prudent application to public policy.

CC with Thomas W. Page, President of the National Tax Association, 1925, which since 1907 dedicated itself to a proper understanding and sound appraisal of public finance, tax theory and their consistent and prudent application to public policy.

“The wisest and soundest method of solving our tax problem is through economy. Fortunately, of all the great nations this country is best in a position to adopt that simple remedy…The collection of any taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny. Under this republic the rewards of industry belong to those who earn them. The only constitutional tax is the tax which ministers to public necessity. The property of the country belongs to the people of the country. Their title is absolute. They do not support any privileges class; they do not need to maintain great military forces; they ought not to be burdened with a great array of public employees…

“The method of raising revenue ought not to impede the transaction of business; it ought to encourage it. I am opposed to extremely high rates, because they produce little or no revenue, because they are bad for the country, and, finally, because they are wrong. We can not finance the country, we can not improve social conditions, through any system of injustice, even if we attempt to inflict it upon the rich. Those who suffer the most harm will be the poor. This country believes in prosperity. It is absurd to suppose that it is envious of those who are already prosperous. The wise and correct course to follow in taxation and all other economic legislation is not to destroy those who have already secured success but to create conditions under which every one will have a better chance to be successful…”

“These questions involve moral issues. We need not concern ourselves much about the rights of property if we will faithfully observe the rights of persons. Under our institutions their rights are supreme. It is not property but the right to hold property, both great and small, which our Constitution guarantees. All owners of property are charged with a service. These rights and duties have been revealed, through the conscience of society, to have a divine sanction. The very stability of our society rests upon production and conservation. For individuals or for governments to waste and squander their resources is to deny these rights and disregard these obligations. The result of economic dissipation to a nation is always moral decay” — Calvin Coolidge, March 4, 1925

“One insidious practice which sugar-coats the dose of Federal intrusion is the division of expense for public improvements or services between state and national treasuries. The ardent States Rights advocate sees in this practice a vicious weakening of the state system. The extreme federalist is apt to look upon it in cynical fashion as bribing the states into subordination. The average American, believing in our dual-sovereignty system, must feel that the policy of national doles to the states is bad and may become disastrous. We may go on yet for a time with the easy assumption that ‘if the states will not, the nation must.’ But that way lies trouble…”

“If these principles are sound, two conclusions follow. The individual and the local, state, and national political units ought to be permitted to assume their own responsibilities. Any other course in the end will be subversive both of character and liberty. But it is equally clear that they in their turn must meet their obligations. If there is to be a continuation of individual and loca self-government and of state sovereignty, the individual and the locality must govern themselves and the state must assert its sovereignty. Otherwise these rights and privileges will be confiscated under the all-compelling pressure of public necessity for a better maintenance of order and morality. The whole world has reached a stage in which, if we do not set ourselves right, we may be perfectly sure that an authority will be asserted by others for the purpose of setting us right” — May 30, 1925.

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