Then, too, we should see the law of primogeniture and the system of entails abolished, large estates divided, and their owners reduced, by the force of circumstances, to the necessity of cultivating their properties. Good laws on exportation, well enforced, would enable spirited farmers to cultivate corn on a large scale. A network of country roads, and main lines of railway, would convey agricultural produce from one end of the country to the other. A national fleet would carry it all over the world. Public works, institutions of credit, police—But why plunge into such a sea of hopes?
Suffice it to say, that the subjects of the Pope will be as prosperous and as happy as any people in Europe—as soon as they cease to be governed by a Pope!
“The subjects of the Pope are necessarily poor—but then they pay hardly any taxes. The one condition is a compensation for the other!”
This is what both you and I have often heard said. Now and then, too, it is put forth upon the faith of some statistical return or another of the Golden Age, that they are governed at the rate of 7s. 6d. per head.
This calculation is a mere fable, as I can easily prove. But supposing it to be correct, the Romans would not be the less deserving of pity. It is a miserable consolation to people who have nothing, to be told that their taxes are low. For my part, I would much rather have heavy taxes to pay, and a good deal to pay them with, like the English. What would be thought of the Queen’s government, if after having ruined trade, manufactures, and agriculture, and exhausted all the sources of public prosperity, it were to say to the people, “Rejoice, good people, for henceforth your taxes will not exceed 7s. 6d. a head all round!” The English people would answer with great reason, that they would much prefer to pay L40 a head, and be able to make L400.
It is not this or that particular sum per head on a population which constitutes moderate or excessive taxation; but the relation which the sum annually taken for the service of the State bears to the revenues of the nation. It is just to take much from him who has much; monstrous to attempt to take anything—be it never so little—from him who has nothing. If you examine the question from this common sense point of view, you will agree with me that taxation at the rate of 7s. 6,d. a head, is pretty heavy for the poor Romans.
But 7s. 6,d. a head is not the rate at which they are taxed; nor even double that amount. The Budget of Rome is L2,800,000, which is to be assessed upon three million taxpayers.
Assessed, moreover, not according to the laws of reason, justice, and humanity, but in such a manner that the heaviest burdens fall upon the most useful, laborious, and interesting class of the nation, the small proprietors.