The Promise of American Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 523 pages of information about The Promise of American Life.
due merely to a general increase in population and business; and this increase in value should be taken over by the community, no matter whether it is divided among one hundred or one hundred thousand stockholders in a corporation.  The essential purpose is to secure for the whole community those elements in value which are made by the community.  The semi-monopolistic organization of certain American industries is little by little enabling the government to separate from the total economic product a part at least of that fraction which is created by social rather than individual activity; and a democracy which failed to take advantage of the opportunity would be blind to its fundamental interest.  To be sure, the opportunity cannot be turned to the utmost public benefit until industrial leaders, like political leaders, are willing to do efficient work partly from disinterested motives; but that statement is merely a translation into economic terms of the fundamental truth that democracy, as a political and social ideal, is founded essentially upon disinterested human action.  A democracy can disregard or defy that truth at its peril.

IV

TAXATION AND INEQUALITIES IN WEALTH

Before dismissing this subject of a national industrial organization and a better distribution of the fruits thereof brief references must be made to certain other aspects of the matter.  The measures which the central and local governments could take for the purpose of adapting our economic and social institutions to the national economic and social interest would not be exhausted by the adoption of the proposed policy of reconstruction; and several of these supplementary means, which have been proposed to accomplish the same object, deserve consideration.  Some of these proposals look towards a further use of the power of taxation, possessed by both the state and the Federal governments; but it must not be supposed that in their entirety they constitute a complete system of taxation.  They are merely examples, like the protective tariff, of the use of the power of taxation to combine a desirable national object with the raising of money for the expenses of government.

It may be assumed that the adoption of the policy outlined in the last section would gradually do away with certain undesirable inequalities in the distribution of wealth:  but this process, it is scarcely necessary to add, would do nothing to mitigate existing inequalities.  Existing inequalities ought to be mitigated; and they can be mitigated without doing the slightest injustice to their owners.  The means to such mitigation are, of course, to be found in a graduated inheritance tax—­a tax which has already been accepted in principle by several American states and by the English government, which certainly cannot be considered indifferent to the rights of individual property owners.

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The Promise of American Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.