This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
The uniformity above noted came about as a natural result of the general search by the agents of constitutional government for some good reason why, in each case, the particular person contributing should be called upon to do so. As the representatives of the people, they naturally had to satisfy, in some way, the reasonable desire of the people for some clearly defined method of apportionment. As it is generally hard enough to convince men of the need of contributing anything, the plea put forth must be a strong one. If we confine our attention, for the purposes of illustration, to taxes alone, which are the hardest of all revenues to justify, we can see more clearly how the necessity of thus showing good reasons led to uniformity. It is evident that if the representatives had, for instance, informed their constituents that "taxes are one-sided transfers of economic goods or services "1 they would have had considerable difficulty in getting consent to any taxes. But when they announced, "taxes are paid in return for the benefits conferred upon you by the government," it was easier to collect them. When they proceeded to assess taxes on the basis of a more or less definite attempt to measure the benefit conferred, or where, in the nature of things, an actual measurement was impossible on some other basis of supposed equality, they clearly had a very good case to present to their constituents. It requires but the slightest knowledge of the history of constitutional legislative bodies to prove conclusively that such was the process of reasoning. And this fully accounts for the similarity of the systems of various countries.p>1 Part of the definition of taxes by Professor Ely, pp. 6, 7.
Whenever it was perfectly clear that a certain function conferred a special benefit on an individual citizen the charge was made on him, and those persons not so clearly benefited were wholly or partially exempt. Thus we have the practice of tolls from persons using the roads, of fees from the suitors at court, or the sale of some privilege or commodity to the citizens for a price, as in the case of granting a monopoly, or the sale of manufactured wares, or of lumber, or ore from the domains. But many of the more important functions do not result so clearly in a special benefit to the individual, and recourse is had to some other mode of justification. At first, naturally, the older ideas are developed. The services traditionally due from the citizen to the State, of which that of military service is the most
prominent example, are recalled and appealed to. It is claimed that money should be given in commutation of these services. Then the ground is shifted again and again, and many apparently different reasons are advanced. But in all these changes one thing is clear, — the shifting of argument is made in order to enable the use of some new measure of the amount of taxation, and atbasis the justification remains practically the same. The citizen is asked to pay,because he shares in the benefits common to him and his fellows. But this common benefit does not suggest any particular measure.