This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
1st, An immense extension of the war system. Prior to the introduction of this policy, standing armies and armaments were exceedingly limited. Now all Christendom is armed, by land and sea. France leads the van, with an army of some 700,000; and each nation is struggling to create and support the largest possible military and naval establishment: and all this can be done of credit, if need be; there is no limit to these preparations, while national credit holds out.
2d, Universal and constantly increasing indebtedness. This is true of nearly every country in the world. England, indeed, has not increased her debt for the last thirty years; but almost every other government has been borrowing money from year to year, until many of them are as much burdened by their indebtedness as England, because, in proportion to their wealth and resources, they are as deeply involved. France, we suppose, is really more oppressed by taxation than England. France is a great nation of poor people, compared with England or the United States. She has but a small margin for taxation. The same, indeed, may be said of many other European nationalities.
3d, Impoverishment of the masses. This is especially apparent in England. What has become of that yeomanry, once the pride of the country? Their little estates have disappeared, have been swallowed up by the terrible system of taxation to which they have been subjected. The pleasant hedges which still surround the small enclosures, once constituting the freeholds of her yeomanry, may yet be seen in all parts of the country. They are the monuments of an industrious, brave, and independent class of men, now extinct. These lands are indeed tilled by the hands of their descendants, no longer yeomanry, but peasants, almost the paupers of the nation. How strikingly true this is, may be seen in the fact that there are but one-third as many "holdings" at the present time as one hundred and fifty years ago, while the wealth and population of England have doubled many times. How this has been accomplished, may be seen from statements made by Professor Levi of the whole taxation of Great Britain for the year 1858.*
* Levi on Taxation, p. 32, London edition.
Total Taxation. Paid by the Upper Classes. Middle Classes. Working Classes.
£73,000,000 £22,550,000 £30,930,000 £20,320,000
From this analysis, it appears that the amount paid by the middle and working classes is equal to five-sevenths of the entire revenue, while those who monopolized the landed estates of the country, and an enormous proportion of its public stocks and circulating capital, paid but two-sevenths.
We have said that no large national debt has ever been paid or discharged, except by repudiation; nor does it appear that such debts are likely ever to be paid, unless the war policy of the world is changed. All have been created by war, and are perpetuated by constant demand for additional armaments.
The economy of a national debt, under the modern financial system, must always impoverish the productive classes. Its entire influence on them is oppressive. It deprives them of their honest reward, by a false currency, which robs them of a large share of their nominal wages; it imposes upon them, through indirect taxation, an undue proportion of the public burdens, and is, in fact, a stupendous enginery for depressing them, though perhaps not so intended. Hitherto we have known little of its effects in the United States. Until the present time, we have felt little pressure, from public indebtedness and consequent taxation; but the case is now altered. We have an immense debt, and a larger amount of annual interest than any other people on the face of the earth. Hence the great importance of understanding the whole subject of modern finance by the people themselves; for without such an understanding of it, however much they may suffer, they cannot hope for relief. They must know the cause of their sufferings, or they cannot apply the remedy.