This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
The principle has everywhere been acted upon by governments, that heavy taxes are to be laid on commodities "the consumption of which is especially prejudicial to the interests of the people."This is in accordance with our fifth maxim.
There are two strong and sensible arguments in favor of this kind of taxation. One is, that, if it should cause a fall ing-off in the consumption of the articles so taxed, no detriment would come to individuals or the public; but, on the other hand, their moral and social condition would be promoted, and the power of production increased.
The other consideration is, that all those who choose to abstain, as they can do without injury, from the specially taxed articles, will avoid the payment of the tax altogether: such taxes are voluntarily assumed by those who pay them.
This kind of taxation is found to be far more productive, in proportion, than any other; and consumption is less affected by heavy imposts. According to Professor Levi, the working classes of Great Britain pay over ten millions sterling annually, in taxes upon tobacco and intoxicating drinks. The whole amount raised upon these two articles in 1858 was as follows: —
British and foreign spirits and wine ...... £18,500,000
or about one hundred and twenty millions of dollars, equal to four dollars to each inhabitant; or, allowing five persons to a family, twenty dollars to each family. More than a third part of the whole British revenue is raised by the taxes upon these articles alone; a remarkable fact, especially worthy the attention of the American government at the present time.