This section of the book is from the "Introduction To Public Finance" book, by Carl Copping Plehn.
Public Finance, as a science, is older than Political Economy. Indeed, it is not incorrect to say on this account the science has always had a stronger hold there than in France or England. In those countries the lead of the Physiocratic doctrine, the powerful influence of Adam Smith, and, after his English time, the intensity and rapidity of industrial development, directed the attention of students in such fields to the more general and more absorbing questions. Although Adam Smith himself devotes one book to the discussion of finance, and other writers of note give it passing attention, it was extremely slow in obtaining independent recognition. The predominance in both England and France of a theory of State which minimised the importance of government action may in part account for this neglect. The one part of the subject that did receive attention—namely, taxation — dealt with an activity that was admittedly necessary. But other fields, like that of expenditure, were comparatively neglected. The same blindness which led English economists to underrate the importance of a study of consumption, except so far as it led to new production, prevented them from seeing anything worth studying in State expenditure beyond, possibly, its effect on new revenues. Hence it is that while Germany piled treatise on treatise, all deep, scholarly, and broad, covering the whole subject of Public Finance, we have had to wait until 1892 for a systematic treatment of the whole field in the English language, and we still await such a one in French.1 It must not be understood that portions of the subject were not investigated. There are, on the contrary, many important works on the various parts of the science. But what was entirely lacking until the appearance of Bastable's Public Finance, in 1892, was an attempt to systematise the whole subject.
Financial problems are becoming more important, because the functions of government which depend on them have grown in importance and number. Our industrial, commercial, and social organisation has become more and more complex, and it hence requires better and more effective governmental organisation to keep it running smoothly. The more important it becomes to perfect our governmental organisation, the more do questions affecting the supply and application of material support rise into prominence. Whether we regard the constant expansion of the State's activities with favour or disfavour, it is equally important that the financial problems arising from these activities should be solved. Accordingly Professor Bastable's work has been followed by a flood of special articles, by the announcement of a treatise by Professor H. C. Adams, and by a translation of some of Professor Cohn's published writings on the subject.
1 Leroy-Beaulieu, however, covers all but expenditure in a masterly manner.