The formulation of fiscal legislation, not many years ago, was characterized by the selfishness and caprice of politicians. The men who secured berths on committees, empowered with the business of shaping fiscal legislation, were generally qualified as politicians rather than in the fundamental principles and facts of Public Finance. In the administration of fiscal laws the system was no better. The force of the spoils system placed the valuable politician in office rather than an efficient administrator, and haphazard, inefficient, and wasteful methods were the result. Too frequently the elected official, as the local assessor, was dependent upon his constituency for continuance in office, and the result was favoritism at the price of justice and efficiency.

In Federal Government. - To some extent this situation is still true, but, as a general proposition, it is rapidly changing. A few years ago members of Congress, to a great extent, were all-wise beings, and felt the need of no expert advice. The present situation of having, perhaps, our greatest authority on fiscal matters as chairman of an advisory tax board for the United States Internal Revenue Department, would have been looked upon, a decade or two ago, as a somewhat superfluous arrangement. Yet, that the situation exists, indicates that public officials have come to recognize the need of expert advice. The establishment of a tariff commission points in the same direction.

In State Governments. - The use of trained experts has made greater progress in the fiscal program of states and localities than in that of the national government. The pressure for revenues and the limitation of sources demanded that something be done. First, honesty of officials was demanded, but it was soon found that this was not enough. Cities began to see that, just as private business grew through strong centralization, so efficient and responsible administration demanded a central and qualified corps of officials. The adoption of the commission or the city manager plan of government has been the result. In addition, there have been added, in many municipalities, expert accountants, bureaus of public efficiency, and similar officials, each prepared for his particular duty, all for the sake of securing a more efficient administration of the public revenues and expenditures.

The Tax Commission. - The states, likewise, have shown the inclination to get away from politics in fiscal affairs, and to center more or less responsibility in some body of men, usually called the State Tax Commission, chosen on the basis of their expert knowledge of fiscal affairs. The powers of the boards vary all the way from the mere act of advice to the centralizing of the entire fiscal system of the state in their hands. The tenure of office is usually made long enough, and the salary high enough, to attract men who, because of training and experience, are qualified to handle wisely and efficiently the problems which are placed before them.

In addition to the regular commissions, the special tax commission has been an institution of frequent occurrence in recent years. To this body of experts, of which these commissions are composed, is assigned some special problem for investigation and solution. The difficulty still remains, however, to a somewhat marked degree, that legislatures are not willing to accept the advice of these standing and special commissions, and to put into effect the fiscal policies which they formulate.