While expenditure for the general government is, as a whole, not one of the largest, it is, nevertheless, important. It occurs in all political divisions and occupies a position of about the same relative importance. Reference to the preceding tables will show that in the Federal government this item stands about third or fourth in comparison to other expenditures; in the states and in the cities it is the item third in importance. The chief items included under general government expenses are for the executive and legislative functions, some judicial costs, and costs of public buildings. Perhaps the expenses incident to securing revenues should also be included here.

Administrative Expenditures - The largest executive expenditures come in the administration of laws. The officers concerned with executing law are not the same in different countries, but vary with the form of government. In monarchical countries there is usually a considerable expenditure for the maintenance of the chief ruler and his court. No corresponding expenditure is found in democratic countries. The salaries and positions of chief executives in the latter correspond somewhat to the various ministerial officers in the former. The heads of monarchical states formerly had a private income from lands which subsequently became a part of the public domain. At present, then, the expense must be met from the common treasury. It is usually much greater than the cost of the chief ruler of democratic states. The royal family of England, for example, is an annual expense of about $2,500,000 as compared with the $100,000 given to the President of the United States.

The chief ruler in constitutional monarchies, such as England, has very little part in the actual affairs of government. The functions of his position are largely social and involve expenses for maintenance and entertainment. On economic grounds such expenditure cannot be justified beyond the point of acquiring greater efficiency. It may, however, increase the pride of the citizenship in the state, or increase their reverence through a feeling of awe at the splendor of the government. It is a question, however, if more respect would not be secured if the expenditure were made in such a way as to be felt by the citizenship in a more tangible and material form.

Democracies, moreover, are not entirely free from this class of expenditure. Public buildings are often constructed of expensive design and materials far beyond the call of pure economic need and efficiency. A number of county court houses, city halls, and state capitols testify to this. While there is no direct economic justification for such expenditure, in most cases the majority of the citizenship agree as to its wisdom. The psychic value in appeal to civic pride and cultural development frequently offsets any deficit on the economic side.

Executive officials are, of course, found in the minor political divisions. Frequently the cost for these is greater in democracies than in other forms of government. In England and other constitutional monarchies such positions are made of long tenure and are clothed with considerable honor. Because of this honor, people of means can be found to fill the position for little or no remuneration. This situation is seldom, if ever, found in the United States. In estimating whether it is in reality a saving, the efficiency of the service must be considered in each case. The objections to gratuitous services, which are discussed on page 75, are of course applicable here. It would be impossible to get the exact executive costs of the minor civil divisions of the United States, because the officials must often handle other duties than those of an executive nature.

Federal Legislative Expenditures. - The expenditures connected directly or indirectly with making laws form an important place in the costs of the general government. In some cases many items go to make up the total expenditure, while in others the items are few and little is expended. Much depends upon the law and custom of the various states. In England the expenses of Parliament are comparatively low. Few salaries are paid to members, while public documents are not printed for free distribution. The cost seems smaller than it really is, since some of the administrative officers exercise legislative functions and a part of their expense should be considered as legislative.

In the United States many more items enter into the costs of Congress. While each member receives an annual salary of $7,500, this by no means forms the entire cost.

Those who have been present at sessions of Congress have been impressed with the number of pages in constant attendance. These, together with the provision for numerous clerks, traveling expenses, and stationery, help to swell costs. The expense of getting information through investigations and public hearings is large. One of the largest single items is the expense of printing. Reports and speeches of all kinds are printed at public expense, and in such quantities that they can have a wide distribution. The franking privilege, which has been granted to our Congressmen, no doubt has an influence on our printing cost, since thousands of speeches are printed and sent to constituents which would remain unsent if postage had to be paid. An easy and wide dissemination of knowledge is desirable, but it would be difficult to justify the printing and distributing, at public expense, of much of the partisan and campaign literature for which the postal system is gratuitously used.

Other Legislative Expenditures. - Legislative costs are also found in the various minor civil divisions - states, counties, cities, and villages. Counties perform very few legislative functions, while municipal councils are seldom purely of this type, hence such costs for these bodies cannot be accurately determined. The lawmaking bodies of the states, however, are purely legislative. The costs are salaries, clerk hire, and similar items. Usually the members of the legislature are paid by the day, plus mileage, with permission to appropriate funds for incidental expenses, such as lodging, stationery, and stenographic work. Such abuse has been made of this privilege, and funds have been squandered to such an extent, that some states have put limitations upon the length of legislative sessions and upon the amount of appropriations that may be made for the personal use of the legislators. Some judicial costs, such as those of the Supreme Court, are largely met from the common treasury. Such a large part of the judicial system is now on the basis of part payment by the recipient of the service, however, that a discussion of this service more properly belongs with that class of expenditure.

Public Buildings. - Public buildings are a necessary part of the machinery for carrying on the functions of the general government. Aside from the continual cost of care and upkeep, they represent an investment of the taxpayers which, had it been left with them, would be a source of income. In the construction and maintenance of public buildings this fact should be kept in mind, so that no more will be spent than is necessary to accomplish the economic, political, and cultural ends in view.

Collection of Revenue. - The machinery for collecting and handling revenues in the various political divisions is maintained as a part of the general government. Comparisons as to the percentage of cost for collecting the total revenues for different countries, or divisions of the same country, are valueless. This is because of the variety of sources of revenue. Some countries or divisions may own and operate one or more public enterprises at little, if at all, above cost. In such cases the cost of collection would be near 100 per cent. If the United States were to consider the postal returns as a part of its revenue, the cost of collecting this part would be more than 100 per cent for more years than it would be less than this, because a deficit has so often appeared. When total revenues and expenses of collection are considered, those divisions operating a number of public enterprises will show a relatively high cost of collection. The only satisfactory comparison would be for particular classes of revenue, such as the cost of collecting the customs duties, income tax, or internal revenues.