The Spirit of Laws - Vol. 1

By Charles de Secondat Montesquieu; Thomas Nugent | Go to book overview

BOOK XIII
OF THE RELATION WHICH THE LEVYING OF TAXES AND THE GREATNESS OF THE PUBLIC REVENUES BEAR TO LIBERTY

I. -- Of the Public Revenues

THE public revenues are a portion that each subject gives of his property, in order to secure or enjoy the remainder.

To fix these revenues in a proper manner, regard should be had both to the necessities of the state and to those of the subject. The real wants of the people ought never to give way to the imaginary wants of the state.

Imaginary wants are those which flow from the passions and the weakness of the governors, from the vain conceit of some extraordinary project, from the inordinate desire of glory, and from a certain impotence of mind incapable of withstanding the impulse of fancy. Often have ministers of a restless disposition imagined that the wants of their own mean and ignoble souls were those of the state.

Nothing requires more wisdom and prudence than the regulation of that portion of which the subject is deprived, and that which he is suffered to retain.

The public revenues should not be measured by the people's abilities to give, but by what they ought to give; and if they are measured by their abilities to give, it should be considered what they are able to give for a constancy.


2. -- That it is bad Reasoning to say that the Greatness of Taxes is good in its own Nature

There have been instances in particular monarchies of petty states exempt from taxes that have been as miserable as the circumjacent places which groaned under the weight of exac

-207-

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