A Treatise on Political Economy, Or, the Production, Distribution, and Consumption of Wealth

By Jean-Baptiste Say; Clement C. Biddle et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII.
OF THE ACTUAL CONTRIBUTORS TO PUBLIC CONSUMPTION.

A PORTION of the objects of public consumption have, in some very rare instances, been provided by a private individual. We see occasional acts of private munificence, in the erection of a hosptial, the laying out of a road, or of public gardens, upon the land, and at the cost, of an individual. In ancient times, examples of this kind were more frequent though much less meritorious. The private opulence of the ancients was commonly the fruit of domestic, or provincial, plunder and speculation, or perhaps the spoil of a hostile nation, purchased with the blood of fellow-citizens. Among the moderns, though such excess do sometimes occur, individual wealth is, in the great majority of cases, the fruit of personal industry and economy. In England, where there are so many institutions founded and supported by private funds, most of the fortunes of the founders and supporters have been acquired in industrious occupations. It requires a greater exertion of generosity to sacrifice wealth, acquired by a long course of toll and self-denial, than to give away what has been obtained by a stroke of good fortune, or even by an act of lucky temerity.

Among the Romans, a further, portion of the public consumption was supplied directly by the vanquished nations who were subjected to a tribute, which the victors consumed.

In most modern states (a), there is some territorial property vested, either ia the nation at large, or in the subordinate communities, cities, towns, and villages, which is leased out, or occupied directly by the public. In France, most of the public lands of tillage and pasturage, with their appurtenances, are let out on lease; the government reserving only the national forests under the direct administration of its agents. The produce of the whole forms a considerable item ia the catalogue of public resources.

But these resources consist for the most part of the produce of taxes, levied upon the subjects or citizens. These taxes are sometimes national; i. e. levied upon the whole nation, and paid into the of the state, general treasury whence the public national expenditure is defrayed; and sometimes local, or provincial,

____________________
(a)
And in most of those of antiquity. T.

-406-

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