Taxation in American States and Cities

By Richard T. Ely | Go to book overview

RETURNS ON PROPERTY OF A HIGH DEGREE OF MOBILITY DEPENDENT ON GENERAL CONDITIONS.

There is a species of property which floats about from place to place with ease, We may say that property of this sort is endowed with a high degree of mobility. This is the case, for example, with money for investment in mortgages or other securities. Now, the remuneration for property of this sort is to a large extent independent of the laws of a single state like Maryland. If in our state it is oppressed, it will leave us for other regions, where it is more favorably treated. We may like this or not, but as men of sense we cannot wisely shut our eyes to the fact. It has ever been laid down as a maxim of taxation that only those things should be taxed which cannot leave us; and those who advocate this rule of action do not have in view the special interests of holders of such property, but the general welfare. I would not wish to be understood as advocating this maxim without any qualification, but it appears to me clear that the legislature should always keep in mind the distinction between property which can and property which cannot leave us.1

From the time of Turgot and Adam Smith to the present, political economists have not ceased to warn people to be careful not to drive capital abroad by taxing it, and they have often in their timidity, gone too far in this direction and at times indeed appear to have given too much heed to what amounted to little more than blustering threats on the

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1
"Never tax anything that would be of value to your state, that could and would run away, or that could and would come to you." Quoted from a pamphlet entitled "The Tax Question," by Enoch Ensley , of Memphis, Tennessee, 1873.

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